UEP Student Leaders here to help struggling students
Whether they’re a first generation student or everyone they know has gone to college, students can have a difficult time transitioning to UH. The Urban Experience Program assists students through class tutoring, provides personal counseling, and shows them resources that can make college easier.
The program has grown from helping about 50 students per semester to more than 300 per semester over the last three years, 46.7 percent of whom are first-gen, said Raven Jones, director of the UEP since August 2014.
“Students here can meet other students and staff that have been through what they’re going through and guide them through the process,” Jones said.
The program also allows Student Leaders, who each tutor and assist up to 40 students, to mentor others.
“A lot of the activities in the program are student led,” said mathematics finance junior Jose Garcia, a UEP student leader. “Students put their effort into organizing their own events and learning skills.”
Garcia earned TheDream.US scholarship as a first-gen DACA student his freshman year. Through the scholarship he met Jones, his scholarship counselor.
“I like to say I started here since day negative 14, because I came into the office two weeks before school started and fell in love with the program, especially the people here,” Garcia said.
Below Student Leaders are Student Ambassadors, who mainly try to bring awareness to the program and recruit new students.
Mathematical biology sophomore Katherina Najera started as an ambassador last spring and became a student leader in the fall. She joined the UEP after meeting their staff while volunteering at the Houston Hispanic Forum, an organization that helps Hispanics find career and college options.
Najera said she struggled to make friends and wasn’t very involved outside of class during her first semester at UH. The program helped her become more social on campus, and she now enjoys giving back.
“I like to help (the students) emotionally because a lot of students get overwhelmed by school,” Najera said. “I tell them, ‘let’s make a list and take it one step at a time.'”
Both Najera and Garcia also stressed that the UEP is not a total replacement for other campus programs. If students need help with writing, they’ll help, but also point the student toward the Writing Center or an existing program, Garcia said.
When there is an unfulfilled need on campus, Najera said they will adapt and help however they can.
UEP also helps members financially by guiding them toward financial aid options and loaning books and lab codes from their library.
“Don’t feel afraid to ask for help,” Garcia said. “Students have already paid for the program so it’s up to them to decide whether they need it and to use it.”
One student who has used the program to much success is sociology freshman Alana Mitchell, a Coca Cola First Generation Scholarship recipient.
“One thing that I would definitely say to first-gen students is speak up! The only stupid questions are the ones that you don’t ask,” said Mitchell. “I wish I would’ve walked into my freshman year with this attitude, because I would’ve started off a lot stronger than I did. It’s okay to ask for help or to ask somebody to slow down. Confidence is key, and a direct route to confidence is knowledge on the subject.”
There is a UEP open house at their offices in the Student Service Center 1 Room 302 at noon on Jan. 18, and all students are welcome to attend. Students can apply in person or online by filling out the application on UEP’s website.