YES Prep Public Schools

In February of this year, most students were not expecting to be participating in an online graduation ceremony. Elizabeth “Eli” Palomares Guzman certainly didn’t expect to, much less to celebrate online graduation with her pets. For one, she was a YES Prep Northside junior going into her senior year. Second, the program she graduated from was in New York. 

Likewise, Lizbeth Robles, a rising senior at YES Prep Eisenhower, thought she would be making a trip this summer to New York for NYU School of Professional Studies’ High School Academy. While some of our YES Prep students worried they would not be able to participate in these out-of-state opportunities prior to quarantine and COVID-19, many took advantage of the opportunities distance learning has made available and used this summer to expand their academic horizons online. 

Student Opportunities 

Each year, YES Prep students participate in the Student Opportunities program where they can expand their academic horizons. Last summer, YES students participated in nationally recognized opportunities, including the National Security Language Initiative for Youth, National Hispanic Institute - Great Debate, and the National Outdoor Leadership School expedition program. Through these programs, students are challenged to explore how these enrichment opportunities can help them grow individually and prepare them for college and their careers.  

Due to COVID-19, many of these opportunities were disrupted this summer as students were unable to travel to participate. While some programs were no longer able to operate, other programs transitioned to distance learning, opening them to YES Prep students. Six students from across the district received scholarships provided by a grant from the Brown Foundation. The scholarships allowed them to participate in online programs at Rhodes College, Rice University, Johns Hopkins University, Tufts University, New York University and Cornell University. The programs varied from a finance course, a creative writing institute, and pre-medical school programs. 

Lizbeth Robles - Eisenhower-cropped

Learning Finance at NYU 

Lizbeth participated this summer in NYU's Career Edge, a program that helps students to further explore careers and gain hands-on experience. Due to COVID-19, the program went online and fully remote. 

Lizbeth felt this would be an excellent opportunity to enhance her student profile when applying to colleges and gain experience in the financial world. She wants to pursue a career in real estate, therefore, prompting her to choose a finance course. The course took place every day, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. She learned about investment, estimation and equations in class, helping her have a proper introduction to a career path she is interested in pursuing. The course gave students activities related to real-world experiences, such as building proficiency in excel, financial calculator knowledge and stock trading.  

Along with the relationships Lizbeth made through the program, she felt the program changed her way of thinking. Lizbeth said, "If I had to choose between $100 today or $1,000 next week, I would choose the $100 because I can invest that money and make more than a thousand dollars the following week."  

Eli Palomares - Northside

Veterinary Medicine at Cornell 

Before the summer, Eli received an email about Cornell University’s High School Summer College Program. Their veterinarian medicine program had piqued her interest. The program is a three-week hands-on experience offered at one of the top schools for veterinary medicine. It is made up of lectures and labs for current high school sophomores and juniors to gain experience in a college classroom environment. Needing to travel out of state for the summer, she was hesitant to apply until the program went virtual due to COVID-19. 

Eli said, "I wanted to apply to the program to receive exposure to a veterinary course, which I felt would help me if this was really the career path I want to choose later in the future." In the program, she and the other students attended two to three lectures in the morning. They completed activities that entailed modules with her peers about radiology, diseases and public health. During the course, they completed quizzes and a research paper at the end, which gave Eli and their peers a sense of what a college student would experience in their classes.  

"The lectures were not oversimplified! They were what veterinarian med students and doctors would learn in their classes." Ultimately, Eli felt more confident in pursuing a career in veterinary medicine and plans to apply to colleges with strong biology/animal science programs. Eli stated, "Although I wasn't able to interact and learn through hands-on experience, I was still able to learn a lot. It encouraged me to continue studying to become a veterinarian." 

Although I wasn't able to interact and learn through hands-on experience, I was still able to learn a lot. It encouraged me to continue studying to become a veterinarian."  

Her favorite memory was graduation on the last day of the program. Everyone was congratulated and told how important it is for high school students to be proactive. During graduation, everyone who participated in the program was sent pictures of themselves and their pets with graduation caps. 

Investing your time 

Both Lizbeth and Eli, and their classmates, used their summer to explore careers they were interested in, and experience the rigors of a college classroom. Although the program went fully online and remote, the participants were still able to reap the benefits of learning more about the career path they are interested in. 

William Keaton, Student Opportunities Associate with the YES Prep College Initiatives team, shared: "Allowing students to explore potential majors before going to college is incredibly valuable, and one of the reasons we invest in Student Opportunities. I used to be a college professor and taught freshmen seminars for undeclared students. I have seen firsthand how going into your freshman year with a major in mind can benefit students. They are more likely to find the right college for them, not transfer schools and graduate in four years, lowering the cost of what they pay for college. Even if you don't have an exact major chosen, understanding a general field and having experience knowing you enjoy it can go a long way." 

Allowing students to explore potential majors before going to college is incredibly valuable, and one of the reasons we invest in Student Opportunities.

Eli and Lizbeth would undoubtedly agree. Both recommend high school students try to search and attend a program specific to a career they want or feel they might be interested in. It helped them consider which colleges they may apply to and understand potential majors and career paths.  

Students interested in participating in Student Opportunities throughout the year, and over the summer, should contact their campus College Counseling Team and look for announcements through their campus’ Microsoft Teams. Students who are concerned about financial barriers can ask to be nominated by a college counselor for the Brown Foundation Scholarship. For families interested in supporting their student, major opportunities applications are also promoted through Campus Family Notes. 


About the Author
Angela Molina - Gulfton

Angela Molina is a 2018 YES Prep East End graduate, currently attending Scripps College, an all women's college in Claremont, California. She studies psychology. Angela is participating in her own “Summer Opportunity" as a YES Prep College Summer Intern. She is an intern with the YES Prep College Initiative’s team, working with the Student Opportunities program.