Amir Emamian has been involved with the Neighborhood Longhorns Program (NLP) for most of his life. As a third-grader at Winn Elementary School in Northeast Austin, he joined other students at his school by participating in reading challenges and visiting the University of Texas at Austin for special events.
When in middle school, he remained involved with the program even though his school was not participating in NLP. Instead, he participated through the NLP office, which supports about 150-200 students each year whose schools aren’t part of the program. As a UT Austin student majoring in Health Promotion and Fitness, he was a student worker in the NLP office.
Now as an NLP program specialist, Amir remains enthusiastic about the program and its mission. He and program specialist Jeff Jones visit schools regularly. They conduct assemblies and attend events like “Coffee with the Principal” to promote the program to parents and let them know it is never too early to start thinking about a college education for their children. Amir and Jeff also help oversee the work of volunteer tutors, occasionally tutoring themselves.
“Most of our kids live across I-35; they have never been on campus. They come to campus and see students like them. They think, ‘he looks like me he did this, why can’t I do that?’ It makes coming to UT a realistic goal instead of an unobtainable one,” said Amir.
Many students, he said, have never seen a statue before and are astounded to see many on campus. He explained that most students after visiting campus love to point out UT Austin landmarks that are visible in East Austin to their parents. “They have confidence after visiting campus,” Amir said. “We make it accessible and not as overwhelming.”
Although NLP makes it fun for students to earn high marks by rewarding them with visits to campus for sports and other events and offering scholarship money, there is more to the program.
“What I like the best is not that we are giving them something,” said Amir. “But we show them reading 5-10 books isn’t that big of a deal. They learn to love reading instead of wanting something in return.”