The returning graduates represented 16 different colleges. The Ike alumni answered a variety of questions from college preparation to the college experience.
Approximately 300 students benefitted from the sixth annual Grads Give Back initiative. The event targets students who intend to pursue college or a post-secondary education. This includes students in Advanced Placement (AP) and dual credit courses.
Students in the iASPIRE program at Eisenhower Ninth Grade School got the invite to attend too. The four-year elective course begins in the Ike students’ freshman year. The main goal is to prepare students to succeed in college.
The attendance list for the event included any Ike student helped by college support services. These include nonprofits like College Forward and Generation Texas. Both are helping students reach their dreams.
The event included local author Paul Brown (’73). Brown served as the keynote speaker. He also formed part of the College Panel. Other panelists included Duc Nguyen, Ahkeill Irving, Marco Medina, and Jasmine Napper. Bryttany McClendon-Weary, Yendri Longoria and Esteban Durán also joined them.
The panelists encouraged students to study, get informed, and to plan early. Above all they must believe in themselves. They stressed that a higher education was possible and within reach. The panelists shared that college was an adventure to define their future. A common theme was to take advantage of the opportunities available. It was just as important to accept challenges. More than one panelist reiterated that college was more than memorizing facts. It’s about the mindset and strategies that will help them explore, engage and excel in life.
Duc Nguyen has been coming back since he graduated in 2012.
“I have taken part in Grads Give Back for the last four years,” said Nguyen. “Everyone’s efforts to educate students about the college experience never ceases to amaze me.”
During the panel session, the panelists answered questions from students. The topics varied. For example, the alumni shared how classes are different in college than in high school. The Ike students heard about the different financial options to help pay for college. They learned about resources available to help undergraduates find success. The panelists also shared how they are maintaining friendships while in college.
After the question and answer session in the auditorium, everyone headed to the cafeteria. There returning alumni set up tables with college materials. Acting as college representatives, they continued to answer students’ questions. Several alumni like Asucena Ochoa and Som-Mai Nguyen have taken part in Grads Give Back since they graduated from Ike. For others like Valeria Durán and Marco Medina, it is their first event since graduating in 2015.
Ben Ibarra appreciates everyone who made the event possible. Ibarra is principal at the campus.
“It is always incredible to see the number of grads who take part,” said Ibarra. “So many come back year-after-year. That tells me that this event means a lot to them. They want to see others in their home community succeed. We are all proud of our Ike alumni and grateful they come back to share their college experiences with current students. ”
Event organizers encouraged Ike students to visit each of the colleges represented. Students could collect admission information. Several Ike graduates also represented the Armed Forces.
Bobby Mansour stated that the event is a collaborative effort. What began as a student initiative in 2010 has grown into a campus community event. Mansour and Kaileigh Rosplohowski have been instrumental in helping the students plan. Mansour is the IB campus coordinator and Rosplohowski is an art teacher.
“As educators we stress the importance of a post-secondary education,” said Mansour. “The Grads Give Back event confirms the advice we give students. The grads provide a voice and perspective our students more readily listen to.
The graduates and current students have a lot of common ground such as growing up in the same community. That shared background helps them connect with the alumni. The graduates really do help current students gain understanding through their eyes. That is why we continue to have this event.”
Students like Azari Sumbler from the Class of 2016 find the event educational and motivational.
“The Grads Give Back event is beneficial to students,” said Sumbler. “It is amazing to see graduates come back to inspire us. It sinks in that college is possible no matter your background. And it is inspiring to see Ike students reaching their dreams.”
Gustavo Almanza (’15) @ Texas A&M University
Alexis Arevalo (’14) @ Texas A&M University
Sierra Austin (’15) @ Sam Houston State University
Cristian Ayala (’15) @ Texas A&M University
Raabia Badat (’15) @ Lone Star College-North Harris (Honors)
Matthew Bashey (’12) @ Prairie View A&M University
Destiny Blyce @ Prairie View A&M University
Paul Brown (Class of 1973), Attended the University of Houston
Quanesha Brown (’14) @ University of Texas-San Antonio
Courtney Cain (’15) @ University of Mary Hardin-Baylor
David Canela (’14) @ Texas A&M University
Daisy Chávez (’14) @ Sam Houston State University
Victoria Chávez @ University of Houston-Downtown
Luis Deleon (’15) @ Texas A&M University
Kheron Dennis (’14) @ Stephen F. Austin University
Esteban Durán (’11) @ University of Houston-Downtown
Valeria Durán (’15) @ University of Houston
Azsa Enoch (’15) @ Jarvis Christian College
Claudia Espinoza (’14) @ University of Texas
Lucero Fernández (’14) @ Texas State University
Jorge Flores (’15) @ University of Texas
John Gage (’14) @ Sam Houston State University
Abraham Galeno (’15) @ Sam Houston State University
Jeffrey González (’14), US Navy
Jerkaelynn Graham (’14) @ Stephen F. Austin State University
Daisha Heard (’14) @ Texas A&M University
Akeem Hector (’14) @ University of Houston
Monet Henson (Class of 2015) @ Texas State University
Rose Hernández, US Army
Ahkeill Irving (’15) @ Texas State University
Tremain Jackson (’14) @ Prairie View A&M University
Gloria Johnson (’15) @ Prairie View A&M University
Nernwon Kargou (’11) @ Georgetown University
Jesús Lechuga (’10) @Texas A&M University
Juwaan Johnson (’15) @ Texas State University
Yendri Longoria (’13) @ Drexel University
John Martin III
Alejandro Martínez (’14) @ Texas A&M University
Isabel Martínez @ Sam Houston State University
Brytanny McClendon-Weary (’15) @ Howard University
Marco Medina (’15) @ University of Texas
Mauricio Medel (’14) @ Texas A&M University
Stephanie Murillo (’15) @ University of Houston
Jasmin Napper @ Texas Southern University
Lily Ngo (’15) @ University of Houston
Duc Nguyen (’12) @ Texas A&M University
Hieu Nguyen (’15) @ Texas A&M University
Som-Mai Nguyen (’13) @ Stanford University
Timmy Nguyen @ University of Texas
Tommy Nguyen @ Texas A&M University
Asucena Ochoa (’13) @ Texas A&M University
Myriam Palacios (’15) @ Sam Houston State University
Robert Rodríguez (’15) @ University of Texas
Silvia Rojas @ Houston Baptist University
Fredi Rosa (’15) @ Lone Star College-Cy Fair
Sebastian Salas (’15) @ Lone Star College Cy-Fair
Ana Sánchez (’14) @ University of Texas
Isaiah Santiago, US Army
Estella Taylor (’14) Texas Southern University
Crystal Torres (’15) @ Texas A&M University
Johnny Tran (’14)@ Texas A&M University
Juan Valencia @ University of Houston-Downtown
Olga Vargas (’15) @ University of Texas
Leonidas Villatoro (’15) @ Texas A&M University
Nyera Westmoreland (’14) @ Texas A&M University
Víctor Zermeno (’15) @ Texas A&M University
(List based on sign-in sheet information.)
Below are more images from the Grads Give Back event.
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