Somewhere up in heaven, former Landrum Middle School art teacher Andres Bautista is looking down on one new Northbrook High School graduate, Sandra Melgar, and beaming brightly.
Melgar, who is also a graduate of the high school’s special Posse and Emerge student program cohorts, will attend Bryn Mawr College, near Philadelphia, this fall where she plans to study fine arts and education.
As a top-rated student, gifted artist and Posse Scholar, Melgar heads off to an Ivy League college with a full-tuition scholarship valued at $200,000, or more. Melgar today is not the tentative middle school art student she once recalls.
Bautista, a storied and highly acclaimed art instructor, died in 2015. A Teacher of the Year in SBISD, he had a special ability to connect with students and to identify their potential talents in art and related areas.
Melgar was one of Mr. Bautista’s Landrum Middle students, many of whom have also gone on to receive scholarships in art and other academic areas.
“I was stubborn. Mr. Bautista told me I had potential in my first year, but I did not listen. But the next year, I submitted one of my works to Newspring (a local arts organization program and annual student competition) and it was accepted. I realized through him that I really did have potential,” she said.
Both Melgar’s potential and her strong body of art works led the Newspring organization several weeks ago to award her and four other student artists scholarships valued at $5,000 each. Through Newspring, Melgar has sold more than a half dozen personal art works in recent years.
She has received recognition for her work, too, through Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo and other art organizations. She loves abstract art, likes to paint and has worked on locally produced aluminum butterfly sculptures, a new and highly visible, Newspring community project.
“When I was given the task of nominating students for Posse, Sandra was one of the first students I thought of. During the interview process, I was fortunate to spend more time with her and got to know her well. Through our conversations she told me her story and talked about the people like Mr. Bautista, who have mentored her and helped her create change in her life,” Northbrook senior counselor Anne Styler said.
“Sandra is smart and driven, and an amazing artist. She has had help and encouragement, but she has done the hard work. I am thrilled that she has the opportunity to attend Bryn Mawr College. She is going to do great things in her life,” Styler also said.
This soon-to-be Bryn Mawr freshman came to the United States at age 8 with her brothers from Honduras. She attended Housman Elementary for two years, and then Landrum Middle and Northbrook.
A National Honor Society member, Melgar ranked No. 11 in the Class of 2018 at Northbrook. A summertime visit to Bryn Mawr helped her decide the college was far enough from Houston (“I need that”) and flexible for a student like her who may wish to take college courses at nearby schools and universities, one of Bryn Mawr’s selling points.
Her native Honduras, a troubled land today, pulls at her heart. Melgar is thinking about teaching there after college, in part because of the needs in Honduras, and partly because of the current U.S. political situation.
“Everything happening is leading me in the direction of being a teacher. I have thought about art education as a possible way to combine both arts and education, but at this point I am open (to the future), she said.
Melgar credits both Posse and Emerge programs for her bright prospects. The Posse Foundation was created to identify, recruit and grow students with top leadership potential. Posse Scholars like Melgar often earn four-year, full-tuition leadership scholarships from Posse partner colleges and universities.
Nine out of 10 Posse Scholars graduate from college, compared to about six in 10 college students who graduate nationwide.
The Emerge program now operates in several Houston-area public school districts, including SBISD. It connects high-performing students who live in underserved areas or have minority backgrounds with select U.S. colleges and universities.
From sophomore through senior years, Emerge students are given added support, including after-school meetings and programs, workshop options, individual college advising, standardized test preparation and college trips and tours during summer breaks.
Melgar says that the test preparation, exposure to college options, and all the advising and networking provided was “amazing” in her own journey. “They were always there to guide me,” she said of Emerge.
When she looks forward today, Melgar is not certain about her future, but Mr. Bautista’s invisible hand may still be guiding her.
The careers she has identified all have “art” in their titles – art studio owner, art business owner, art teacher.
Sandra Melgar found a big part of her future story back in middle school.