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Texas Christian University Juniors Help High School Juniors Bridge the Gap to Higher Education

Texas Christian University Juniors Help High School Juniors Bridge the Gap to Higher Education

While many college juniors begin shifting their focus to career plans after graduation, Texas Christian University in Fort Worth encourages them to keep in mind that there is still time to make a difference as a student.

The “Project Junior Give Back” program invites TCU juniors to identify a need in the surrounding community and apply for a grant to start a project. It can continue year after year, even after the creators have graduated.

“The goal is for them to conceptualize a project that serves a community need but it is also put together in a way that is sustainable,” says Daniel Terry, director of Transitional Programs and Community Renewal in Student Development Services. “Hopefully others can come behind them and continue so it will become something that can live on after they are gone.”

Applicants hope to be accepted to the program, which ensures them $300 to fund their project. One of this year’s approved projects is “Funding Your Future, Junior to Junior,” which will be a day-long workshop to help high school juniors better prepare themselves for the challenge of paying for a college education.

Marisol Sigala, a junior in the Harris College of Nursing and Health Sciences at TCU and the founder of the Junior to Junior program, knows all too well the challenges that students face planning for college.

“When I was in high school, I struggled with the process of going to college because I am a first generation American and college student,” Sigala said. After she started at TCU, she quickly got involved in the Go Center, a program where college students serve as mentors on the college-going process and keep weekly hours at two underserved high schools in the area.

Hosting the “Funding Your Future, Junior to Junior” workshop on site at the university will not only give the 100 participants more exposure to TCU’s campus, but will also present current college students as a informational resource that often goes untapped.

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“We are still working on improving the work that we do at both high schools,” Sigala said. “We’re going to have mentors there to answer questions about scholarships or financial aid because so many high school students lack that financial literacy component. Our goal is to have juniors in college work with juniors in high school to begin the college process early.”

Sigala conducted a survey of more than 600 students to get current data to prove the workshop would be well received. Her results showed that 86 percent of students learned “a fair amount” or less regarding financial issues at school and 65 percent learned only “a fair amount” or less at home. 57 percent of students responded that they were not confident in their ability to pay for a college education and 92 percent expressed interest in attending the workshop to hear what the presenters had to say.

Because selecting a college to attend is one of the most important decisions high school students must face, Sigala decided students shouldn’t have to do it alone. Students who are attending can bring a guest with them to share in the learning process.

“Since the workshop includes a lunch and a campus tour for students to get a quick taste of what college is like, I think having a guest along with them will help them feel more comfortable in the unfamiliar atmosphere of a college campus,” Sigala said.

At the completion of the workshop, high school students will continue to have access to college planning resources. Mentors with the Go Center will go back to the high schools and will continue working with students through their senior year. Providing this information to others potentially could have a significant impact on the youth of the surrounding area.

“Although I did not know all of the specific programs that I could work with at TCU, I knew that I wanted to make an impact in my community,” Sigala said. “TCU is in the middle of a great community that can be enriched through service and partnerships with organizations that benefit all members of our society.”

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