BOSTON – Excitement was high as 46 students representing eleven school districts from across the Rio Grande Valley prepared to fly to Boston for the Texas Graduate Center’s (TGC) first-ever Student University Tour. The tour was exclusive to MATHTEACH Collaborative partners who currently support a math teacher in TGC’s Math for Teaching graduate program in partnership with Harvard University. The students visited four universities including Harvard, MIT, Brown University and Boston University. The purpose of the tour was to provide area students an opportunity to explore universities they would otherwise have overlooked when considering options for their postsecondary education. The hope was that exposing students to campus life at ivy league universities would demystify these universities and students would no longer feel that an ivy league education is something unattainable.
Roel Tovar, a migrant counselor at PSJA High School and one of the attending chaperones on the tour, realizes the importance of experiences like the university tour, “I think you have to plant a seed of a dream in a student’s mind so that they can then know what to shoot for,” said Tovar. “Typically most of our students attend UTPA or STC. I have had some students who do go out of the Valley, typically very few go out of state, so this trip was very important to convince the kids to attend, to apply,” said Tovar.
Each tour included an informational session with current students and admission officers, a Q&A session, and guided tour of the campus. Victoria Rojas, a Social Studies teacher at Mission High School and tour chaperone, immediately saw the benefits of the tour, “After going through the information sessions, talking to some of the tour guides, and walking around the campuses, these students are definitely much more confident in applying to these schools and researching other schools,” said Rojas. After a day of touring, one of Rojas’ students was eager to share her experience with friends back home, “I actually heard one of the students from my district talking to a friend of hers from back home, and she was telling her ‘OK, we need to make sure we’re taking AP Classes, get ready to apply to Harvard and other schools!’ ” This left a great impression on Rojas, “I thought, what an awesome inspirational moment! She [the student] felt inspired enough to try and inspire one of her classmates. And I think that’s exactly what this program is all about, not just for the students who attend these trips but bringing that culture back to the school,” continued Rojas, “one student can be the catalyst for promoting this type of education and promoting that culture.”
Of the four universities he visited, Orlando Ochoa, a PSJA Memorial student, was most impressed with Brown University, “I really liked how culturally diverse it was,” he said. “This was a really prestigious opportunity and I’m just glad we had the chance to view these four universities,” said Ochoa, “Being from the Valley I never thought I’d have the opportunity to visit these colleges, and it just really opened my eyes and now I know I can make it to an Ivy League University.”
The information sessions at each university covered topics such as course selection, financial aid and admissions, college life, and extracurricular activities. Rebecca Cruz, a Weslaco East High School student found the information on financial aid most helpful, “My favorite part of the whole trip was learning about admissions and financial aid to get into these ivy league schools because financial aid is very important to me to earn the education I want and be able to afford it,” said Cruz.
Now that she’s more informed, Cruz believes her chances of getting into an ivy league have improved, “After learning about what they’re looking for in admissions and how their financial aid will help me out, I think I have a better chance of entering and attending one of these schools,” Cruz said.
The tour was organized in partnership with GoCampusing, a premier college tour company with years of experience in conducting college tours all across the nation. Along with visiting the four universities, students also had the opportunity to explore Boston. Students were treated to the world famous Boston Duck Tour which is conducted in a WWII style amphibious landing vehicle. The tour ended with a ride into the Charles River for a breathtaking view of the Boston and Cambridge skylines.