Abraham Vicuña, YES Prep East End class of 2015, is in his first semester at University of Houston. He is majoring in nutrition and hopes to become a registered dietician. At U of H, Vicuña participates in the Urban Experience Program, the Academic Achievers Program, and the Student Nutrition Association. He also blogs for I’m First! and works as a lifeguard. I interviewed Vicuña about his support system at University of Houston, scholarships available for first generation students, and what his YES Prep connection means to him.
Why did you decide to major in nutrition?
During my junior year at YES Prep, I did a summer opportunity in environmental science because of the class I’d taken at East End. I was also involved with sports and wanted to do something related to health. Nutrition seemed to be a mixture of the environmental science and sports health fields.
Why did you attend the University of Houston?
I applied for a lot of schools in Texas. U of H was the one I felt the most comfortable with. It was a large public university, but I don’t feel like I was just a number. I feel very connected to the campus around me. Another reason I came was because I received a THEDREAM.US scholarship, which could only be applied to some schools in Texas. The support system my senior year at East End helped me apply to that scholarship, opened my eyes to different universities, and prepared me for the transition to college.
Do you feel supported at University of Houston? Who supports you?
The Urban Experience Program supports me. It’s this place on campus open to every student. You can just go and do homework. There’s a lounge for you to use with computers. You can also reach out for tutoring and they’ll partner you with students who’ve taken that class. It creates a connection among students.
Mr. Carrillo (YES Prep’s Director of Alumni Transitions) comes to campus and hosts social events with the UEP since U of H is a Alumni Success Program school. Once, we played Lotería where alumni from the different YES campuses came to play. I got to see what they were doing at U of H and find out what routes they were taking. Now, when I see them on campus, I’m more familiar with them and can say hello.
Why is it important to stay connected with YES Prep students at U of H?
Making a transition from high school is hard for some students. These events keep you feeling connected through your YES Prep family. Everyone is doing different things and pursuing different degrees, but you get to share something. It’s a community of support.
Tell us about the Academic Achievers Program.
The Academic Achievers Program provides me with a scholarship. I had a mentor for the first semester who helped me with time management. She reminds me to take ownership of when is the best time to start studying or start a paper. You get support from other students as well. They may not be pursuing the same careers, but they give you advice on what classes to take and what professors to sign up for; they help you plan.
And you also have a scholarship from I’m First!?
Yes, you had to be a first generation student for that as well. They taught us how to create blog posts, and I write one every month. It revolves around giving advice to students who are also first generation. I want to share my experiences, help them, and give advice.
How did YES prepare you to succeed in college?
One of the key things I learned was to be involved in the things that might interest you like with the Student Nutrition Organization. Without that organization, I wouldn’t know the path I needed to take to become a registered dietician. YES taught me that if I was interested in something, I had to reach out and involve myself to see if it was for me. It’s important to gain experiences because it broadens your perspective.
For more, read Vicuña’s blog on I’m First!