Students Graduate With High School Diploma And $4,000 College Scholarship

This weekend thousands of seniors are graduating from high schools in the Greater Houston area. Some students say extra support helped them reach that milestone.

Like most high school seniors Jeffery Jones, Jr., is very excited to graduate.

“I just, I don’t know, I feel like, I feel like a millionaire.”

Jeffery Jones
Jeffery Jones, Jr., from Sam Houston Math, Science, & Technology Center

He’s not quite a millionaire. But he is receiving a $4,000 dollar scholarship from Project GRAD.

He credits the program — and football — with keeping him on track. He’s played linebacker at Sam Houston in North Houston.

“Football is really my life. And ever since football and Project GRAD, I just attended school, made sure I’m doing everything right, try to keep my academics up.”

Back in ninth grade, though, he didn’t always want to go to school.

“If I was in the ninth grade, still in the ninth grade, I don’t know, I don’t think if I would have made it this far, cuz I was ... I don’t know … Getting a little teary.”

Jeffery had no tears — only smiles — this week at a scholarship ceremony.

He and more than 500 other students received medals from Project GRAD.

The nonprofit tries to introduce students to college and gives scholarships to those who make good grades and finish school.

Ann Stiles is the executive director. She says students and their families share a common belief that education matters.

“What we also share is probably a common experience that somewhere along our history someone achieved an education beyond what had been done before in their family and from that results higher achievement and higher expectations for not just that person but for everybody that follows.”

/Marissa Martinez
Marissa Martinez, from Reagan High School

For senior Marissa Martinez, the end of high school means a new start.

“Now it’s time to grow up and it’s time to go on to college and think about what you want to do, not right now, but what you want to do in the future.”

Marissa wants become a pediatrician and take care of little kids. She was a little kid herself when her mom Angela Martinez-Vicencio crossed the stage and got her high school diploma.

“I’m young teenage mother. I was 14 when I had her. I was student at Reagan myself. To see her accomplish this means a lot to me — to know that I didn’t fail her.”

She says some people didn’t think she could provide for her daughter.

“It’s little hurdles that we’re crossing, you know, getting her through elementary school, middle school, high school and now college. I can say, ‘This is my accomplishment. She’s my everything.’”

She will cheer on her daughter and their accomplishments Saturday at the graduation ceremony at Reliant Stadium.

Bio photo of Laura Isensee

Laura Isensee

Education Reporter

Laura Isensee covers education for KUHF, including K-12 and higher education.

Previously, she was a staff reporter at The Miami Herald and regularly contributed to WLRN, the local NPR affiliate and Miami Herald news partner...