Neighborhood Longhorn Program and Beta Upsilon Chi give 53 Title I middle school students a tour of UT

Miles Hutson

Fifty-three students of Webb Middle School, a local Austin school with a high proportion of students from low-income families, toured UT and learned about its application process and monetary requirements in a session held Friday.

The Neighborhood Longhorns Program, an extension of the UT Outreach program, hosted the session in partnership with volunteers from Beta Upsilon Chi, a Christian fraternity. Students from the middle school first listened to speakers about what is required to attend UT and to fund their education, as well as the value of a UT degree. After taking a tour of campus with fraternity volunteers, they asked questions of fraternity members about campus life. 

Samuel Rhea, a member of Beta Upsilon Chi and board member for the Neighborhood Longhorns Program, said he volunteered his fraternity’s support and was excited his fraternity could be a part of the program’s first session of this kind.

Jeff Jones, Outreach Center Counselor for Neighborhood Longhorns Program, agreed. He said his program aims to work with both elementary schoolers and middle schoolers, but middle schools are underrepresented in their programs.

“We have a lot of stuff for elementary schools, but we wanted more stuff for middle schools,” Jones said. “We want to get them thinking about colleges.”

Anastasia Eckhart, an AISD teacher who accompanied students, said they were excited about the idea of attending college after the trip.

“They were never [before] given that opportunity to go through all of the buildings and the dorms and go through Gregory Gymnasium and sit in a small group,” Eckhart said. “I don’t think any of them [have] a parent who has a college degree.”

Eckhart said Patrick Patterson, executive director of UT Outreach Austin, particularly inspired her students.

“The way that he opened up he was like, ‘What if I told you there was [about a million] dollars sitting around the corner?’” she said. “He explained that his parents didn’t have more than a sixth grade education … and that for the first eight years out of high school, he went to college and it wasn’t a party. He studied.”

Eckhart said he told her students that his college education helped him toward a better life.

“The kids really related to him,” she said. “[They] really loved what he had to say.”

Webb Middle school was originally going to attend the session with other Title I middle schools in the Austin area, but those middle schools were forced to back out because of standardized testing on Friday.

Eckhart said she would like to see a similar program visit middle schools in the Austin community.

“Not every school has the capability [to come out],” she said.

Still, Eckhart said she was glad Webb students could attend the program.

“The thing that really stuck is that now, they’re so excited about going to college, they’re sad that they’re only in middle school,” Eckhart said. “That it sucks they have to wait to get there, because they’re so excited to be there.”

Published on March 4, 2013 as "'Neighborhood' program inspires young students".