YES Prep Public Schools
Chris Bertaut, Development Team

Earlier this month, Advisory Council chair Ann Vaughan and her husband Richard opened their home to donors and supporters for an engaging panel discussion showcasing a few members of YES Prep’s growing alumni network, currently over 10,000 strong. “Since knowing that I would become chair of the Advisory Council, I have wanted to feature our YES Prep alumni at a meeting and have a conversation about what life after YES looks like and the varied paths our alumni follow,” shares Ann.

Survey says: alumni are satisfied with their YES Prep experience

To kick off the evening, Mimi Xi, managing director of analytics and Bobby Treviño, managing director of college initiatives presented findings from the 2022 YES Prep alumni survey. The data collected from this survey informs YES Prep how to better serve current and future students and keep our alumni engaged after graduation. 

Over 2,000 alumni responded to the survey, with nearly 80% of alumni respondents indicating they would recommend YES Prep for a 6th-12th grade education. “We have alumni who are now sending their kids to YES Prep and who still have siblings at YES Prep, so we are really thinking about how we are promoting ourselves,” shared Bobby. 

Survey data shows that YES Prep alumni are already seeing benefits of a college education, with 78% of alumni with bachelor’s degrees earning more than $50,000 per year. 64% of alumni over the age of 25 have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher, which is almost double the national average for this age group.

Inspiring the next generation of leaders 

Led by Alejandra Muñoz, director of alumni affairs (and an alumna of YES Prep Southeast Secondary herself!), panelists shared how their experiences at YES Prep helped shaped them into the successful leaders they are today. A common theme was that the rigor of a YES Prep education, with appropriate support along the way, taught them how to balance academics with work, extracurriculars and family responsibilities. 

Edriena Gee, alumna of the founding class at YES Prep Gulfton Secondary, felt supported and guided by the numerous leadership and extracurricular opportunities available on her campus. “One of our mottos was that ‘anything worth doing is worth doing right’, and I feel like that’s how I’ve lived my life. That really helped transform me, making me entrepreneurial and seeking out opportunities instead of waiting for them to find me,” Edriena noted. 

Jesse Arredondo, alumnus of YES Prep Southeast Secondary, fondly remembers the support he received from his teachers, leading him to join the profession after college. “Our parents didn’t have this type of education, but when we stepped foot onto a YES Prep campus, it was the teachers that gave us hope. I truly believed them when they said 98% of us would go to college and that’s the reason I ended up going,” said Jesse. 

Ngozi Nwajiaku, alumna of YES Prep Southwest Secondary, has embodied YES Prep’s “Thinks and Acts” philosophy since first learning about it in school. Written by students of our first graduating class, these 20 statements create expectations about how the model YES Prep student should think and act. “Throughout school and beyond, I’ve had to deal with a lot of personalities and different ways people interact with each other. This set of expectations for YES Prep students taught me to leave a place better than I found it and figure out how to work with a lot of different types of people in college, in pharmacy school, and at my current job,” Ngozi shared. 

Learning from the past and preparing for the future 

At YES Prep, we are committed to learning, growing, and adapting to the changing needs of our students and families. We asked our alumni to share their thoughts on additional opportunities or support they would have liked to have during their time at YES Prep. 

Luly Castillo, YES Prep board member and alumna of the founding class of YES Prep Southeast Secondary, wishes we could do more to support families outside the classroom. “Out of the 16 students from my graduating class, only 6 of us graduated from college. It wasn’t that they didn’t want to go to college, but unfortunately some of them had responsibilities at a young age. Perhaps their parents couldn’t work anymore, their parents were deceased, or they became pregnant, so they had to work instead of finishing school,” Luly noted. 

Rounding out the panel discussion, Alejandra shared some reflections as both an alumna and someone who works with our seniors and alumni. “This panel is a proud moment for me. I’m in this work every day with our seniors and this reminder of what happens after graduation is my fuel for tomorrow. I’m proud to have the opportunity to do this work and give back to YES Prep,” shared Alejandra. 

Thank you to alumni panelists Jesse Arredondo, Luly Castillo, Edriena Gee, and Ngozi Nwajiaku for sharing their experiences and providing valuable insight that will help YES Prep continue to grow and thrive. To learn more about how YES Prep supports our alumni through college and beyond, click here.

About the author

Chris Bertaut (he/him) joined YES Prep in 2022 as the Donor Communications Manager. Chris holds a BA in Sociology from Sam Houston State University, a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Houston and is a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE). Prior to YES Prep, Chris spent nearly a decade working in fundraising operations and special events at Rice University. In his free time, Chris serves as a board member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals – Greater Houston Chapter and is a senior volunteer at Friends for Life Animal Shelter. Chris is a proud member of the LGBTQIA+ community and has two adorable cats, Annabelle and Rowan. 

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