New Pre-College Outreach Center Program Targets Encouraging Higher Education

A new program housed at Texas A&M International University will work to encourage young Texans to consider higher education first.

The Pre-College Outreach Center is dedicated to getting Texans academically prepared, said program Director Yvette Sanchez-Soto.

"This program is the result of a collaboration between the Texas A&M University System, the Texas Education Agency, Texas Business Education Coalition and A&M International and is part of the State GEAR UP project. We believe that this is an especially strong collaborative effort and we are part of a network of similar projects that span the State of Texas," Sanchez-Soto explained.

The Center staff met early this week with its local GEAR UP Advisory Board in A&M International's Sue and Radcliffe Killam Library Great Room. The session focused on planning GEAR UP activities for the coming year.

Sanchez-Soto said the Pre-College Outreach Center in Laredo has three major objectives.

"We'll be working to deliver three major objectives here: building the capacity of educator and students to participate in college prep programs; increasing student and family awareness of higher education and financial assistance and providing meaningful incentives and support for high student achievement from the business community," she explained.

Sanchez-Soto said that tied to these objectives is promoting the recommended high school program for college or university success. The Outreach Center will work closely with schools, parents and the community to share the program's benefits.

Dr.Ray Keck, A&M International provost and vice president said the initiative has special relevance for the University.

"We believe that outreach efforts like this are vital in order to assure that all students realize the higher education opportunities that are available to them here and beyond. Strategic alliances such as the Pre-College Center help to make this realization possible through a committed partnership that shares our vision of increasing student access to and participation in higher education. We are all very impressed by the Texas A&M University System's commitment to this effort," Dr. Keck said.

The program is currently working with campuses in Laredo Independent School District, United ISD, and Jim Hogg ISD.

Among initiatives the Pre-College Outreach Center is currently developing are staff development opportunities for local teachers dedicated to challenging curricula that target college-level courses.

Keck said one such initiative, the University Faculty Fellows, has nine A&M International faculty members working as resource mentors with Martin High School (MHS) faculty selected to direct MHS Advanced Placement Programs in seven course areas. The program is scheduled for expansion to other schools later this year.

"Developing close collaborations like this between high school faculty and University faculty offers the best hope for future students to benefit from higher education. It's a win-win situation," he explained.

Sanchez-Soto said the Center has been encouraged by the positive response from Laredoans and she and the Center staff are looking forward to building strategic alliances with groups that want to improve student and teacher education experiences and increase parental involvement in higher education awareness.

"We've received a positive reception from our initial meetings. We know that there is a great interest in our community for expanding higher education accessibility and opportunities," Sanchez-Soto said.

The native Laredoan was most recently part of the faculty at the University of Southern Mississippi-Gulf Coast and returned to Laredo three months ago. Her staff includes Laredoans Rene Montemayor, Assistant Director and Beatriz Salinas, Education Specialist.

For additional information on the Pre-College Outreach Center, visit offices located in Killam Library, 304-306 or call 326.2804.

Office hours are from 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday-Friday.

Journalists who need additional information or help with media requests and interviews should contact the Office of Public Affairs and Information Services at pais@tamiu.edu