Spring Branch ISD Featured News

Collegiate Challenge: Celebrating 20 years


Many Spring Branch ISD graduates have found success in the world of work thanks to mentors in the Collegiate Challenge program who provided encouragement and guidance through the college application and financial aid processes.

Celebrating its 20th year, the Collegiate Challenge program matches mentors from the district and community with students in the top 20-25 percent of their classes. During the students' junior and senior year of high school, mentors meet weekly to give them advice, edit application essays, keep them on track with scholarship opportunities and deadlines, and provide assistance with learning to self-advocate for their hopes and dreams.

During the 2000-01 school year, Pat Waldrop, a then-counselor at Northbrook High School (NHS), recruited mentors from Chapelwood United Methodist Church to help seniors achieve college acceptances. She equipped each mentor with a notebook full of information about application timelines, SAT/ACT, resumes, college visits, financial aid and scholarships, and much more.

About the same time, Spring Woods High School teacher Janet Sims started a similar program for students who had been in a Chapelwood program in middle school called Students With Amazing Potential (SWAP). The first mentors were also from Chapelwood, many of whom continue to be mentors 20 years in to the program. 

Later when the church decided to focus on partnering with just one high school (NHS), a community member, Sandra Newton from the College Resource Center, volunteered to mentor Spring Woods High School students, assisted by a few SBISD staff members. In 2010, in response to a challenge by then-Superintendent Duncan Klussmann, the program expanded with more than 30 leaders in the district stepping up to mentor a large cadre of students.

The program model was eventually adopted, and adapted, at all high schools in Spring Branch ISD.  

Since its inception, there have been many successful Collegiate Challenge alumni career paths, including: 

  • Sindy Madrid, Northbrook High School, Class of 2008: Traveling crisis nurse
  • Bernice Hernandez, Northbrook High School, Class of 2010: Program Director for University of Houston College of Medicine
  • Kenisha Smith, Spring Woods High School, Class of 2012: UPS Account Manager, image and branding consultant
  • Caitlin Hilton, Stratford High School, Class of 2013: Immigration Attorney with Foster LLC
  • Franco Madrigali, Memorial High School, Class of 2013: Construction Sales Engineer with Johnson Controls
  • Travis Hanes, Stratford High School, Class of 2013: Assistant Vice President of Commercial Relationships for Origin Bank
  • Michelle Deveau, Spring Woods High School, Class of 2014: Design Consultant with Wisen Baker Builder Services
  • Alex King, Spring Woods High School, Class of 2014: Accountant with PricewaterhouseCoopers
  • Connor June, Westchester Academy, Class of 2014: Assistant Operations Coordinator with Texas A&M Emergency Medical Services
  • Fernando Trujano, Stratford High School, Class of 2014: Software Engineer at Google
  • Gabbie Gomez, Northbrook High School, Class of 2015: College Advisor with Advise Texas

Several Collegiate Challenge alumni also now work in Spring Branch ISD:

  • Claudia Meza, Northbrook High School, Class of 2004: Teacher at Westwood Elementary
  • Katie Redd, Spring Woods High School, Class of 2012: Community Engagement Specialist
  • Veronica Santos, Spring Woods High School, Class of 2012: Social Studies Teacher and volleyball coach at her alma mater
  • Chris Rice, Spring Woods High School, Class of 2014: Teacher at Spring Oaks Middle School
  • Karla Mota Velazquez, Spring Woods High School, Class of 2015: Teacher at Spring Woods Middle School

When asked what advice they would give their high school selves, alumni replies included:

  • Pay attention to application deadlines.
  • Trust your instincts for what major and career to pursue.
  • Be persistent, and strive to achieve your dreams regardless of current circumstances.
  • There are always people willing to help if you just ask.
  • Know your worth. Believe in yourself.

If you are a Collegiate Challenge alumni, share your story with us at #CollegiateChallengeAlumni. If you would like to be a Collegiate Challenge mentor, please contact mentor@springbranchisd.com for more information.