School News

Northbrook High Headlines

 

Bryan Reed, director at YES Prep at Northbrook High, is not the kind of guy who tears up in public. He did so only once before during the Senior Signing Day event nine years ago at YES Prep North Central, where the founding class he had followed since 8th grade announced their college choices.

This week might just move him to tears again, he says, as 140 seniors at YES Prep at Northbrook High School make campus and district history on Saturday when they join traditional seniors in the Class of 2019 Graduation at Don Coleman Coliseum. Reed has guided his seniors all four years to this moment.

These YES Prep seniors are the first to graduate from a special public school district and charter school collaboration known as the SKY Partnership. This 7-year-old partnership joins Spring Branch ISD with YES Prep Public Schools and KIPP Houston Public Schools secondary charter programs. 

Together, the partnership operates a pair of middle school programs and shared high school program at Northbrook High operated by YES Prep.

Reed, who will see this first graduation before moving to a new career position with Teach for America, described his own heartfelt emotions in recent letter to parents and students.

“To see our first ever graduating class, the Class of 2019, walk across the stage at both Senior Signing Day and Commencement will be a dream four years in the making,” he said. “During my 14 years at YES Prep, I am incredibly proud to witness countless students fulfill our mission by matriculating to colleges and universities across the nation. I cannot wait to witness each and every YES Prep Northbrook High School student continue that tradition and receive a college degree to open doors for their future.”

Director Reed can easily brag on his first SKY Partnership senior class. A few highlights:

  • The program is now celebrating its first full year with all four high school grade levels.
  • YES Prep at Northbrook High’s graduating class is one of the largest in YES Prep history.
  • Seniors have been awarded more than $1.5 million in potential scholarships.
  • Seniors have now earned 536 possible college acceptances, and more are still arriving!

Saturday’s Commencement celebration took years of planning, collaboration and hard work. It began under former SBISD Superintendent Duncan Klussmann, Ed.D., now retired, and has continued under Superintendent Scott R. Muri, Ed.D. The SBISD Board of Trustees has supported the SKY Partnership throughout its history, from start-up planning to first graduating class.

“After seven years,” SBISD Superintendent Muri says, “the combined graduation of a Northbrook High School and first YES Prep at Northbrook High Class of 2019 speaks louder than words ever could to the continual, planned drive and collaboration across three highly motivated organizations – SBISD, KIPP and YES Prep --  to create high quality educational opportunities for students. We continue to believe that this partnership is changing the trajectory for the better for our students, both today and for years to come.”

In 2012, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation helped SBISD and the well-known public charter school organizations get started with a $2.1 million supporting grant to the SKY Partnership. The same year, first-year programs began for students at SBISD’s Landrum (KIPP) and Northbrook (YES Prep) middle schools. 

Under the SKY Partnership, charter program students benefited from access to SBISD fine arts, athletics and other extracurricular opportunities, while the school district gained access to the successes of KIPP and YES Prep, ranging from data analysis and professional development to a focus on college prep and planning efforts.

Northbrook High Principal Randolph Adami said calls Reed a good man and school leader. “Our organizations were different in many ways, but we always knew we could come to common ground by concentrating on doing what is best for our students. We had many educational and procedural discussions, but they always came back to the students.  Bryan’s sense of humor also helped during challenging times in the partnership.  We always did our best to find humor when appropriate.” 

YES Prep Northbrook students have signed up at colleges and universities at every level – from local community colleges to flagship state universities and some out-of-state colleges and universities.  

“As a younger person, I was rather set in my goals. YES Prep Northbrook showed me all opportunities, and the options that I really had. The travel and trips that I did showed me that there is far more than just this city out there,” says Julian Erazo. He joined YES Prep at Northbrook Middle School as a sixth-grader.

Erazo, a strong pitcher, plans to play baseball at the University of Houston-Downtown and also study computer science. He loves computer coding, and already has an image of himself working at Apple’s new Austin headquarters in a few years. Baseball fan meets tech nerd.

Shane Lau joined YES Prep’s program at Northbrook Middle. He’s headed this fall to Lycoming College in Williamsport, Pa., where he intends to begin studying to be a teacher. 

His YES Prep experiences, and his close relationship with his teachers, have inspired him. “My time here has opened me up to really want to be an educator,” he says. “Teaching is hard and it is fun.”

Bessy Banegas, a Landrum Middle grad who is Houston Baptist University bound, joined the high school program in 9th grade. “I wanted to be more prepared for college after high school, and I believe that the program here has helped prepare me for the future,” she said. “YES Prep opened so many doors for me that would not have opened. It prepared me academically, and it gave me a sense of family I am grateful for.”

