Located in Cypress Fairbanks ISD, Camino a la Universidad (Pathway to University) is a collaboration born out of a desire to give 7th and 8th grade Latina students at Arnold Middle School a vision for their future: a vision that includes the hope of higher education.
The Camino a la Universidad mentoring program meets twice per month. It pairs 20 Arnold Middle School students with five UHD student mentors majoring in Urban Education. The purpose? To walk alongside these young women encouraging them to not only stay in school but to excel and to encourage them to aspire to things they might not otherwise think is possible. The UHD mentors can directly relate to these young girls because as little as six to seven years before, these college students were middle school students themselves. In fact, many of the UHD mentors are the first in their families to attend college. The UHD mentors know well the obstacles middle school girls face to attend college even from within their own homes and cultures.
Throughout the school year, mentors and mentees come together for activities that are creative in nature. For instance, they might create their family trees, special gifts, New Year’s Resolutions, Valentine cards addressed to themselves, selfies that encourage them to believe in themselves. Sound hokey? Think again! Through these creative activities topics such as goal setting, building confidence, and avoiding conflicts are addressed. Students learn they are not unlike their mentors who are only a few years older than they are. Mentors emphasize they are no different. If they can attend college, so can their middle-school mentees.
At the end of the school year, the girls are given a campus tour of UHD’s Downtown and Northwest campuses as well as Lone Star College-University Park. They meet personally with faculty, administrators, and advisors. In their first tour in May 2017, they even met with President Muñoz and Regent Mendoza. Hope is literally breathed into them. As urban educators, UHD’s College of Public Service realizes educators must support the social-emotional well-being of students, thus strengthening them to get the most out of their education.