By: Sarah Snyder
MIDLAND - Their numbers were the lowest in the state. Now they're breaking the record-books. Midland's two high schools were at the bottom of the barrel for sending kids to college, but now those numbers are turning around.
A few years ago, the Midland School District didn't even send 300 students off for higher education. Those low numbers prompted the Education Association to push school officials to change their programs. Within the last three years, those numbers jumped up 23-percent.
Luis Valles is a senior this year at Lee High school. In a few months he'll make family history by being the first one to go to College. It might not have been possible without help from a new program.
"My parents didn't go to College," Valles said. "They didn't know what to expect whenever this time came around or what I had to do, so this helped me out a lot. It feels good. My dad said, 'You'll be the first one.'"
Adding more advanced courses, implementing a College connection program, and partnering with Midland College, finally created a rise in MISD numbers.
"We had a student in here yesterday and after we finished applications, he said, 'you mean I'm going to college?' And we said, yes!" Rebecca Gonzalez with MISD College Connection, said. "So many of them don't even know where to begin. It's so overwhelming everything they have to do, so our program is designed to assist them and walk them through the process and get them enrolled into college."
The TEA ordered the district to come up with new ways to nudge students toward the College path, so now, Midland ISD starts at the elementary level and by the time students reach high school they're ready to tackle admissions and financial aid.
"What stands out is the excitement I see with the students when you talk to them about College and they realize, hey, maybe I can do this," Gonzalez said.
Luis says it's the counselors and focus on education that led him to send in an application.
"I wanted to do something with my life," Vallez said. "I just don't want to be sitting around working a dead end job. I want to do something cool."