By Steve Taylor
Rio Grande Guardian
MERCEDES, RGV – Forty six high school students from 11 school districts across the Rio Grande Valley are spending four days this week at Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Brown University and Boston University.
The aim is the get the mostly sophomore students thinking about attending these prestigious universities when they leave school.
“We do not want our students to think of money as a reason they would not consider an education at Harvard. We want them to go. We want them to see. We want them to believe, “I can be here. This is a place for me’,” said Mary Alice Reyes, executive director of the Texas Graduate Center in Mercedes.
“Our kids are so gifted, so talented. They have the potential to be at Harvard or any university across the country. And so we want them to know, don’t let money be a factor in why you would not consider this university.”
The students leave the Valley on Wednesday and return on Saturday. Reyes explained how the tie-up with the four New England institutions came about. “Our teachers are in the ‘Math for Teaching’ program at Harvard. An important part of what the teachers do in their classroom is to talk to the kids about their future and for them to dream big and to not let anything stand in their way, any obstacles whatsoever, including financial.”
Reyes said this is the first such tour the Texas Graduate Center and the Texas Valley Communities Foundation have organized to Harvard and the other New England universities.
“We have been in the ‘Math for Teaching’ program for three years now and so we have begun to establish relationships with people at Harvard and the other universities and so now we feel confident in being able to take the students over there and provide an amazing experience for them. They are all sophomores. Maybe one school district is taking a freshman. So they have time before they become seniors to do what they need to do to prepare to get to some of these universities.”
Asked what sort of grades the students will need to get to Harvard, Reyes said: “Getting to Harvard is very competitive. Their grades are important, their scores on their SATs, their community service, all of that is important. So, we are talking to our students and preparing them for their college essay. When a reviewer is looking at all these applications there are a lot of kids that are very bright, they have the grades, they have the community service but what is going to set you apart is your story. What is your story? What sets you apart as a student? So, we are also talking to the students about being able to tell their story and many of our kids have struggled, many of our kids have amazing stories of struggle and triumph, these are the things that set you apart. This can be the deciding factor. When all things are the same, when you are competing with all of these gifted kids across the country, that is what can set you apart,” Reyes said.
Asked about the possibility of the Valley losing its brightest students if they go off to Harvard and do not return, Reyes said…