It’s never too early to start thinking about college. That message rings loud and clear to more than 10,000 students in schools across Texas who are participating in a range of programs within the Longhorn Center for School Partnerships (LCSP). We sat down with two alums who found their path to college through UT Outreach and the Neighborhood Longhorns Program. Those are just a few of the college readiness programs within the LCSP that are helping to bridge the achievement gap for underserved students.
Read on to learn more about their experiences on the Forty Acres and how they hope to fulfill the university’s mission: What Starts Here Changes the World.
Wendoline Gamez, Health Promotions Senior
Back when Wendoline Gamez was a seventh-grader at Pearce Middle School, she didn’t give college much of a passing thought until her best friend’s grandmother asked her to get involved in UT Outreach. Enticed by the idea of palling around with her friend and enjoying free food at various spots around campus, she decided to enroll.
“I remember when I first started the program, they told us they were going to help us all the way from middle school through college,” Gamez says. “At the time, I just remembered saying to myself, ‘I don’t want to hear about college; all I want to do is play volleyball or do cheerleading.’”
What began as a fun diversion from her daily routine turned into an unforgettable, life-altering experience. The free pizza soon took a backseat when she began imagining her life as a college student.
UT Outreach is inspiring many students like Gamez who had never envisioned college as a part of their reality. Since 1987, the college readiness program has helped hundreds of underrepresented students in school districts across Texas become the firsts in their families to earn a college degree.
Now as Gamez is ready to embark on an exciting career as a health specialist, she has UT Outreach to thank for her bright future ahead.
“Looking back, I’m so glad I was in that program,” says Gamez. “Otherwise I wouldn’t be thinking about college. Every time I see the kiddos taking a tour around campus, I remember how exciting it was to experience college for the first time.”
Jamal Green, Sociology Senior
Every student—no matter their economic standing—can fulfill their dreams of going to college. That’s one of the many important life lessons Jamal Green learned as a Neighborhood Longhorn.
Looking back at his early beginnings at UT Austin, Green fondly recalls roaming around campus with his fellow Neighborhood Longhorns and learning about the many aspects of student life. The program has helped thousands of economically disadvantaged students (grades 2-8) in schools across Austin find their path to college.
“If you’re a young kid, the Neighborhood Longhorns really helps you put college into perspective,” Green says. “It’s a great program for a lot of kids who don’t really have aspirations for going to college.”
Now as he enters his senior year, he continues to take advantage of several student success programs, including the Gateway Scholars Program in the Longhorn Center for Academic Excellence. Since he was a freshman, Green has benefited from a host of services within the center—from free tutoring to signature courses to academic advising.
As for life after graduation, that is yet to be determined. Whether he’s making a positive impact at a nonprofit, or going back to grad school to study ethnography, Green is not entirely certain where he’ll be two years down the road. The future is wide open and full of possibilities—another valuable piece of wisdom he gained as a Neighborhood Longhorn.