“Good morning! Good morning!” With smiling faces and loud chants, the University of Texas at Dallas pep squad welcomed Dallas ISD high school students to the campus gymnasium.
January 13, 2016
For some of the nearly 500 sophomore and juniors, this was the first time they ever stepped onto on a college campus. But, hopefully, it would not be the last. They were invited to attend the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas’ Unite For Change College and Career Fair, presented by Texas Instruments.
“I will be the first one to go to college. I’m determined. That’s been my goal ever since I was little,” said Enrique Granados, a junior at Trinidad Garza Early College High School.
His determination comes from a desire to set an example for his 12-year-old brother and make his parents proud.
“Both of my parents…met at a community college, but they never did get to finish,” he says. “They have always instilled that goal in me and said, ‘You are going to be the first one.’”
From the front rows of the UTD bleachers, Granados and other first-generation college hopefuls listened to the stories of corporate and community leaders, who once stood in their shoes.
United Way President and CEO Jennifer Sampson, Texas Instruments President of Business Technology Peter Balyta, Dallas ISD superintendent Dr. Michael Hinojosa, UTD Vice President for Business Affairs Dr. Calvin Jamison all shared their experiences and emphasized the importance of education.
“My father was the first person in his family to go to college and graduate from college. College opened new doors for him and created a permanent change in the trajectory of our entire family,” Sampson told students. “It really was a multi-generational ripple effect.”
DISD Superintendent Hinojosa explained that all 9 of his brothers and sisters graduated from high school, with many of them going on to graduate from college. “Education is the only thing that can break the cycle of poverty,” said Hinojosa. “My parents had a third grade education and they brought us to the greatest country in the world, so we could get an education.”
Balyta encouraged students to think about careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields.
“About 60 percent of all jobs, require some understanding of mathematics, and that will only grow in the future,” he said. “We know today that we will not have enough qualified workers to fill 1.2 million STEM related jobs by 2018. That’s a serious problem for North Texas and a huge opportunity for you!”
Before students were dismissed to their breakout sessions, Dr. Jamison taught them how to do the UTD Comets’ “Whoosh!” and they watched an inspirational taped message from singer Usher Raymond.
“Do you believe in you? I believe in you,” Usher said to an energized crowd.
Volunteers from Usher’s New Look Foundation, joined about 100 others from Texas Instruments, Fluor Corporation, Ricker Retirement Specialists, Chideo, The Princeton Review Foundation, City Year, and United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, to teach students how to apply, gain acceptance and help pay for college.
Enrique’s first session helped him prepare for the college application process.
“We’ve made a mock resume and listed our goals, accomplishments, things like that.”
Also on the day’s agenda, a virtual tour of the UTD campus and a crash course about SAT/ACT testing. By the end of the day, Enrique – a future doctor — and his classmates are one step closer to a college degree.
“It goes to show people do care about your future and your opportunities that you have. This program today is showing that people care and that college is attainable no matter where you come from,” he said. “There’s no better feeling to know that there’s someone who cares about your future.