Project HIGHER, a support service for the Center for Students with Disabilities (CSD), received the Business Partner of the Year Award from the Texas Workforce Commission Vocational Rehabilitation Services (TWC-VR) on Oct. 3, during the Ability Awareness Week at UTEP.
(L-R) Stephany Martinez, George Barrera, Project Higher Manager Rick Razo, Alberto Delgado, Barbara Schoen, Allan Acuna, Deborah Peterson and Bobby Alcala.
The TWC-VR, an agency that helps people with disabilities to find jobs, recognized Project HIGHER for the assistance they provide students in earning a degree and eventually finding a job.
Vice President of Student Services, Linda Gonzalez-Hensgen, was in charge of receiving the award.
In addition, on Oct. 7, Project HIGHER received an additional award—the Community Program Award during the Fourth Annual Student Research Symposium.
“The TWC-VR supports us by providing educational coaches. The students are paired with educational coaches, who teach the students the skills they need to be successful in class," said Project Manager Rick Razo.
"They meet with students before and after class and work with them outside of class. They help them with the necessary organization, planning, time management and study skills to succeed in college."
Razo continued to say that their ultimate goal is for students not only to be able to succeed in college, but also to get a job.
The project is in its second year, now counting with seven new students on top of the previous six students that started in the first year.
“It [the project] gave them a lot of new skills, it taught them how to be independent and it gave them a lot of self-confidence,” said Razo about the improvements the first six students had.
When the project began last fall, students excelled in their classes, managing to obtain an average GPA of 3.5.
This spring semester the students achieved and average GPA of 3.775.
This fall semester, a total of 13 students are enrolled in Project HIGHER, 6 from the previous 2 terms and 7 new students.
“It’s just not about their classes and their grades; it is about their independence, their self-confidence and participation in all activities—which grew and continues to improve,” said Razo.
He continued to say that the process to enroll new students is very selective; “we want the right students,” he said. Interested students should apply for the project, get interviewed and be accepted.
“The students that we work with are students that, in the past, have never come to college before because they didn’t believe they could go to college, their parents didn’t believe they could go to college, people told them you can’t go to college,” he said.
The students are paired with educational coaches, who make sure that they learn what they are supposed to learn, meet with them before and after class and work with them outside of class.
They help them with the necessary skills to succeed in college and beyond.
“We teach the student how to do it, so they can do it on their own,” Razo concluded.