HOUSTON – Students are doing big things at a small private boarding school located outside the city.
Chinquapin Preparatory is a private boarding school located 30 miles east of Houston. It looks like a small college campus with dorms and a dining hall among the classrooms.
But unlike other private schools, 80 percent of the students come from limited financial backgrounds.
Incoming director Laura Henry said it costs about $14,000 a year to educate each student, but some pay as little as $10 a month for tuition.
“It’s an absolutely amazing magical place,” Henry said.
Rahsaan King, a senior who is going to Harvard University, knew at a very young age that this was the school for him.
“It has given me education, solid foundation, it taught me character, but most importantly, Chin gave me a second chance,” he said.
Rahsaan came to Chinquapin Preparatory in 7th grade, but didn’t last long. He was kicked out midway through the school year.
“I wasn’t prepared for the academic rigor, I wasn’t prepared for the environment,” he said.
But he also wasn’t prepared to return to his old public school in Northeast Houston.
“All of the friends I grew up with they are in gangs, they fought a lot, they smoke a lot, and I really didn’t like being in that environment,” he said.
So he reapplied to Chinquapin twice before he was finally re-admitted for high school.
And this time, he thrived.
“Maybe I don’t come from as high a platform as some of my classmates, I’m very confident I will be at Harvard and I will do well,” he said.
Students enrolled at Chinquapin are also assigned chores.
“I have learned how to ride the tractor and cut grass,” said Jessica Bernal, a senior.
Many are like Jessica, who is a straight-A student. After spending 12 hours a day at school she comes home to help her family.
“I have to look over my brothers, I have to check their homework,” she said. “I work with my mom when she needs it on weekends. I have to help her cleaning houses.”
“For most of them, this is the chance to break the cycle of poverty for their family, and it’s important to remember that they’re not just pulling themselves up, they pull mom and dad, and brothers and sisters as well,” Henry said.
Jessica is a Posse Scholar and is heading to Bryn Mawr College. They are opportunities that would have been impossible without Chinquapin, she said.
“I wanted to be challenged, I wanted to do things differently,” she said. “Being first generation puts a lot of pressure on you, and that being said, I wanted to make my mom proud.”
But as much as he loves Chinquapin, Rahsaan said he hopes his two younger brothers won’t have to attend the school.
“My prayer is that my little brother, who is 7, and my younger brother, who is 2, that when they are old enough to come to Chinquapin, that we won’t be low income anymore. I want my mother to do better, my father to do better, for their financial statement to not read ‘low income,’” he said.