This year, SBISD will follow the first-year college experience of 2023 Northbrook High School graduate, Gadiel Montero. We invite you to join us and learn about some of the ‘firsts’ Gadiel will have at Colby College in Waterville, Maine—worlds away from Houston, Texas and Cuba where Gadiel was born.
Last fall, high school senior Gadiel Montero strongly matched the criteria to be nominated for a prestigious Posse Foundation scholarship by his Northbrook High School counselor: he ranked ninth in his 2023 graduating class, was president of the school’s chapter of the National Honor Society, was a school record-holding varsity swimmer, raised award-winning lambs in the Spring Branch FFA program, and would be the first in his family to attend college in the United States.
After a series of interviews, Gadiel was selected for the Posse scholarship program (full tuition and other financial assistance). He and nine other students from other high schools were grouped by the foundation into a ‘posse’ of 10 to prepare for and attend college together as a cadre. Gadiel’s posse was going to Colby College in Waterville, Maine.
“At first, I had doubts about attending a liberal arts college so far from home,” Montero said. “But as I explored more about it, I became quite interested. What really helped was the support I got from the Posse Foundation, along with the nine other students who were joining me.”
Getting ready and settled
Gadiel’s posse regularly met together January through August 2023 to get to know each other, learn what to expect and how to navigate Colby College. The group continues to meet weekly with advisors and mentors at the college to provide ongoing support and advice.
This summer, as move-in day approached, Gadiel contemplated what he would take with him to Colby College, but it all had to fit into three suitcases for the flight to Maine.
“I carefully selected essential items such as clothes, shoes, and towels, ensuring I had all the necessities I might require,” Gadiel said. “Additionally, I included room decorations and sentimental items from Houston.
“Reflecting on my packing choices, I realized I had packed items I genuinely needed, anticipating the challenges of the first few weeks of college. Despite my careful planning, I found myself buying from Amazon and visiting my local Walmart to acquire items I hadn't initially considered.”
Things such as a coffee maker, bedding, school supplies, laptop adapter cords, and even a Cuban flag were purchased to help Gadiel get settled into his dorm room.
Pre-orientation activities were organized at Colby College for those who were first generation, low-income college students to make connections with others who had similar backgrounds. At the sessions he attended, along with the official Colby College Orientation, Gadiel began to make new friends.
At Colby College, students do not choose their own dorm roommates, so it was an unknown for Gadiel that worked out well.
“I feel lucky to have a roommate who shares my interests and hobbies, said Gadiel. “We have different schedules but we always have time to talk with each other and hang out. One of the best surprises has been how well I've gotten along with my roommate.
“It's still early, but I believe we're in for a great year.!”
Unlike high school, college students have classes parts of each weekday, with free time in between for studying, recreation, laundry, extracurricular activities and hanging out with friends.
Gadiel is taking four classes (Philosophy, Cellular Biology, Single-Variable Calculus and Colonial Echoes, plus a biology lab). All classes meet on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, with the lab taking place on Tuesdays.
“I really like my schedule as of right now because I don’t have 8 a.m. classes,” he said. “Friends who have early classes are suffering from it.”
Gadiel’s favorite class is biology because the professor keeps the class interesting. His least favorite is the calculus class because of the load of homework and the teaching style of the professor.
“During the gaps in my class schedule, I run errands, do homework, or study,” said Gadiel. “Thursday, for me, is the day to catch up on life. That’s when I organize my room or do stuff that is not necessarily related to my college.”
After the first few weeks of course work, Gadiel discovered he is a night person, as this is when he most likes to study and do homework.
Gadiel wanted to engage with various extracurricular activities at Colby College to foster a strong sense of community. He joined culture clubs and a volleyball group, in addition to the friendships made within his posse.
“I have made friends in extracurricular activities, but I have also made friends in study groups,” he said. “I found myself being part of a lot of small groups of different activities. This gives me flexibility in what I want to do or with whom to hang out.”
Finding various support systems is essential for first year college students, especially when far from home. The Posse Foundation meetings each week are very helpful to Gadiel, as the group talks about a lot of things each person has been doing to be successful.
Other Colby College supports he has tapped into are:
- The Pugh Center, which specializes in connecting students from different backgrounds and cultures to other Colby resources.
- From there, he was put in touch with a person at DavisConnect who helped Gadiel map out his college path. He plans to major in Biology at Colby and eventually study to become a veterinarian.
- Gadiel has gone to professor and teaching assistant office hours for assistance with his classes.
- The athletic center and physical therapy office have helped him continue to recover from a leg injury sustained during the summer.
- The Student Success Fund provided financial assistance for Gadiel to get outfitted for winter clothes, including a parka and boots.
Away from the heat of Houston, Gadiel is enjoying the fall weather: 60 to 70 degrees and sunny days for the most part. He is also enchanted with the colors of the fall leaves.
“The combination of green and orange leaves is mesmerizing,” he said. “The only thing you want to do with days like that is be outside. Colby does a great job at providing spaces for people to hang out outside and do sports or homework outside.”
Winter is coming, though. We will check in with Gadiel in January 2024 to see how he is faring and what new lessons he will have learned by then. Stay tuned.
Are you interested in learning more about planning for college and beyond, but don't know where to start? We’ve got you covered! Below are resources that will assist you in starting your own journey:
- Save the date and join us on 10/26 @ 6PM - Parent U: Paying For College
Register for this event: [English] [Spanish]
- CCMR: What is it and why you need to know
- T-2-4 Ready website
- Canvas T-2-4 Toolkit for Seniors (Grade 12)
- Financial Planning 101