Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Former SA Lanier's comments about college should cause SAISD to review the way their teachers inspire their students about college

When Chris Duel, the afternoon host of the 1250 AM Sports show, interviewed Orlando Mendez-Valdez, the former San Antonio Lanier High School star, on his show, I was saddened by his response about college. In an interview with Duel, Mendez-Valdez, now a starting guard for Western Kentucky, said he didn't think he had a shot at college until he was a junior in high school.

The question arises: "What do educators in the San Antonio Independent School District tell their students about career aspirations?"

Having lived in San Antonio for nearly 15 years and having worked as a TABC trainer when I went back to college seven years ago, I met a lot of smart people like Mendez-Valdez who didn't think they were smart enough to go to college. Yet, they were intelligent enough to score a nearly perfect score on their certification exams.

When asked what kind of grade point they had in high school, they typically told me they had a high B or A average. Nobody in their family, their community or their school had told them they had the chops to go to college, nor did they understand how to apply for financial aid.

San Antonio has a well established reputation as a tourism destination. It admittedly needs good workers to work in the industry, but we also have a growing emerging medical technology industry as well. One of my clients, RizerTech is starting training for biomedical careers where the typical salary is about $80,000.

Many low-income students could qualify for financial aid with this program. Or, they could go to college and work at places like Southwest Research, pharmaceutical research or medical device manufacturing.

Yet, the biggest obstacle is converting the thought process of faculties like Lanier that their students can do more than work in tourism. Yes, this school is in what Mendez-Valdez terms the "hood," but the road out of it should not be a job at a hotel, a career in the military or time in prison.

Mendez-Valdez's graduation from Western Kentucky should serve as inspiration to other students at Lanier that they too can advance their lives if they complete the requirements for a college diploma.

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