With the help of AT&T, however, Cervantes, Chihuahua and 18 other students will be provided with grants to help them pay for college.
"I really want to go to college, but it just seemed like paying for it would be impossible," Cervantes said.
The University of Nevada, Reno is expanding a program to help students from low-income families look into higher education as an option after high school thanks to a $200,000 grant from the AT&T Aspire initiative. The Sparks High students are now a part of the Dean's Future Scholars Program, which is offered through the university's College of Education. The program gives the students the motivation to complete high school and go on to college.
"If you stay with the program until you're a senior and you get a 3.8 GPA, you get a $10,000 scholarship," Sparks High student Brandon Harris said. The students are also given a mentor who motivates them to complete their work and stay in school.
The 20 students were honored at the William Raggio building on the UNR campus Thursday. State Senator Bill Raggio, after whom the building is named, was among the many public officials who attended the event. Raggio explained that "we are in tough times," and consequently "it is more important than ever to stay committed to the success of our young people."
Raggio went on to say, "We need to find innovative ways to solve the problems associated with our education system. Washoe County is doing better than some other areas of Nevada, but we could still improve."
David Condit, president of state legislative and regulatory affairs for AT&T, said there are four different goals of the AT&T Aspire program. According to Condit, the program provides grants to school districts and nonprofit organizations focused on high school retention and preparing students for college. It also affords 100,000 students the opportunity to see firsthand the job skills they will need to be successful in the future. Condit said that AT&T is also commissioning the next chapter of major research on the high school dropout issue and solutions, as well as underwriting 100 community dropout-prevention summits.
When asked why AT&T was taking part in this project, AT&T Nevada president Hal Lenox said that something had to be done to curb the rate of high school dropouts. "More than 1 million students drop out each year,” Lenox said, “which comes out to about one student every 26 seconds. Nearly one-third of all public high school students fail to graduate."
Aware of these statistics, assemblywoman Debbie Smith said, "The rate of high school dropouts is alarming, but I do think that we can change those statistics one student at a time."
UNR student Manuel Ortiz is one of the students who did not become a part of the dropout statistic. Ortiz went through the Dean's Future Scholars program, and soon after becoming a student at UNR he became a mentor for the program that had helped him get there. He said that the Dean's Future Scholars Program gave him the opportunity to go to college, which changed his life.
"I remember when I first started the program in middle school and my mentor would come to visit me every week, making sure that I was staying on track, and it was because of them that I'm here now."
The program impacted not only Ortiz, but also his family. His sister was a Dean's Future Scholar and went on to attend college, and his two brothers at Hug High School are also in the program.
Similar to Ortiz, fellow Dean's Future Scholar Joe Montelongo is appreciative of the opportunities provided by the program.
"This program will help me with my future,” he said. “I want to be an author and a journalist, and I know going to college will help me do that."
Montelongo has been dedicated to doing well in school, and hopes that he can attend college at either Princeton University or UCLA.
No matter which university the students choose, Condit said he is glad AT&T is able to provide students who otherwise may not have been able to graduate from high school with the opportunity to not only finish high school, but to also pursue a higher education.