The Young Owls Leadership Program (YOLP) is a student-founded and student-run outreach initiative for high school students in the Houston area. Now in its ninth year, YOLP has partnered with EMERGE, a college-readiness program in Houston ISD, to better serve students and their families before, during, and after the program.
YOLP focuses on preparing students from underserved communities in the Houston area, especially first-generation college students. We do so by designing our curriculum and programs around the college application process, college life, and leadership and personal development. This past year’s program included workshops on financial aid, application essays, admission to highly selective universities, public speaking, etiquette, team-building exercises, STEM fields, academic opportunities in college, career paths, and more. To further accentuate college life, students stay overnight in campus dorms, have a roommate, eat at campus dining halls and attend workshops in campus classrooms. Students also meet and hear from Rice professors and faculty as guest speakers and instructors in mock classes.
The organization of our program is heavily based on Rice University’s Orientation Week, a program that transitions students into college the week before classes begin. Through this model, high school students are assigned to small groups of 8-9, allowing them to meet students from different high schools and backgrounds of their own. Each of these groups is assigned three college student Advisors, who are with their groups of high school students at all times. Advisors come from a variety of academic fields, backgrounds, hometowns, and universities and colleges. This model allows our high school students to get to know and trust multiple college students on a personal level. Our university Advisors are selected on their ability to serve as strong mentors to our high school students both during the program and afterwards as a resource available to the students throughout the school year. Students and Advisors meet multiple times during the school year to reunite and check on their progress in the college application process.
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