That sense of family – including family lost – is on the mind of YES Prep’s Advanced Placement Statistics teacher Elizabeth Walthall and Social Studies teacher Clorena Myles. Walthall, who was Reed’s first hire, began working with YES Prep 8th-graders five years ago at the middle school.

“I’m almost feeling like I will be starting all over next year. I’ve had the students for so many years, and I know them so well now. Some of these kids now feel like they are my own,” Walthall said. “I really don’t believe that I’ll ever feel as close to a group of families and students again.”

Myles notes that with the first class of seniors graduating and Reed’s exit as director, a new school year will be “drastically different.” However, the four-year economics and government teacher who was set to leave teaching altogether in HISD years ago has found true meaning at YES Prep at Northbrook High.

“When you focus on students and people like we do here, then even the bad days that we all have are not so hard,” she said. “The kids here see teachers as really human. Where else would I hear a student say to me, ‘Miss Myles, can I give you a hug?’” 

If YES Prep’s first SBISD Commencement brings out the tissues and handkerchiefs, we know those tears will be shared in incredible family-style joy. 

Congratulations, YES Prep at Northbrook High!

Hannin Haifa, a senior at Northbrook High School, received the 2019 Memorial City Mall Scholarship from Spring Branch Education Foundation (SBEF) on May 15.

“They gave me so much more than I expected,” she says. “It was very generous.”

Hannin will apply the $6,000 scholarship to her first year’s tuition at The University of Texas at Austin.

SBEF scholarships are awarded for holistic achievement: personal qualities, school and community involvement, family life and academics. While most scholarships are merit- or needs-based, SBEF looks at the whole child.

Since she was 3, Hannin (pronounced Haneen) Haifa lived with her grandparents in San Antonio. It was an idyllic life. Though she now knows her lifestyle was old-fashioned, it was normal to her.

“Other families participated in sporting events and had parties. We gardened, did chores and rode bikes. We had no technology. I didn’t discover the Internet until high school.”

Her lifestyle prepared Hannin to excel. She was part of her school’s Gifted and Talented program since kindergarten and advanced to Gifted and Talented Leadership. She took dual credit classes, joined the National Honor Society, played violin in her school’s advanced orchestra, participated in a number of extracurricular activities and volunteered in the community.

The idyllic life was not to last. Junior year transformed her forever. Her grandmother had been diagnosed with Stage 4 bone cancer. The loss of the woman who had been the center of their lives was beyond difficult for Hannin and her siblings. There would be “no more homemade food, goodnight kisses, smell of hot coffee in the mornings, or story times every night in the backyard.”

At a tender age, Hannin became the lady of the house, taking care of shopping, cooking, laundry and cleaning. Unexpectedly, their grandfather died six months later.

They had no one. The loneliness and responsibility were overwhelming.

They continued maintaining the house, working (they took their younger sister with them so she wouldn’t be alone) and keeping up with school.

It all became too much. There seemed to be no way to pay all the bills, maintain a house and attend to school. She made the tough decision to move, with her sister, to live with their mom in Houston. “I knew San Antonio. I had such special friends who were there for me. Houston was a big city, and I knew no one.”

It was hard to lose the people she loved best, and it was hard to make the move.

So, she shut down—unfamiliar territory for a self-described social butterfly. She enrolled in Northbrook High School, but she didn’t engage. “I isolated myself. I was falling into a deep hole and making it worse. Eventually, I decided my life is what it is. I started being myself again. I started talking, opening up. My AP biology group became my friendship group. Second semester was a rebuilding time. I’m still adapting.”

Collegiate Challenge helped. Her mentor, Jacqueline Wright, became a second mom, helping her with every aspect of college admission, including applying for scholarships.

“She wants the best for me,” Hannin says. “At first, I had no motivation. She reminded me of my worth, that I’m a survivor. I can’t thank her enough.”

Collegiate Challenge was also responsible for her campus visit to UT Austin where Hannin was struck by the students’ friendliness and diversity. If all goes according to plan, in the fall she’ll be joined on campus by her best friend from San Antonio.

“I’m looking forward to all there is to do on campus. I can start a new chapter of my life. I can discover myself there.” The first in her family to attend college, she plans to pursue a career in radiology.

In spite of everything she went through and entering a new school in her senior year, Hannin graduates in the top 10 of her class. Most important, she has learned her strength.

“I know that when I have a problem, I can handle it. I’m more understanding, more patient. I’m a stronger person.”

When she looks at the big picture, she says, “I’m really glad I lived with my grandparents. They taught me to be the lady I am. They made me the mature person I am. They taught me to appreciate everything I have.

“I always tried to make my grandma proud. Everything I do is for her. Even the smallest things made her happy, proud. I know she would be proud of me.”

