To Laredo couple Hank and Elizabeth Sames, the difficulty many students face in getting through high school and attending college has special meaning.
As parents of eight children, they know students need reinforcement, support and someone to pat them on their back when they've accomplished a goal.
That is why the Sames have opted to help their community by starting a unique mentorship program at Texas A&M International University through a donation that matches high school freshmen with University faculty mentors.
Through the Hank and Elizabeth Sames Mentors Program, four University faculty members will meet with 12 high school freshmen twice a semester to check on their academic progress.
TAMIU president Dr. Ray Keck explained that the faculty mentors will discuss how the academic term is beginning and ending and offer suggestions, advice and observations.
"The mentorship will continue for four years and at the end of their senior year, students who have stayed the course will attend the University on a complete scholarship supported by the Sames," Dr. Keck said, "Each year, an additional group of 25 students will be selected from area high schools to participate in the program."
Faculty mentors are Dr. Stephen Lunce, professor of information systems; Dr. Sushma Krishnamurthy, associate professor of biology; Dr. Trace Pirtle, associate professor of counselor education; and Dr. Rachel Cruz, assistant professor of music.
Keck said TAMIU is grateful for the Sames' partnership in making higher education possible for populations especially in need of assistance.
"The Sames, through this mentorship program, have realized a dream they have had for a long time, one that will surely have an enormous, positive impact on all of us," he said, "We would like to applaud them for their leadership and thank them from the bottom of our hearts for their immense generosity."
During a recent dinner reception for students selected for the program, the Sames said they look forward to a long-lasting relationship with the students.
"We believe in giving back to our community," Hank Sames said, "Laredo has been good to both my family and our company and the best way we can give back is through education."
Elizabeth Sames, whose son, Landon Romano, attended TAMIU his freshman year and was part of the first freshman class at the new University campus, said she also feels grateful to the University for providing him with a positive learning environment.
"He was glad to attend TAMIU and very excited to be a part of the first class," Elizabeth Sames said, "We want to see these kids succeed and help our community, build our community. If these kids can get to TAMIU, they will find people that will support them."
Edgar Ruiz, a ninth grade student at LBJ High School, said he thinks that the mentorship will help him pursue study in criminal justice.
" I'm also planning on going for my master's," a smiling Ruiz said.
Ruiz's father, Luis Barajas, said he is proud of his son for being chosen to participate in the program.
"This program is not only going to help us economically but it gives students guidance as to what they can pursue in the future," Barajas said.
Reymundo Pedrosa, father of Saulo Pedrosa, who is attending ninth grade at United High School, said the program will help his family financially.
"We know that a college education is costly. We think that through this program, the dreams of parents will be realized by their children being able to attend college," Pedrosa said.
For further information, please contact Michelle A. Alexander, vice president for institutional advancement, at 326-2175 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. University office hours are 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.