Gifted students who lack the resources to pursue admission to highly competitive universities will get a leg up through Spring ISD’s partnership with the Houston-based nonprofit EMERGE Fellowship this fall.
The SISD board of trustees on Feb. 13 voted to launch the EMERGE program, which has worked with students in Houston and Spring Branch ISDs since 2013 to gain college admission for high-achieving students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.
Students selected for the program will work with counselors after school, attend college admissions workshops and receive help with test preparation. Students will also have the opportunity to tour numerous colleges in other parts of the country, EMERGE Executive Director Trisha Cornwell said.
EMERGE Fellowship chose SISD because it has many at-risk students, Cornwell said. A total of 70.6 percent of SISD students are economically disadvantaged, meaning they qualify for free or reduced-price lunches. The state average is 59 percent.
“We are very excited about bringing this program to Spring,” SISD Superintendent Rodney Watson said. “EMERGE has a proven track record of getting students into top universities and making sure they have the skills to be successful there.”
The district will pay for one-third of the cost of the four-year partnership, which will cost $73,810 for the first year. SISD’s portion of the cost will be covered by district and grant funds, while EMERGE funds its programs through donations and other efforts. The nonprofit’s first two years of the partnership with SISD were funded by a donation from philanthropists Laura and John Arnold, Cornwell said.
Cornwell said the program began when founder Rick Cruz, a former fifth-grade math teacher, saw a need among talented Houston ISD students who lacked the resources to pursue admission to top universities. A lack of guidance counselors—some schools have a ratio of 1,000 students per counselor—was a key problem, Cornwell said.
“For schools like Harvard or Rice or Stanford, [they are]selective and difficult to get into. If you don’t have someone guiding you, the chances of you reaching that goal are very limited,” Cornwell said.
EMERGE partners with 150 colleges and universities across the U.S. that meet at least 85 percent of students’ demonstrated financial need and which graduate more than 75 percent of students in six years or less.
A total of 615 students who have participated in the EMERGE program are in college, and the program expects to send another 300 students to college each year, Cornwell said. EMERGE services cost about $2,200 per student per year, she said.
EMERGE has a 99 percent college enrollment rate, and 87 percent of students who have participated in the program have graduated from college within six years, Cornwell said.
“We believe this is an investment that will pay tremendous dividends,” said Lupita Hinojosa, SISD chief of student support services and school leadership. “This program will strengthen our ability to support students through an application process that can often seem overwhelming.”
The EMERGE program partners with school districts and colleges to pair gifted students with competitive degree programs.
- 300 students in EMERGE programs attend college each year.
- The program costs $2,200 per student per year.
- 99 percent of students working with EMERGE enroll in college.
- EMERGE partners with 150 colleges and universities around the country.