The Texas Diversity Council, an initiative of the National Diversity Council, provided hands-on college readiness services for 80 middle and high school students at its ninth annual summer youth program from June 10 through June 14. In partnership with Rice University’s Multicultural Community Relations Office of Public Affairs, the council hosted various workshops on financial aid, the college admissions process, college essay writing and best practices for success through high school and beyond.

“These gifted students, with a little guidance, have the potential to be the first in their families to attend college,” said Dennis Kennedy, the founder and chairman of the board for the National Diversity Council. “This program is designed to equip students for college and post-college opportunities where they can truly be an asset in the Houston community and global workforce.”

On the last day of the conference, students heard from a panel of local professionals on how to create their success through coaches, mentors and networks. The panel was moderated by Renee Stewart of the Gulf Coast Diversity Council and included Delbert Gardner of the Texas Workforce Commission; Dominique Caminos of Franklin Covey; Rebecca Dobry of Methodist Hospital; and Edmond Tejeda of Northside Independent School District (NISD). Students also heard success stories from previous summer youth camp participants currently enrolled at Rice University.

Tejeda, an educator at NISD, has been at the forefront for two years teaching students critical writing skills to hone their abilities to write college essays that compel the college admissions staff.

“We all feel a sense of urgency for these students graduating high school and going off to college,” said Tejeda. “You can see the hunger and willingness to learn in their faces. We are providing them with a safe environment where there are no barriers to the college.”

Brielle Driver, 15,
Summer Creek High School
Zavien Brown, 17,
Harmony Academy
Cybill Martinez, 15,
North Houston Early College High School
Luis Laredo, 15,
North Houston Early College High School

Brielle Driver, a sophomore at Summer Creek High School, said the camp has sparked her interest in attending Rice University and further solidified her dream to become a general surgeon.

“Sitting for a couple of hours and learning literary analysis and vocabulary has been helpful,” said Driver. “Hearing pointers from speakers about their take on the college process has helped me continue to learn and grow.” Zavien Brown, a senior at Harmony Academy, said he likes to fix problems and design ideas which is why he is interested in studying either mechanical engineering or business. He said the program helped him to have confidence when networking with potential professional connections.

“This program has helped me to show myself in my best light and think about what makes me special,” said Brown. “It has helped me learn how to network, get out there and connect with people.” Cybill Martinez, a sophomore at North Houston Early College High School, said the program has given her insight into the college admissions process. She said her sister has been a big inspiration for her interest in clinical psychology.

My sister inspires me to be outgoing and said college is a place where you are finding yourself,” said Martinez. “The speakers have taught  us the importance of staying physically and mentally healthy, while expressing ourselves in our college admission personal essays.”

Luis Laredo, a sophomore at North Houston Early College High School, said he learned that college admissions officers want to see your authentic self.

“You don’t necessarily have to be the greatest student,” said Loredo. “Focus on the path you want to take and be completely honest with yourself.”

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