Alumni Spotlight: “You will fall in college. Use any and all resources to get back up.”

José Abraham Garcia graduated from YES Prep Southwest in 2015 and is now a junior at the University of Houston majoring in Mathematical Finance. Abraham is a student leader in the Urban Experience Program, a program that provides opportunities and support for UH’s diverse student body. Below, Abraham discusses his role as a student leader and shares advice for incoming college freshman.

What do you do as a student leader for the Urban Experience Program?

We’re really there for any student who needs extra guidance or is facing an obstacle that is preventing him/her from doing well in school. Perhaps that’s low-income students, students who were in the foster system, undocumented students, etc. We’re there to be a haven for them and connect them with the resources or professional help they might need. The priority is mental and physical health. I was part of the first class to receive the Dream.US scholarship, and I work especially with students who are undocumented. A lot of DACA students don’t get introduced to others who have faced similar struggles, so they don’t have anyone they can learn from.

What was your transition to college like? What challenges did you face?

I got my first D in my whole entire life on a test. The lowest grade I’d had before that was a B-. But the thing I didn’t realize, and the thing that a lot of new freshmen don’t realize, is that all the dedication and hard work that you had in high school needs to be bumped up a notch. I thought that since I’d survived a college-preparatory school like YES Prep, I was set for life, but college is a different game. I had to fall once on that test to realize what it was going to take for me to succeed in college.

So what advice would you give to students who have “fallen” in collegeJose Abraham Garcia?

Use all and any resources. Pay attention at orientation because you’ll learn about all the resources your school offers like a student health center, a writing lab, free counselors, tutoring, programs, clubs, and more. It’s up to you to reach out for it and to accept that help and aid when you need it.

What is something you still carry with you from YES Prep?

The teachers I’ve had. Mr. Desrosiers had a huge impact on me. He got me thinking about college and studying math. I still take notes and make outlines the way he taught me. Mr. Salhotra got me interested in math in the business world. Mr. Castillo taught me to think of life as a whole and how every decision you make impacts someone else.

All my teachers got me thinking about college and who I’d be when I got there. It wasn’t just about going to college to make more money later. It was, “How are you helping our your community and giving back?” That’s the main goal of college for me and that idea came from YES Prep. I ask myself, “Am I giving back? Can I make sure other kids aren’t facing the same issues I faced?”

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