When Sam Houston High senior Farath Gonzalez saw the purple and white balloons being carried into her classroom by TCU representatives and school officials Wednesday, she was overcome with emotion.
She knew that it meant she had been accepted into TCU’s Community Scholars program and would be getting a $250,000 scholarship for four years of undergraduate studies at the Fort Worth university.
TCU’s Community Scholars program recruits candidates from urban high-minority public high schools who must not only go through the normal application process for admission to TCU but also complete an essay and be interviewed.
“I’m still shocked,” Gonzalez said outside her classroom after the announcement. “I’m so glad because now I know where I will be going to school — I know it’ll be TCU.”
A sixth Sam Houston student — the most ever for the school — will also receive a scholarship, but she was absent Wednesday.
The program consists of students who have demonstrated a skill and love for community service, leadership and academics, program director Timeka Gordon said.
Typically, 30 students a year are added to the program, but this year it will be 40, Gordon said. They will come from 10 schools including Dunbar and South Hills in Fort Worth, Lincoln High in Dallas and DeSoto High.
The winners were chosen from 67 semifinalists who visited the university for an interview after applying for the program and submitting an essay, Gordon said.
“In selecting our scholars we look for many things, but especially evidence of leadership and a heart to serve,” she said. “We see what leadership positions they have held, what activities they were involved in and overall to see that they are positive role models.”
The program is “unique, life changing and has transformed the nature of TCU,” according to its website.
Sam Houston senior Elomese Akhimien, another winner, said she is excited to start her path toward majoring in biochemistry. Akhimien said she chose TCU for its small, intimate environment, where she felt like “more than just a number.”
“This is all really amazing,” she said. “It’s great to know I’m set and don’t have to worry about paying for college.”
Students in the program must maintain a grade-point average of at least 2.75 through graduation, participate in service activities every semester, and attend cultural events and academic workshops. The program has a graduation rate of over 90 percent, according to its website.
“This is a program that is in place to hold those students to the scholarship terms,” Gordon said. “When they get to their senior year and cross that stage, they understand why those rules are in place and become more well-rounded graduates and examples to younger generations that you too can go to college and excel.”
Arlington school district Superintendent Marcelo Cavazos said the program will be a profound difference-maker for the students.
“This opportunity will change their lives and the lives of generations to come in their own families,” he said. “I’m proud for these students and for AISD.”