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Houston, we have liftoff

The seminar topic was borders, and particularly the US-Mexico border. The teacher, Alicia Schmidt Camacho—Yale professor of American Studies and Ethnicity, Race, and Migration—is an expert on that subject.

So, in a way, were Schmidt Camacho’s students. And, in a way, they crossed some boundaries themselves before packing into a tiny seminar room in Yale’s Loria Center this morning.

The students are not Yalies but high school seniors from Texas, part of a group of 92 such young people—many of them Latino and/or first-generation Americans—visiting Yale this week through a Houston-based fellowship for “talented students from underserved communities.”

The organization, Emerge Fellowship, was cofounded in 2010 by Rick Cruz ’07, who’s now an assistant school superintendent in Houston. The board chair is Leah Barton ’97, an energy company executive.

The weeklong visit to Yale, dubbed the EMERGE Future Scholars Institute, emerged from a trip by Yale College admissions dean Jeremiah Quinlan ’03, Rosalinda Garcia (then an assistant Yale College dean and head of La Casa Cultural), and history professor Stephen Pitti ’91 made to Houston last fall, Pitti says. 

That trip was part of Yale’s effort to recruit more low-income, first-generation, and Latino applicants, says Pitti. But the main purpose of this week’s institute is not specifically recruiting for Yale—although Schmidt Camacho encouraged her students to apply—but to help prepare them for applying to selective schools more generally.

Their schedule here includes a “First-Gen” panel, a College Culture Shock panel, an admissions workshop, dinner at the home of Pitti and Schmidt Camacho (who are married and are the master and associate master of Ezra Stiles College), as well as trips to New York City and Wesleyan University in nearby Middletown, Connecticut. 

In Schmidt Camacho’s seminar—one of nine offered simultaneously by Yale faculty—the students showed a high school-age delight in the previous night’s performance of Aladdin on Broadway. They also showed a keen and sophisticated awareness of the plight of tens of thousands of Central American children being detained under armed guard after illegally crossing into the US.

When Schmidt Camacho asked their views, the Houston teens offered plenty of opinions and analysis, with some facts to back them up. One boy cited a New York Times report that 85 percent of the stranded children have family in the US. It would be less expensive and more humane for the United States to send them to those relatives than to return them to their often dangerous home countries, he argued.

He plans to major in economics before going to law school.

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The Yale Alumni Magazine is published by Yale Alumni Publications Inc., an alumni-based nonprofit that is not run by Yale University. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views of the university administration.

Filed under Alicia Schmidt Camacho, Stephen Pitti, Emerge Fellowship

1 comment

  • Tracy Mason, 10:41am July 24 2014 | Ico_flag Flag as inappropriate

    The kids on this trip are actually blogging about their experiences on the Yale campus (as well as in the EMERGE program as a whole). Check out http://blogs.houstonisd.org/emerge.

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