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University of Houston partnership gives high school students glimpse of college life

January 27, 2012 @ 8:52 am

Austin High School student Gwen Martinez has always dreamed of becoming a teacher—and thanks to the school’s magnet program, she is well on her way. Once a week, Martinez and dozens of her classmates visit Cage Elementary School to tutor students and get a feel for what it’s like in the classroom.

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“I believe kids are our future and they deserve the best,” said the high school senior. Martinez plans to attend the University of Houston (UH) in the fall to pursue her career goal. She chose UH in part because of a new collaboration between Austin and the emerging Tier One school.

Through a partnership started this academic year, students at Austin are being paired with students at the local university to get a feel for college life. They’re also getting a chance to interact with professors from the school’s College of Education.

“Not only are the professors collaborating with our students at mini-workshops, but our teachers are being exposed to the university’s research-based strategies,” said Austin Principal Jorge Arredondo. “Our teachers are then putting theory into action, with the goal of raising our standards of instructional delivery and ultimately increasing student achievement.”

Leaders at the University of Houston say they are excited about the opportunities it creates for those pursuing a career in education.

“We are always seeking innovative projects,” said Dr. Vera Hutchison, chair of the Department of Curriculum and Instruction. “Each activity in this collaboration allows for professional growth among students who are future educators and who are ready to impact advances in school-aged student achievement.”

Current HISD teacher and Austin High School alumna Patricia Ochoa-Hernandez believes the new partnership will help students from Houston’s east end, such as Gwen Martinez, pursue a college education. The Cage Elementary bilingual teacher has personal experience to back up her belief. She graduated from Austin and pursued a teaching degree at the University of Houston herself.

“These kids need to be exposed to college and to the application requirements and processes,” said Ochoa-Hernandez. “This new partnership will help these students realize that college and a career are possible.”

Through the collaboration, Martinez has gotten a chance to spend a considerable amount of time on the college campus. The visits have reaffirmed her decision to be the first in her family to pursue a higher education. “It’s a little overwhelming, but I know I can do it,” said Martinez. “I feel like there are going to be plenty of people helping me along the way.”

For details about Austin High School’s Magnet Program for Teaching Professions, contact Magnet Coordinator Mike Dudas at 713-924-1600.

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