The Texas Tech University president visited high schools in Tulia, Dimmitt and Hereford.
As a first-generation college student, Gaddiela Avila-Tarango, a senior at Hereford High School, is looking forward to setting an example, not only for her family, but also for her classmates.
She will begin her collegiate career in the fall at Texas Tech University, taking a path that students from rural communities don't take as often as their urban or suburban counterparts. But through his latest tour of West Texas high schools on Thursday (May 2), Texas Tech President Lawrence Schovanec gave students a glimpse of what is available to them after high school.
For Avila-Tarango, it adds to her anticipation of getting on campus in the fall.
"It just motivates me even more, encourages me to be aware of what I will be around and how I will be affected by it," said Avila-Tarango, who plans to pursue a medical career. "I will be an example by inspiring others and especially my siblings, since I am the oldest. I feel like I will help encourage others and show them that I'm ready to do something for myself."
Hereford was the final stop on Thursday's tour, which also took Schovanec to Tulia and Dimmitt high schools. During each visit, Schovanec delivered a presentation to the student body on the benefits of higher education and what Texas Tech has to offer prospective enrollees, emphasizing the positive effects derived from having local students stay close to home to pursue their college education.
During his visits, he relayed stories about how college can give you experiences that can't be found elsewhere, citing the example of the thousands of students that traveled to Minneapolis, Minnesota, in April when the Texas Tech men's basketball team played for the national championship.
But he also told of the connections and friendships that can be made in college that last a lifetime, and also how the various programs, such as study abroad, can provide memories and build character that can take students to heights they might have thought were only dreams.
"We are here because we recognize and value the special characteristics of students from rural communities," Schovanec told the students. "Your work ethic, ambition and respectful nature are qualities of our student body. You can have a positive impact on other students at Texas Tech and the reputation of our university."
Thursday was the fourth tour of West Texas high schools undertaken by Schovanec for this purpose. His overarching message has been to prioritize the pursuit of higher education while also showing what can be gained by enrolling at Texas Tech.
"Getting a college education is one of the best ways to expand your horizons and increase future opportunities," Schovanec said. "If it is your dream to go to college, we want you to know that it is not beyond your reach, and we will work with you to help you achieve that goal."
Jill Millican, assistant superintendent at Dimmitt High School who is sending her son to Texas Tech in the fall, said the president's message was great to hear on many levels.
"Hearing the president get up and say that Texas Tech is a big university with a bigger heart brings it all home for me," Millican said. "Our students need to hear that, and they need to understand that there are awesome opportunities right down the road from us."