UTEP students speak to high schoolers about the importance of education

Julia Hettiger, Staff Reporter

Student members of the many organizations at UTEP have been talking to high school students about the importance of college with the goal of motivating students to apply at places of higher education.

These organizations inform students about financial aid, scholarships, getting involved on campus, helping alleviate any fears and answer any questions they may have.

Vanessa Soto, senior biological sciences major and member of Peer-Lead Team Learning, said she has done advanced tutoring and spoken at high schools to help encourage students to attend college and be active on campus.

“In high schools there is definitely pressure on students who maintain grades above a B to attend college,” Soto said. “Scholarship opportunities and college applications are shoved down the throats of these students, but they aren’t really informed well on why they should care this much about attending college.”

Soto also makes it a goal to speak to struggling high school students because she said those students tend to be neglected the most.

Although Soto advocates the importance of students attending college, she also makes it a point to explain that higher education is a huge commitment.

“This first-hand advice could really lead the right students on the right path,” Soto said.

Soto said speaking to students has helped her evolve as a student because it has changed her point of view on college altogether.

“I think when you enter college, you definitely have a selfish point of view on life,” Soto said. “You strive to move forward regardless of how it affects others.”

By speaking to high school students, she said she has realized that it is okay to ask for help, and she wants to share this message with high school students.

“You yourself may need help every now and then, but can’t find anyone to help you out,” Soto said. “Giving this opportunity to students that I did not have, I feel has changed my view on how to become successful in life in some ways.”

Being a part of an organization has also given Soto the opportunity to speak to students and she said it is a very rewarding experience that has allowed her to make many friends.

Kimberly Vela, senior clinical laboratory science major, spoke to students with her department’s Early College High School Success Center. Vela said college students speaking to high schoolers about the importance of attending college has a great impact on the perspective of high school students.

“First, it allows them to see that college is an attainable goal regardless of socioeconomic background,” Vela said. “Especially in the El Paso region, where students may limit their options because they may not have all the means to finance a college education.”

Vela said high school students who see other students with similar backgrounds being going to college is a big motivator. It also gives students an idea of what career paths they can follow.

“Personally, I didn’t even know about my major before a UTEP student at a job fair informed me about it,” Vela said. “It was because of this experience, which he made seem like a great one, that I decided to look into it.”

She said talking to high school students will hopefully motivate students to go to college.

“I hope that we have promoted students to ask themselves questions about the possibility of them attending college and what they can get out of it,” Vela said.

Esperanza Candelaria, staff member of the World Leaders’ Council at UTEP, said speaking to high school students was impactful on students pursuing their college education.

“I spoke to students at a school I previously attended in a low-income area,” Candelaria said. “It was mostly teaching students that I did it and they can too.”

Candelaria said that the goal of speaking to the students was to encourage them to attend college even if they think they cannot afford it because it is possible to still do so.

“We asked how many were attending college, and they raised their hands, and we wanted them to continue knowing that they can,” Candelaria said.

Rumgay said the Gilman Scholarship and being able to study abroad will help her in a number of ways.

“Studying in Turkey will ease my fear so that I can pursue graduate school and a career in humanitarian development without any hesitation,” Rumgay said. “Students who are willing to put in the time and effort, certainly have the support and resources on campus to make studying abroad with the Gilman Scholarship a reality.”

This year’s awardees were April Rumgay, who received $8,000 to study in Turkey, Stephanie Arzate, sophomore mechanical engineering major who was awarded $4,000 to study in Italy, and Lorna Bustillos, who received $3,000 to study in Peru. The scholarship was awarded for the upcoming summer.

Julia Hettiger may be reached at [email protected]