Two Northbrook High graduates reflect an increasingly visible pathway to excellence in higher education for identified students – EMERGE program student participation and Posse Scholar financial awards for selective U.S. colleges and universities.
Meliza Perez, for example, will head this fall to Wellesley College, a private women’s liberal arts college located near Boston. Sandra Melgar will take her artistic talent to Bryn Mawr in the Philadelphia area, another college viewed as one of the nation’s best choices in higher education.
Both students took part in EMERGE and were named Posse Scholars, earning financial awards valued at hundreds of thousands of dollars for all three students.
By early May, almost 50 seniors from SBISD high schools who were part of EMERGE and Posse programs chose colleges and universities. Their picks ranged from Brandeis University over on the East Coast to Lewis and Clark College in scenic Portland, Ore.
“Meliza and Sandra are exceptional students who embody what EMERGE is all about,” said Sandra Nuñez, academic program manager for EMERGE. “They are hard-working, resilient, full of potential and committed to improving their communities and their world.
“They have set a new standard for what is possible for students from underserved communities with their acceptances to Wellesley and Bryn Mawr, two of the nation’s most selective colleges. There is no doubt that what they will accomplish and what they have already accomplished will inspire many students who come after them,” Nuñez also said.
The Posse Foundation was created to identify, recruit and grow high school students with leadership potential. Posse Scholars Perez and Melgar earned four-year, full-tuition leadership scholarships from the Posse partnering colleges and universities they chose, too.
Behind the obvious financial benefit, students chosen for Posse leadership awards are terrific college-completion bets. Nine out of 10 Posse Scholars graduate from college, compared to six in 10 students who graduate at the national level for all colleges and universities.
The EMERGE program now operates in several Houston-area public school districts, including SBISD. From sophomore through senior years, EMERGE program students receive added support, including after-school programming focused on building college knowledge, workshops for families, individualized college advising, standardized test preparation and summer college tours.
School, Work and Wellesley
Meliza Perez’s life changed in sixth grade when her mom had a stroke and Perez, an only child, learned to take care of herself, with help from an aunt. Her mom may return to her native El Salvador soon.
“When my mom had a stroke, it struck me that I was on my own in so many ways. It’s been hard, but it’s also pushed me to grow as a person and to be capable of doing things on my own,” Perez says.
Perez has worked throughout her high school years at Salata restaurant in Memorial City Mall. At one point, she held a second job, but found that her grades went down. Her grades are exceptional. She graduated as No. 9 in her class, crossing the finish line with many AP classes and college credits.
She earned dual credits for six Houston Community College classes. They ranged from college-level English to psychology and government.
Whether the topic is grades, graduation, her Wellesley admission or Posse scholarship, she is still pinching herself a bit. “I never thought that I would get to this place. There were so many obstacles for me growing up,” she says.
Her mother’s difficult medical history and current situation motivates Perez to pursue her dream to become a pediatric neurosurgeon.
“I want to help or serve children. I am curious about how everything works together inside the brain because of my mom, and how that might impact the young,” she says.
Born in the United States, Perez is deeply moved by the plight and struggle of so many immigrant families and children. “Growing up like I did, you see and you hear about the struggles of people working two jobs, and trying to make a living and care for their family,” she says.
She is interested in working in Central America after college. Emerge and Posse experiences prepared her to pick Wellesley for its leadership focus impacting thousands of women graduates over the decades.
“Wellesley women make changes happen. They are leaders in the world, and I want to make a change, especially in Central America,” Perez says.
“Everything goes back to my mom,” she adds. “I watched her work so hard before her stroke. She came to America to give me a better life, and I want to do better by her.”
Bryn Mawr Speaks to Student Artist
Sandra 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 a pricey college with a full-tuition scholarship valued at $200,000, or more.
Melgar credits an art instructor, Andres Bautista, with helping her find her passion and her path forward. A highly acclaimed middle school teacher, Bautista died in 2015. A Teacher of the Year in SBISD, he had a special ability to connect with students and to identify their potential talent in art and related areas.
Like Melgar, many of Mr. Bautista’s Landrum Middle students have gone on to receive college scholarships in art and related areas. In addition to her Posse scholarship, Melgar was awarded a $5,000 scholarship award from the community-based Newspring organization.
“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 program and annual student competition) and it was accepted. I realized through him that I really did have potential,” she said.
Read more about Sandra Melgar in a separate 2018 Graduation story.