MasterMinds 2016 One Year Later: HISD's EMERGE Program

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The first participants of the Houston Independent School District’s EMERGE program, a winner of a 2016 MasterMinds Award from Houston Press, recently graduated college and are settling into their first post-college jobs.

There are four of them.

Today there are more than 300 Houston-area high-school students who are about to go to prestigious universities all over the country, thanks to the rapidly growing fellowship program that recently expanded into Spring Branch ISD.

“I told [the original four], ‘You all were the trailblazers,’” says Rick Cruz, who founded EMERGE, which helps resource-deprived students learn about and apply to elite colleges and Tier One universities. The first four participants recently graduated from Smith College, Georgetown, Tufts and Rice. “They’re even in disbelief.”

Through EMERGE, students procure top-notch counseling, summer college tours, scholarships and financial aid packages. EMERGE program participants have been accepted into top universities such as Oberlin, MIT, the University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M.

This is the time of the year when college applicants start to hear back from schools. According to Cruz, Cornell University recently accepted an Austin High School senior. “It’s the first student in over 30 years to get into an Ivy League school,” says Cruz, a graduate of Yale who recently started the equally imaginative HISD College Success program.

Even with the program performing better than ever – 98 percent of the EMERGE kids who are currently in college are on track to graduate in four years – Cruz remains dogged in his pursuit to help kids from underserved communities.

“We’re looking at how we can expand because it can be disheartening to not be able to work with kids,” says Cruz. “There are many more kids that would benefit from EMERGE.”

See who wins the 2017 MasterMind Awards at the Houston Press Artopia party starting at 8 p.m. Saturday, January 28, 2017. Winter Street Studios, 2101 Winter Street. For more information, visit houstonpressartopia.com. General admission tickets range from $45 to $60. VIP admission tickets range from $75 to $100.

MasterMind Award winners 2009 Patrick Medrano and Katy Anderson, Hightower High School's Broadcast Academy, Nova Arts Project

MasterMind Award winners 2010 Reginald Adams and the Museum of Cultural Arts, Houston, Opera Vista, SoReal Cru

MasterMind Award winners 2011 Foodways Texas, Catastrophic Theatre, Nameless Sound

MasterMind Award winners 2012 The Buffalo Soldiers National Museum, Alex "Pr!mo" Luster, The Pilot Light Restaurant Group

MasterMind Award winners 2013 Opera in the Heights, Karen Stokes Dance, Stark Naked Theatre

MasterMind Award winners 2014 Chuy Benitez, jhon r. stronks, Apollo Chamber Players

MasterMind Award winners 2015 Patrick Renner, Jefferson Davis High School Mariachi Pantera, Houston Arts and Media founder Mike Vance

MasterMind Award winners 2016 University of Houston's Moores Opera Center, Horse Head Theatre Co., Houston Independent School District’s EMERGE program

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