HOUSTON — A college education has never been more expensive, which makes the road to higher education even tougher for high-achieving students from low-income families.
One Houston-area nonprofit is working to make sure that those students are not only able to attend college but thrive and graduate.
The school year just started at Klein Forest High School, but one group of seniors is already looking ahead. A year from now, they'll be scattered across the country at some of the top universities in the United States.
Emerge is a local program that was started in 2010 to help make sure students from traditionally underserved communities in the Houston area still get their shot.
"When I look at all the students who we work with, they're all full of potential. And the difference between the ones who are able to realize that potential versus not is just the support that they're able to get. And that's where Emerge comes in," Raul Channer, who works with the program, said.
Aspiring architecture major Miguel Moreno has been plugged into Emerge since his sophomore year.
"My parents, no matter how hard they work, the financial aspect is just not there. And we always talked about it-they always said to work hard and try to get to college for free because they just can't pay for it. It's just not realistically something where they can work more hours to get another job to pay for it," Moreno said.
The same is true for Martha Canas, who wants to go to Rice University and major in linguistics.
"None of my parents went to college. I'm the oldest in my family, so everything falls on me. Literally, everything falls on me. My parents don't know what they're doing in regards to that, because it's brand new territory for them just like it is for me," Canas said.
As their senior year begins, the focus on scholarship deadlines intensifies. Channer said Emerge also makes a commitment to help students navigate life in college -- in and out of the classroom. He said it's an investment that goes far beyond the high school meetings.
"What's the true benefit if they're never able to get to that finish line of actually graduating? Start to realize their dreams to be a doctor or nurse, or another productive member of society? I just feel like we have that responsibility to see them all the way through," Channer said.
Students who got help from Emerge said the program helped them realize how important it will be for them to help others in the future.
"It makes me not just want to repay my parents, but also help those I know who are also financially struggling because now that I have an insight into this process that it takes to get into college. I can give tidbits that I know to them. Hopefully, they can get in as well," Moreno said.