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Greater Texas Foundation Scholars Get a Head Start on their Careers

BROWNSVILLE, TEXAS – JULY 1, 2013 Although Sergio Vasquez and Maria Cisneros have different career goals, they are on the same springboard to launch their varied career tracks.

Vasquez, a 2012 Brownsville Early College High School graduate, wants to become a U.S. Marshal. Cisneros, a 2012 Harlingen Early College High School graduate, has her eyes set on corporate marketing.

Greater Texas Foundation Scholars Sergio Vasquez and Maria Cisneros Greater Texas Foundation Scholars Sergio Vasquez and Maria Cisneros

Their springboard is three-fold: graduating from an early college high school with two years of college credit, becoming Greater Texas Foundation Scholars to complete their upper level university classes in two years, and fulfilling the requirements expected of GTF Scholars.

“Becoming a Greater Texas Foundation Scholar has been such a blessing for me and my family,” said 18-year-old Cisneros. “My mom was thrilled, because it is saving her from a mountain of expenses, and for me, the program is really helpful in keeping me focused on my goals.”

The Greater Texas Foundation began its scholars program in 2012, making Vasquez and Cisneros members of the first cohort of 20 students.

A critical component of the program is peer mentoring.

“Having a peer mentor is a real plus of this program,” said Vasquez. “We met our mentors before classes started late last summer. Since we are the first GTF cohort, our mentors were from the University Scholars program, similar to ours, and we have kept in touch all through the year. It is always helpful to have someone to contact who knows the ropes.”

Cisneros said she looks forward to the mentoring training she and her cohort will have in August, shortly before meeting their peer mentees.

“I’m curious if they’ll have the same questions that I did,” Cisneros said. “Being from Harlingen, I didn’t have the exposure to the UTB campus that the BECHS students did, and I was full of questions when I first started. I know what it’s like, and I’ll be happy to help the new ones out.”

GTF Scholars are also required to select a faculty mentor, generally from the students’ area of interest, who will be a “go to” person for any number of issues.

Vasquez, now one year away from his bachelor’s in criminal justice with a major in police administration, selected Dr. Benjamin Brown, Associate Professor of Criminal Justice, as his mentor.

“The faculty advisor helps us look into our future and figure out what kind of job we might want that uses our skills and interests,” Vasquez said. “We have talked about my plans – going with the Navy after I finish at UTB. I’m a water person – my Grandpa is a shrimper and I’m always swimming whenever I can – so the Navy seems a good fit for me. I hope to be accepted into officer candidate school.”

Working on campus is not a requirement for GTF, but Vasquez plans to apply for a campus job starting in August. He is spending his second summer working as an assistant in the Cameron County District Clerk’s office.

“I worked at Little Caesar’s Pizza during spring semester and at TJ Max during the Christmas holidays, but I really hope to get a campus job lined up for fall semester,” Vasquez said.

One year away from achieving her Bachelor of Business Administration in Marketing, Cisneros is spending the summer as a social media intern with the UTB Department of Creative Services in the Division of Institutional Advancement.

“Working here with the creative services team is such a great opportunity for me,” Cisneros said. “I am learning how the efforts of a lot of people come together to help promote the university. There are so many positive stories to tell about what our students are accomplishing. Every day is a learning experience.”

To maintain their scholarships, GTF Scholars must complete a minimum of 15 credit hours each full semester, must continue full-time progression for two years, and maintain a cumulative GPA of 2.7 or better. Students must also comply with peer and faculty mentor meetings, and meet with the program director at least once during the semester.

“We are required to participate in campus events such as meetings, speeches, music performances, sports events and job fairs,” Cisneros said. “That has been a big help, because I know it is opening us up to new and different college-life experiences.”

Community service is another requirement for the GTF Scholars. Cisneros and Vasquez joined their cohort to collect items and filling goodie bags for overseas troops during the Martin Luther King Day of Service.

Michael Aldape, GTF Scholars Assistant Program Coordinator for UTB, said he is impressed daily by the Scholars’ commitment to pursuing higher education.

“They first challenged themselves to complete a rigorous high school curriculum, and now as university students, they continue to demonstrate a level of responsibility and maturity well beyond their years,” Aldape said.

For more information on the Greater Texas Foundation Scholars Program, contact Michael Adape at 956-882-7088 or Michael.Aldape1@utb.edu.

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