South Side high school students lag behind

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By Alyssa De La O
Pulse staff reporter

Palo Alto College enrolls a lot of high school students who come from the South Side of San Antonio, and many struggle when transitioning to college.

The reasons why vary. Some were not given encouragement at home or in school. Some had weak teachers. Some had low expectations. Some spent too much time on the mandatory STAAR test.

Jazmine Ramos, a current senior at McCollum High School, said, “I didn’t even know about college until the end of my junior year.”

Ramos is planning to attend Texas State University, but she is unsure of the application process.

“I see teachers and counselors helping the AP and dual-credit students for college, so that leaves us regular students out.”

She said she would like for every student to receive the same amount of attention and care.

Kinesiology Freshman Esteban Espinoza, a graduate of Southwest High School, said he did not want to enroll in college right after high school because he felt he would not be able to handle the course work.

“When I enrolled in Fall 2012, I was not expecting the work that was required from me. I was like, ‘Whoa this stuff is hard,’” said Espinoza.

He wished he had more advice on enrolling in classes that benefited him for college, like workshops for test anxiety and time management.

“I think I learned more in a semester in Palo Alto College than I ever did in a year in high school,” said Mathematics Freshman Jose Bustillo, a recent graduate of South San Antonio High School.

Bustillo mentioned that the only thing he wished he received in high school was for the teachers to have better teaching methods.

“I would have liked it if they actually explained what they were teaching rather than just expecting us to know the material, you know?” he said.

Palo Alto Math Professor Alfred Alvarez, a graduate of Harlandale High School, said when he was getting ready for college, there was no serious enforcement on preparation for placement tests, like the SAT.

“They just said to us ‘Go and take the test,’” Alvarez said.

Alvarez said he taught himself the material that was included on the SAT and Accuplacer, and he clepped out of Math and Spanish. He said that South Side high schools should prepare students early on in their academic career.

For Texas students, it is required that they take the STAAR test in order to pass to the next grade level and to graduate. South Side high schools, such as South San, Somerset, Harlandale and Southwest, had the lowest passing rates citywide for the 2012 STAAR test.

English Education Junior Linda Vargas, who works as a substitute at Southwest District’s Medio Creek Elementary, said she even sees the young ones worried whether they’re going to fail.

“They should be worried about furthering their education, not this test that cuts their self-esteem and potential,” Vargas said.

Physics Sophomore Rachel Hernandez, a graduate from South San Antonio High School, said even as an AP student, she did not receive encouragement from her teachers.

“My teacher just said, ‘I know the majority of y’all won’t pass it, so it’s your decision if you want to take the AP exam,’” she said.

Hernandez said while she was not given support from the school, she also did not have her family’s support.

“I wish I could have supported myself better in high school. Students these days have to be their own support,” Hernandez said.

For Palo Alto students that need assistance in academics, free tutoring services are available for Math, Writing, Reading and Science. The Math and Writing Center are located in the Gutierrez Hall. The Reading Center is located in Nueces Hall, Room 114. The Science Center is in two locations: Frio Hall, Room 111, and Brazos Hall, Room 126.