Students and parents eye the future

Mauricio Julian Cuellar Jr., Alice Echo-News Journal

Jacob McKenzie and his grandpa Pete Aguliar are old pros to the Wednesdays with Dads experience.

Since seventh grade, the Alice High School sophomore has attended these meetings, listening to the encouraging words of school administrators, counselors and the meeting facilitator. But the person who has his ear the most, and the man most responsible for the student Jacob has become, is his grandfather.

"Heís been there for me for a long time, Jacob said. Iím with him everyday. We hang out all the time."

Jacob said the key to his ongoing education is his grandpa. Whenever he feels discouraged by schoolwork, or if the pressures of high school life get too intense, his grandpa is always there with an encouraging word, instilling in Jacob the courage to keep going, he said.

"Anything that they have to tell us here is important. Overall, the experience is good for him. Itís good for me, too," Aguilar said.

Jacob, like most Coyotes, has dreams of playing big in football, in college and beyond. But his grandfather has also taught him the importance of being prepared for whatever life may have in store for you, and it shows in his decision to play hard and study hard. Jacob wants to make it in football, but he said heíll get a degree in petroleum engineering to fall back on, or as a second career after he retires from the NFL. "It makes me feel really good. Iím proud of him for his expectations and goals in life," Aguilar said.

Wednesdays with Dads events are filled with such students.

Alphonso Rincon, president of Fathers Active in Communities and Education (FACE) led the Wednesday with Dads program at AHS yesterday. The Students Training for Academic Readiness (STAR) Dads event is supported by a partnership grant from Getting Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP). The grant involves GEAR UP, FACE, the Texas Education Agency, Texas A&M University Corpus Christi and the participation of several school districts in the area, including Alice ISD.

AHS Counselors Bonnie Cavazos and Margie Longoria were on hand to describe many of the programs and educational possibilities parents and students should consider as they make their way through AHS. They spoke on TAKS testing, and the importance of AP courses and taking advantage of testing, such as the PSAT and ACT, the cost of which is paid by the school. Cavazos also spoke on the importance of getting ahead for college, either through AP testing, or through taking college level courses in the evenings and during the summer. College level coursework is an option for students after their sophomore year, and Cavazos said with the close proximity to Coastal Bend College-Alice, all students should take advantage of such affordable education.

Rincon reminded parents of their role in all this. "Parents can enrich the teacherís lessons by imparting their life experiences to their children," Rincon said. "Youíre experts, too. Youíre experts, too." Whatever jobs they hold, Rincon said their experiences in the real world were important, and that they should share those experiences with their children, to show them what itís like out there, and let them know what to expect so that theyíll be ready, he said. Experience is a valuable learning tool.

It was the first time at the event for dad Raul Govea. His sons, sophomore Ovidio Villarreal and freshman Steve Villarreal both said they got a lot of important information from the Dads event.

"I learned lots of things I didnít know," Govea said. "Itís important to have some input in your childís education. I always try to push them in the right direction. Knowledge is power."

"Heís always told us to do our work and pay attention at school," Steve said. Ovido agreed. "Heís a Ďmake Aís and Bís get $100í kind of dad. He keeps us motivated to make the grades to go to college and play sports," Ovidio said.