Student Success: Lauren Parker Is ‘Looking Into the Future’
By Ashley Kilday, Contributing Writer
Lauren Parker, a Criminal Justice major in the College of Public Service, is a first-generation college student who wants to guide incoming students along the sometimes-overwhelming path of the college application process.
“I got the idea for my project, ‘Looking into the Future,’ because a lot of students don’t seem to have access to information about the college admissions process, especially students who are first-gen,” she said. “There’s a lot of confusion around it, and I know there was for me. Many students end up not attending college because they don’t realize there are ways to get financial help through FAFSA and TASFA. I want to change that.”
Through her family’s church, Parker became involved with serving at Eyes on Me, Inc., a non-profit organization with different sub-ministries. “One of the programs at Eyes on Me is the Sunnyside Dreamz screen printing program for students. They teach youth the screen-printing industry and how to run a small business,” she explained. The Sunnyside Dreamz website mentions production, distribution, sales, marketing, accounting, human resources, law, and design. Corporate professionals host student workshops where participants can expand their training in their fields of interest.
Parker continued, “First-gen students face problems getting information. With my grant, I am designing and printing two pamphlets. One will explain the college admissions process: how to start, how to pick a college, and break down what types of degrees are available. The other pamphlet will focus on financial aid, explaining different types of grants, loans, and scholarships, and emphasizing deadlines. I also included some advice on how to avoid scholarship scammers who target college-bound students.”
Supported by Steven Villano, Director of the Center for Public Service & Community Research, Parker applied for the Community Engagement Grant. Parker’s $500 grant funds will go toward printing her pamphlets. She organized an event this past March for the Sunnyside program that included a presentation and fun activities at Worthing High School. She invited around 25 student volunteers to assist at the event and to share their own stories of applying to college, lifting the veil of mystery that surrounds the college application process.
“People sometimes try to offer advice that’s ultimately unhelpful, or it’s scary. When you can’t go home and ask anyone and you just don’t know what to do, or where to even start,” she said. “UHD in particular does a great job of providing assistance and resources.”
Parker designed the pamphlets herself, her first foray into such an endeavor. “I want them to be as good as they can be for these students,” she said. “I want the students to get their burning questions answered and be able to talk to someone about college if they haven’t had the opportunity. They might have questions holding them back, but I hope they choose to apply anyway.”
The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) is the second-largest university in Houston and has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974. As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive, four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates approximately 14,000 students, boasts more than 66,000 alumni, and offers 45 bachelor’s degrees, 12 master’s degrees, and 19 online programs within four colleges: Marilyn Davies College of Business, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Public Service, and College of Sciences and Technology. UHD has one of the lowest tuition rates in Texas.
U.S. News and World Report ranked UHD among the nation’s Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Applied Administration and Best Online Master’s Programs in Criminal Justice, as well as a Top Performer in Social Mobility. The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse ranked UHD one of the best colleges in the U.S. for its 2024 rankings, with notable distinctions: No. 1 for diversity (tied) and No. 3 for student experience. The University is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, a Minority-Serving Institution, and a Military Friendly School. For more information on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit uhd.edu.