UHD’s Houston PREP Summer Program Is Back
By Sheryl E. Taylor
After a two-year hiatus, the Houston Pre-Freshman Enrichment Program (PREP) is back for its in-person summer programming—now in its 33rd year.
Hosted by the College of Sciences & Technology, the program invites middle and high school students from Houston area school districts, including Aldine ISD, Alief ISD, Galena Park ISD, Houston ISD, Harmony Public Schools, and Spring Branch ISD.
The free, four-year program is now through July 22. Teachers from some of the participating districts serve as instructors for the Houston PREP classes, along with recent UHD graduates.
Denice Cronin, a Career Technical Education (CTE) teacher at Killough Middle School’s STEM Academy (Alief ISD), teaches one- and second-year engineering for Houston PREP offers her perspective on the program’s benefits. Cronin learned about Houston PREP thanks to a fellow Alief ISD colleague.
“The greatest takeaway is the enthusiasm of the students and staff. Students are exposed to a collegiate setting, a hands-on STEM curriculum, and are willingly preparing for college,” said the 14-year teaching veteran. “They're making friends with students across the city, learning firsthand how their similarities and differences make a better learning and working environment while navigating college corridors and say, "I did that program! It was great!
“Exposing students to college at this age, shows them there are options. Options on paying for college, and jobs they may not have known about,” said Cronin. “It shows them there are people that are interested in what they have to offer the future. It expands their horizons and often ignites a spark. I have students that ask when are we signing up again? It’s SAT prep, college writing, physics, computer science, logic, and intro to engineering, and they can't wait to return every year.”
For Houston PREP Director Sangeeta Gad, she realized early on in her teaching career that students lacked the motivation to learn mathematics and other STEM subjects. So, she dedicated herself to make these subjects more interesting, relevant, and engaging. Gad joined UHD in the early 80s and began her quest to breath new life into STEM subjects.
“Houston PREP provides learning experiences that go beyond the regular school classroom setting,” said the Professor of Mathematics. “Our hope is that the students who attend all four years of the program will not only embrace possible careers, but become lifelong learners, problem solvers and decision makers.”
Gad also noted that corporate and community partnerships have been influential in the continued growth of Houston PREP, which include CenterPoint Energy, CITGO, The Powell Foundation, Schlumberger, the Whelan and Cullen Families. Public Sector Partners are the City of Houston Summer Food Program, National Center for Women & Information Technology, and the Texas Department of Transportation.
“Our program provides an interactive and exciting environment, with teachers who bring innovation into the classroom and care about the success of every student,” Gad said. “When these students leave Houston PREP, they will have the skills and knowledge to take on the world.”
UHD Senior Riley Hardwick is a Safety Management major minoring in Sustainability. Post-graduation, she wants to work in her degreed field before earning a graduate degree in either business or law.
“Once I joined the PREP program, I appreciated the diversity, rigor, and fun that accompanied the PREP courses. I discovered the value of hard work, curiosity, and community,” said Hardwick. “I learned to seek opportunities, to be tenacious and creative in my efforts, and to take advantage of the opportunities available to me.”
Since becoming a UHD Gator, Hardwick earned a membership with the UHD Scholars Academy which in turn, connected her to the Mallett Family, who awarded her one of the first Mallett Scholarship for CST Student/Houston Prep Alumni scholarships that provides $2,500 per semester for five undergraduate years for tuition.
“Without my connection to the Houston PREP, I may have never come to UHD, known about the Scholars Academy or received the Mallett Scholarship. Today, I am a proud Gator who is grateful for all the experiences and lessons I learned … all because of Houston PREP.”
Cronin could agree more.
“Houston PREP create opportunities and memories that last a lifetime every summer,” said Cronin. “This program touches so many children's lives. In one word … phenomenal.
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.