A University of Houston Cullen College of Engineering student group shared its passion for engineering with students at Jeff Davis High School in Houston and saw it take root and grow. The UH chapter of the Mexican American Engineers and Scientists (MAES) adopted the school with the intentions of helping them build a working robot for a competition. What they built was pathway to higher education dreams.
“Most of us are Hispanic and we went through those same steps, going to high school not having high expectations beyond that,” said UH student Fernando Alquicira, who has been a student mentor for three years. “We wanted to show them that it is possible.”
Alquicira and his colleagues chose Davis High School because of the challenges the students face—high drop out rate and low college entrance levels. They hoped to share their interest in engineering and their experiences in pursuit of a college education.
“The way they were thinking was that ‘I don’t have enough money, I can’t go to college,'” he said. “My friends and I we were just talking about the scholarships that we got and the scholarships that we could tell the other kids about. We told them, ‘We’re coming from the same place as you did and we did it, so you can do it as well.'”
The relationship produced more than a working robot for a competition. It produced big dreams, real goals and tangible steps to get to there. It produced accomplishment and the excitement of possibilities. It also produced a new Cougar for the fall. And for their efforts the Cullen College of Engineering Alumni Association recognized MAES with a monetary award—one that the group gave back to the high school.
“Having the ability to show them how it can be done is definitely a plus,” Alquicira said. “Seeing the students excited about what they were doing is very, very rewarding.”
The Mexican American Engineers and Scientists is part of what’s happening at the University of Houston. I’m Marisa Ramirez.
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