UHD Houston’s PREP Summer Program Is Back

After a two-year hiatus, the Houston Pre-Premiere Enrichment Program (PREP) is back for its in-person summer lineup – now in its 33rd year.

Hosted by the College of Science & Technology, the program invites middle and high school students from Houston-area school districts, including Aldine ISD, Alief ISD, Galena Park ISD, Houston ISD, Harmony Public Schools, and Spring Branch ISD.

The free four-year program continues until July 22. Teachers from some of the participating districts serve as instructors for Houston PREP classes, as well as recent UHD graduates.

Denice Cronin, a career technical education (CTE) teacher at Killough Middle School’s STEM Academy (Alief ISD), teaches first- and second-year engineering for Houston PREP, offers her perspective on the benefits of the program. Cronin heard about Houston PREP through an Alief ISD colleague.

“The biggest benefit is the enthusiasm of the students and staff. Students are exposed to a college setting, hands-on STEM curriculum, and willingly prepare for college,” said the 14-year teaching veteran. “They make friends with students from all over the city, learn firsthand how their similarities and differences create a better learning and working environment as they navigate the halls of college and say, ‘J followed this program! It was awesome!

“Exposing students to college at this age shows them that there are options. Payment options for college and jobs they may not have known about,” Cronin said. “It shows them that there are people who are interested in what they have to offer for the future. It broadens their horizons and often sparks a spark. I have students asking when do we re-enroll? It’s SAT prep, college writing, physics, computer science, logic, and intro to engineering, and they look forward to coming back every year.

For Houston PREP Director Sangeeta Gad, she realized early in her teaching career that students lacked motivation to learn math and other STEM subjects. She has therefore dedicated herself to making these topics more interesting, relevant and engaging. Gad joined UHD in the early 80’s and began his quest to breathe new life into STEM topics.

“Houston PREP provides learning experiences that go beyond the normal classroom setting,” said the math teacher. “Our hope is that students who complete the four years of the program will not only embrace possible careers, but become lifelong learners, problem solvers and decision makers.”

Gad also noted that corporate and community partnerships have influenced the continued growth of Houston PREP, which includes CenterPoint Energy, CITGO, The Powell Foundation, Schlumberger, Whelan and Cullen families. Public sector partners are the City of Houston’s Summer Food Program, the National Center for Women and Information Technology, and the Texas Department of Transportation.

“Our program provides an interactive and exciting environment, with teachers who innovate in the classroom and care about each student’s success,” Gad said. “When these students leave Houston PREP, they will have the skills and knowledge to take on the world.”

UHD Senior Riley Hardwick is a major in Safety Management with a minor in Sustainability. After graduation, she wants to work in her field of study before pursuing a graduate degree in business or law.

“Once I entered the PREP program, I enjoyed the diversity, rigor and fun that came with the PREP courses. I discovered the value of hard work, curiosity and community,” Hardwick said. “I learned to look for opportunities, to be tenacious and creative in my endeavors, and to take advantage of the opportunities that come my way.”

Since becoming a UHD Gator, Hardwick has become a member of the UHD Scholars Academy which, in turn, linked it to the Mallet familywhich awarded him one of the first Mallett Scholarships for CST/Houston Prep Alumni students which provides $2,500 per semester for five undergraduate years towards tuition.

“Without my connection to Houston PREP, I may never have come to UHD, never heard of Scholars Academy where I received the Mallett Scholarship. Today, I am a proud Gator who is grateful for all the experiences and lessons I learned…all thanks to Houston PREP.

Cronin might agree more.

“Houston PREP creates opportunities and memories that last a lifetime every summer,” Cronin said. “This program touches the lives of so many children. In a word… phenomenal.

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