|Project GRAD Participant Graduates from University|
Four years ago, Reagan High School student Viviana Ortuño took advantage of the opportunity to attend a Project GRAD College Institute at the University of St. Thomas. That opportunity paid off. Project GRAD provided Ortuño a college path, access to scholarship funds and academic preparation for college.
This first-generation college student graduated from the University of St. Thomas with a bachelor’s degree in education. She plans to pursue a Master of Education in educational leadership in the fall while working as a teacher at Neighborhood Centers.
“Project GRAD reinforced the skills I needed to continue my education,” Ortuño said. “By attending the program, I learned about the possible options to help pay for school. I also fell in love with St. Thomas.”
In the hopes to mirror her college success, 70 students from Reagan and Davis High School will attend the Project GRAD/UST College Institute at the University of St. Thomas, from July 6 to 24. The three-week summer program offers inner-city students the chance to focus on a college-bound pathway, to explore potential career options and to strengthen their academic skills.
Project GRAD, which stands for Graduation Really Achieves Dreams, is a nonprofit organization that seeks to increase high school graduation and college attendance rates by addressing issues that can hinder the achievement of economically disadvantaged and minority students. Houston Independent School District partners with Rice University, Texas Southern University, the University of Houston-Downtown, the University of Texas Health Science Center and the University of St. Thomas to host Project GRAD.
Ortuño’s two-year participation garnered a $4,000 Project GRAD scholarship, and a $1,000 St. Thomas scholarship. Since its inception in 1994, Project GRAD Houston has awarded more than $16 million in college scholarships to more than 4,000 HISD inner-city students in the Davis, Reagan, Sam Houston, Wheatley and Yates High School.
The high school students will attend classes in multicultural literature, Web site design and communication/debate on UST’s campus. Many of the students are the first in their families to have the opportunity to attend college.
“The UST/Reagan/Davis experience will allow high school students to set goals early, learn of the different programs and areas of study, gather information on financial aid but most of all, realize that attending an institution of higher education is attainable to them,” said Dr. Emiliano Gonzalez, director of UST Project GRAD. “We would love to have them come to UST, but as long as they attend any college or university, the partnership will be content.”