YES Prep Alumni meet fellow Out-Of-State, College-Bound Graduates at SQUADS Event

On June 15, 2019, EMERGE Fellowship, KIPP Texas – Houston, and YES Prep Public Schools launched a new college matriculation and persistence program called SQUADS. Over 120 recent graduates from YES Prep Public Schools, KIPP Texas – Houston, and the 52 high schools in Houston ISD, Spring Branch ISD and Spring ISD that partner with EMERGE Fellowship came together at Rice University for a SQUAD Building event. At the event, the recent graduates had the opportunity to meet fellow students who will be enrolling with them at the same university in the fall.

Luke pictured with his mother

YES Alumnus Heading off to Yale

One of the YES Prep attendees was Luke Elizondo, 2019 graduate from YES Prep East End, who will be attending Yale University this Fall in New Haven, Connecticut. He was accompanied by his mother Ruthie Elizondo who attended the SQUADS parents program. When asked about his experience at the program, Luke stated,

This has been a great event. It can be a little scary going away, and it’s great to get to know people who have had the same experience, before we start.”

Luke had the opportunity to be in a SQUAD with three Houston ISD students who will also be attending Yale, along with students who will be attending other nearby colleges in Connecticut and Rhode Island including Wesleyan University, Brown University, and Trinity College at Connecticut. These students also had the opportunity to interact with other students who will be going off to the same school, including the students attending Yale agreeing to host the Harvard University SQUAD for the Harvard vs. Yale football game this November.

Alumni panel

Building a Houston Community Away from Home

The event was more than just about connecting socially. The students went through workshops about how they can support each other in different environments, and learn from previous YES Prep, KIPP, and EMERGE graduates about their experiences going away to college. Nazario Moreno, ’18 YES Prep West, was one of the alumni who served on a panel sharing about their experiences. The panel shared both stories from their own personal experiences, as well as useful advice like how much you can reasonably move with you on a plane or driving a car to Georgia, versus what you can just buy when you get to college.

Ruthie, Luke’s mother, commented,

This has been very informative as a parent. There were things brought up that I had not even thought about. I’m glad to have been able to connect to other parents, and I’d encourage other parents to attend.”

YES Preps Zuniga and Rodriguez pictured with students from KIPP and EMERGE

YES Prep Representing

Aside from Luke, other YES Prep students who graduated from YES Prep this year and were in attendance at the SQUAD event: YES Prep West’s Cindy Kuang is off to UT Austin; Northbrook’s Jessica Zuniga will be attending Iowa State University; North Central’s Pablo Rodriguez is enrolling at Northwestern in Chicago; and Fifth Ward’s Jesus Vazquez, Northbrook’s Shale Lau, Northside’s Georgina Medina and Southwest’s Gricelda Arredondo are headed off together in August to Lycoming College, one of YES Prep’s IMPACT Partners.

To learn more about YES Prep’s College Initiatives efforts, visit our website at

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Will KeatonWilliam Keaton has worked at YES Prep since 2018.  He currently serves as the Student Opportunities and Special Events Associate on the Home Office’s College Initiatives Team. William graduated from Schreiner University with a BA in Political Science and Mathematics and earned his Master’s in Higher Education Administration in 2013 from Ball State University. Prior to coming to YES, William worked for various colleges and universities, including spending four years as the Assistant Director of Student Life and First Year Experience at Eastern Kentucky University. A career educator focused on College Access, William Keaton volunteers with the College and University Food Bank Alliance and with Toastmasters International where he helps facilitate their education programs. In his free time, he can often be found at Sugar Land Skeeter’s games or the movies.

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