 


Julieta Muñoz and Priscilla Bello, two high ranking students at Northbrook High School, were aiming for success before they signed up with EMERGE, a nonprofit fellowship program which has partnered with Spring Branch ISD since 2013.

As a result, soon-to-be graduates Julieta and Priscilla are dreaming big and motivated for success.

Julieta is still seeking financial opportunities to make her goal of a biochemistry degree from the University of Houston or Texas A&M University her next mark of success. She has been a top athlete and student leader at Northbrook High.

Priscilla is leaning toward Trinity College, a private liberal arts college in Hartford, Conn., which was first opened as an alternative to Yale. She plans to study biology, earn a veterinarian’s degree, and return to Houston one day.

EMERGE helped her find a college admission outside of Houston and Texas, a key personal goal for her.

The nonprofit EMERGE program now works with students in SBISD and several other school districts to help them gain college admissions. EMERGE typically picks high-performing students from economically disadvantaged family backgrounds for mentoring and other supports.

Northbrook High and EMERGE leaders think the world of both seniors.

Sandra Nuñez, EMERGE’s senior manager in SBISD, has worked with Julieta and Priscilla for two years.

Julieta’s optimism and motivation especially impressed Nuñez.

“Senior year gets tough for many students,” she said. “They are balancing a lot of different things and applying to college takes a lot of time. Julieta never lost stamina and stayed really positive even when she was faced with roadblocks. I am so confident that she will be a leader as a college student.”

Julieta, an award-winning, 4-year varsity volleyball and basketball player, has her heart set on earning a biochemistry degree, and she is thinking about engineering and a master’s degree in her future. “I have always been good at math. I was thinking of teaching, but I had teachers who encouraged me, and they told me that there are so many ways to use science, engineering and math,” she said.

She has attended several SBISD campuses – Ridgecrest Elementary and Landrum Middle. Early on, she took up volleyball and in middle school added basketball skills to her athletic likes.

Her love of sports is tied to her team members. “It’s about the friendships I made there, that’s for sure. I know that I will stay close to many of the girls I met over the last four years,” she said.

Julieta is popular at NHS. She was student council vice president this year, and won the Captain, Most Improved and Most Valuable Team Member sports awards. She’s a Character Without Question Award recipient and holds National Honor Society and academic excellence honors, among other honors.

“Julieta Muñoz is a great student who has taken rigorous classes and makes good grades,” Northbrook Principal Randolph Adami said.

She is so friendly, he looked forward to greeting her in person on most mornings.

As a big Texas A&M booster, Adami is excited about Julieta making her final college choice: “Julieta will make a great Aggie!”

The Northbrook principal rates Priscilla Bello just as highly, too. “She represents herself, her family and the high school very well . . . She really represents what is good about our school,” Principal Adami said.

EMERGE’s Nuñez ranks her as one of the most motivated students she has ever worked with, and in her job she’s mentored many high-achievers. Priscilla is the only Northbrook student who applied for, and then was selected to attend a student fly-in program at one of her top pick colleges in the Northeast.

“Priscilla just has this ability to set her own goals and do whatever she needs to do to reach them. She has always been clear on the fact that she wants to attend college outside of the state of Texas and be independent,” Nuñez said.

At Northbrook, she was an athlete, running cross country three years and playing basketball. She made a trumpet come alive in marching band for several years, and she was also in Varsity Math, a most popular academic group at NHS.

She began her SBISD career in prekindergarten at Edgewood Elementary, then later attended Hollibrook and Northbrook Middle.

EMERGE helped Priscilla expand her thinking about college going, and what was offered past Texas borders.

“EMERGE was so important for me,” she said. “I was not thinking about more than Texas A&M or other colleges here [in state]. With the EMERGE program, I was first able to think about other schools, as well as other possibilities.”

Students selected for the program, like Priscilla and Julieta, work with counselors after school. They also attend college admissions workshops and receive help with test-assessment preparation. Students also have the opportunity to tour several colleges nationwide, a summertime option that Priscilla cherished.

Her college visits included Trinity and Connecticut College in New London, Conn. Both are small, liberal arts colleges, offering her good financial aid packages that include grants and scholarships.

At present, EMERGE partners with 150 colleges and universities across the United States that meet at least 85 percent of students’ demonstrated financial need. Based on nonprofit history, 75 percent of program students graduate in six years or less.

These statistics suggest that Priscilla and Julieta have not finished earning degrees after their diplomas are issued this week. Congratulations to both!

 

Spring Branch ISD will offer families and students an opportunity to purchase professional quality DVD recordings of May's 2019 Graduation Celebration.

 
The cost is $35 per video. DVDs will be available 4-6 weeks after the graduations take place. Use the link provided below to place your order. A booth will be set up in the coliseum's concession area during graduation to accept additional orders.
 

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