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UST Alumna Goes to Washington for Project GRAD

When Lizzy Lozano graduated from the University of St. Thomas in 2002, it was a dream come true for the international studies major. She had felt that her chance to afford a college education was limited.

But thanks to the Project GRAD College Institute, Lozano became one of hundreds of students who received scholarships that helped make it possible for her to obtain a quality college education.  Project GRAD is a nonprofit organization that seeks to increase high school graduation and college attendance rates among economically disadvantaged and minority students.

Lozano attended a Project GRAD Summer Institute at Cornell University while in high school and earned a $4,000 scholarship from Project GRAD to go to a college of her choice.

“It was because of Project GRAD and the Cornell experience that I was convinced I wanted to go to a private college,” she said. “I fell in love with Cornell. I liked the small, private university setting. And with St. Thomas here in Houston, it was a great fit for me.”

Recently, Lozano was hand-picked to represent Project GRAD at a congressional briefing in Washington, D.C.  She spoke on behalf of the program that fueled her college aspirations. Her efforts will help to raise the profile of the program and will help Project GRAD secure federal funding for scholarships.

This summer, area high school students wishing to follow that same path can attend a Project GRAD institute now held on the UST campus from July 7-28. Dr. Emiliano Gonzalez serves as director for the three-week summer program, which offers college-bound students the chance to explore potential career options and to strengthen their academic skills.

Ann Stiles, executive director for Project GRAD Houston, said approximately 70 students from Jeff Davis or Reagan high schools will participate in the program this summer, taking classes in web design, multicultural literature and debate.

“The program is designed to give students access to this enriched academic experience so that they can apply the knowledge they’re getting in a university setting,” Stiles said. “Most of these students are often the first in their family to have higher education as a possibility for them. Our graduation rates are actually exceeding national rates. This just proves that college rates among inner-city students aren’t all about the kids; it’s just a matter of bringing the right amount of resources to deserving students.”

Project GRAD, which stands for Graduation Really Achieves Dreams, awards about 650 scholarships a year to inner-city students. Since its inception in 1994, Project GRAD Houston has awarded more than $16 million in college scholarships to more than 4,000 HISD students in the Davis, Reagan, Sam Houston, Wheatley and Yates high schools.

To learn more about the University of St. Thomas Project GRAD Summer Institute, contact Dr. Emiliano Gonzalez at 713-525-3547 or go to