Exposing first-generation students to what's possible
In all the pictures of freshman Sasha Childers from a 2006 spring break trip to London, her nose is red from the cold and she's huddled under a coat and beanie. But in spite of the chilly weather, the freshman business major — a Regents Scholar who had never before been outside Texas — loved everything about London.
Childers joined a group of 13 other business Regents Scholars, who are first-generation college students from lower-income families, on an all-expenses paid trip to the UK's capital city in March. They gawked at Da Vinci's unfinished artwork, read 500-year-old prisoner inscriptions on the cell walls of the Tower of London, and tasted foods from the city's cultural crossroads.
Now Childers says she wants to study abroad and add an international business certificate to her program of study. "When I got there I was just in awe. Everything in me just paused for a minute," she says of the moment she realized she was 4,860 miles from home. No one in her family has been out of the country, she explains. "Now I have this desire to travel, now I want to see so many things."
Mays is home to 51 Regents Scholars. Each of these students, who come from families with little or no post-high school education, are paired one-on-one with faculty mentors at Mays who guide them throughout their undergraduate careers. Members of this group also share in opportunities designed to expose them to what's possible — for many, like Childers on her trip to London, things they've only seen on TV or never knew they could be a part of.
"They took so many things away from this experience, tangible things, a sense of belonging, an understanding of other cultures," says undergraduate program coordinator Sonia Garcia. "They became aware that there's more to the world than Texas and just what we know here."