Many of us remember that wide-eyed, nervous feeling in our guts when we first stepped on the college campus we would soon call home for the next four or so years. For our KIPPsters who are first-generation students, those butterflies multiply in their stomachs. The Mata family shows how supporting each other can calm fears and accomplish great things together.
In the last year, you have heard from Hortencia, Andrea, and Omar, a family passionate about KIPP. Andrea and Omar are examples of KIPP’s committing to getting students to and through college. Both graduated as valedictorians of their class, and both are attending The University of Texas at Austin. Over Labor Day weekend, Hortencia, her husband, and their youngest daughter, Isabel, visited Andrea and Omar in Austin.
Andrea is a first-generation college student, attending the University of Texas with endless opportunities before her. When she left for college, Hortencia was proud yet hesitant, holding the fear back in her eyes, to let her oldest daughter start this next adventure in life. Hortencia knew UT’s campus is big and feared Andrea would be lost or lonely. During her first year, Andrea utilized the campus resources to conquer those fears. She began her second year more mature and relaxed, allowing Hortencia to also relax and enjoy this phase of life. Hortencia is incredibly proud of the way Andrea transitioned to college, the way she is growing up.
Then this past summer, her middle son, Omar joined Andrea at UT on full scholarship, and this time Mom felt more comfortable about what lies ahead. Omar was in the Houston Scholars Program, which focused on life preparation. Over the weekend, Hortencia noticed Omar is already exploring and learning everything the university has to offer.
“Omar is so different from Andrea,” Hortencia said. “He likes to do everything himself. He is very independent.”
Hortencia described her visit with Omar, laughing at how she already felt Omar didn’t need his parents’ help anymore but proud to know he is just figuring things out for himself. Omar was never a big hugger but during this past visit, he gave his mother a huge hug, reassuring her that her help is what got him to this place, living out his dreams.
Seeing Andrea and Omar at the same university makes Hortencia more proud than she has ever been. The two siblings go grocery shopping together and do other activities together to help each other.
“I love seeing them achieve their dreams,” Hortencia said. “My husband and I are very grateful for the guidance KIPP provided. My children feel completely supported at school.”
Paving the Way
Visiting the school’s campus was a big moment for Hortencia, filled with pride and relief. However, the day might have been most important to Hortencia’s youngest child, Isabel, a fourth-grade student at KIPP SHINE Prep.
“Seeing my siblings was the happiest day of my life,” Isabel said. “It was so cool seeing where my sister and brother live. I want to be a Longhorn one day.”
Isabel explains that she was happy to see her siblings because she had missed them a lot. She missed her sister’s smile and her brother’s jokes.
Recording the Tower Bells on her phone, walking around UT was an experience Isabel will never forget. Not only did she get to visit her siblings, she was able to understand where her role models were spending their every day and where she might one day go.
“I learned that my siblings’ college, the Cockrell School of Engineering, is one of the best in the world,” Isabel said. “I am so proud of my brother and sister, and I want to follow in their path.”