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When Mission Aligns with Community Need

UST Sees Nine-fold Surge in Rising Stars Internship Program

Rising Stars ProgramReflecting a nine-fold increase, more than 40 Cristo Rey High School graduates now attend University of St. Thomas’ Rising Stars Internship Program. Now in its second year, the program enables participants to finance most of their college tuition while receiving coveted work experience through internship positions.

"The Rising Stars Program is extremely transformational for the University’s students and benefits the sponsors and the community by providing scholarship-dependent students with the skills and opportunities to succeed," Mallory Wendel '11, director of Corporate Relations, said.. "Additionally, the program further expands the diversity of Houston's professional work force and builds the next generation of leaders."

Robust Program Builds on Dream

The Rising Stars program came to fruition after the University’s Chairman of the Board Curtis Huff had a notion to create a program that mirrored the Cristo Rey work-study model. Based on his own experiences growing up in a low-income neighborhood, Huff knows the importance of earning an education and the life-changing impact it can have on those who are dealt a challenging hand.

 “Our objective was to build a robust university internship program, using the successful model that Cristo Rey created for its high school students,” Huff said. “We have worked closely with the high school to develop this program, and I am so proud of our team, our employer sponsors, and all who have helped us expand on Cristo Rey founder Fr. T.J. Martinez’s dream."

UST Aligns Mission with Community Need

At the heart of UST is the imperative to serve, especially those with limited access to educational excellence. Through the University’s Rising Stars program, qualified individuals from UST’s diverse student body get a top-tier college education while gaining valuable work experience at local companies.

Rising Stars is another demonstration of St. Thomas’ commitment as a minority-serving and Hispanic-serving Institution.

“The incredible, almost nine-fold increase in both student and sponsor participation after the pilot phase speaks to the strong alignment of community need with the University of St. Thomas’ vivified mission,” UST President Richard Ludwick said. “UST will continue to be a place where talented students find opportunity, regardless of financial background.” 

Vital High School Feeder Campus Motivates 1st Generation Dreamers

“On behalf of Cristo Rey Jesuit College Preparatory School of Houston, we are proud of our graduates who are working toward their dreams by entering UST’s Rising Stars Internship Program,” said Paul Beck, President of Cristo Rey Jesuit. “These strongly motivated students will attend a top-notch liberal arts college and benefit from internships with preeminent corporations and nonprofits. The partnership between our two institutions is a testament to our shared mission of developing future workforce leaders who will positively impact our community.”

Relationships are Key to Program Success

During the academic year, students work eight hours a week as an intern at a local business or nonprofit. The funds from the internship (paid by the corporation or a donor), combined with Rising Stars scholarships and federal and state educational grants, allow the students to attend UST with little out-of-pocket cost for tuition and hopefully little or no student loan debt.

“It has truly taken a village to build the Rising Stars program and I’m beyond grateful for the outpouring of support both on campus and from our corporate sponsors,” Wendel said. “Thanks to the partners and employers throughout Houston, we are able to continue building a robust program for our students and start developing future leaders.”

Currently, twenty-three organizations support this remarkable college/internship program. They include; Asia Society Texas Center, Children at Risk, Corva , EIV Capital, LLC, Ellucian, The Hackett Center for Mental Health, Harvey Builders, Hilcorp Energy Company, Houston Ballet, Houston Food Bank, MD Anderson Cancer Center, Impact Fluid Solutions, Justice Forward , National Association of Mental Illness – Houston, Preng & Associates, PV Rentals, San Jose Clinic and United Way of Greater Houston.

UST Supports Students with Success Center and More

While in the program, students receive oversight and advice from the new Rising Stars Program Manager, Dan Garcia ‘01, MBA ‘09. They also receive professional development training; career services support and mentorship.

Garcia, an educator and first-generation college student himself, said, “Over the last 20 years, I’ve had the opportunity to arm students like these with the skills to become fearless leaders in our community. "I am here to mitigate obstacles and provide an extra layer of support so they can thrive in both the classroom and in their workplace – almost like a success coach."

The University is providing these 40 students with a dedicated lounge, work space known as the Rising Stars Success Center located at 4100 Montrose Blvd. Garcia offices in this space so he is there to greet, coach, cajole and inspire.

Meet two Rising Stars:

Clarissa Osterman-Flores 
Freshman Nursing Major
Internship: Houston Methodist

"My intended major is nursing, and this program is providing me with the opportunity to reduce a lot of my tuition stress when it comes to college. That way, I can focus more on my studies and not on how I need to pay for the semester. Rising Stars also gives me the chance to learn what it is like in my intended career path. And UST is helping to build those early connections with my future employers so I can take off running once graduation comes around."

Julianna Figueroa-Rojas
Sophomore Business Major
Internship: Impact Fluid Solutions

"I intend to do a joint major of International Studies and Political Science with a minor in accounting. The Rising Star Program will help me with my tuition because I will be working to put myself through school and not have to place that burden on my parents. The internship will help prepare me for the workforce when I graduate, because I will have developed soft skills as well as having learned how to be proactive and take initiative within the workplace. I am grateful for this opportunity because I'm gaining work experience I wouldn't get anywhere else, and I have become a part of the Impact Fluid Solutions team."

Learn How to Enroll or Be a Corporate/Institution Sponsor

With all this traction, the University of St. Thomas plans to branch out next year to other high schools to recruit students for this program. It is UST President  Ludwick’s intention to have hundreds of students participating.

To learn more about the Rising Stars Work Study Program as a student or a corporate sponsor, go to www.stthom.edu/risingstars or call Mallory Wendel, director of Corporate Relations at 214-796-2597 or Daniel Garcia, Rising Stars Manager at281-306-9579.