Spring Branch ISD Featured News

Portrait of a first-year college student: You need your group to succeed


A year ago, Gadiel Montero, a 2023 graduate of Northbrook High School, embarked on a journey of connection and opportunity alongside nine other exceptional students from across the Houston area.

Together, they formed a dynamic cohort of Posse Scholars destined for Colby College in Maine, all of them awarded full scholarships for the fall of 2023.

The posse, selected through an extensive application and interview process with the Posse Foundation, began meeting weekly last winter and spring to prepare for transition to college life. That same group continues to meet weekly now that they are all at Colby College. Although his posse is one of several resources in Montero’s support system at the university, it is the mentor/leader of the group who has been most helpful to him.

“She has been a great help,” said Montero. “She sets up meetings for me with people in other departments at the college who can help me with financial, insurance and study abroad questions, for example.”

An aspect of college life that Montero did not anticipate a year ago was how much free time he would have to work out, hang out with friends, study and take care of personal needs like cleaning and laundry.

“I thought it would be more structured, like high school,” said Montero. “Actually, going to class only 16 hours per week is less nerve-wracking than doing the follow up homework!”

Another pleasant surprise has been to experience that college professors at Colby actually DO care about their students, despite what others had told Montero before he went to college.

“They all answer email questions very fast and politely,” said the first-year college student. He said if he asks for an extension on a deadline for unforeseen reasons, they usually respect the request. "It does pay to be proactive, though, and not ask for an allowance after a due date."

Me time

A lesson Montero learned from first semester is to not have any 8:00 or 9:00 a.m. classes. A later class schedule allows Montero to get up early, go to the gym and work out with weights for a couple of hours.

“This is my ME time,” he said. “I just put on music and get lost in the workout.”

The winter months in Maine were particularly mild this year. A few snow days required clearing of the stairs and pathways with salt, but mostly Montero said he was a little disappointed that he didn’t get to experience super cold temperatures this winter.

Off -the-grid leadership trip

When we last checked in with Gadiel Montero in early January, he was preparing to go on a school-sponsored leadership trip to Mexico. The 10-person group arrived in Mexico and had a few days of training and preparation before going off-grid for a seven-day backpacking trip in the mountains and desert. They each started off with 50-pound packs and ended the excursion with about 30 pounds.

Montero survived a tangle with a desert cactus that left him with many pricks on the palm of one hand. They also had to boil and disinfect a lot of water that had a lot of sediment in it.

“The sediment did not go away, but it was safe to drink,” he said, noting that no one got sick on the journey.

“The trip was really good … and hard,” said Montero. “I really miss it because it was simple: just water, food and rest. It was also good to be away from phones and communication technologies."

The group took turns cooking meals, planning the day’s route, and taking leadership roles. He learned that good leaders need community support to be successful; an insight he will be able to use in future academic and career experiences.

“No matter how hard you try, you need your group to succeed,” said Montero.

Being a mentor

This semester, Montero is involved with an extracurricular mentoring program called Colby Cares. He has been matched with a middle school boy and tries to visit at least once a week when he can get a ride to the student’s campus. The young man really looks forward to the visits, and often asks if his new mentor can come more than once a week!

“He is such a great kid,” said Montero. “I hope I can keep meeting with him during the rest of my years at Colby.”

Montero was in Houston during his spring break in late March. Although he did have homework to do, he mostly enjoyed relaxing at home and eating his mom’s Cuban cooking!

As Montero continues his first-year college journey toward adulthood, he is looking forward to coming back to Houston for the summer. He hopes to land an internship or volunteer position in a veterinary clinic or with an animal care organization. This will bolster future applications to veterinary school, which is still his goal. His Biology major at Colby College will also be a good foundation for this ultimate career plan.

Good luck, Gadiel! We are rooting for you and are #SBISDProud of your progress so far!