HITCHCOCK — Of the 54 graduates at Hitchcock High School, 91 percent have a college waiting for them.
The number, calculated by how many students were accepted to college based on how many applied, is a drastic improvement. Two years ago only 25 percent enrolled in college.
“This is because of the Gulf Coast PASS Grant and because through that grant we have a college adviser, Derek Hutchinson,” Barbara Derrick, superintendent of Hitchcock schools, said.
The grant was instituted in 2012. College of the Mainland applied for it and chose to partner with the Hitchcock school district.
The grant is a collaboration with A+ Challenge and The Houston Endowment. Through it, a college adviser was placed at Hitchcock High School and a college-level class was instituted at the campus.
“We have been very aggressive with getting kids in the dual credit program,” Derrick said. “Once they get in, they realize they can do it and college isn’t so mystical anymore. ”
Though this was the grant’s final year, Derrick is hoping for a phase two grant, which would be announced this summer.
Because Hutchinson came to the high school through the grant, Derrick said officials are looking for funding to keep him in case the grant is not renewed.
“He really connected to the students,” she said. “He was someone from the college, and he made a big impact on the kids. We are working feverishly to find money in case the grant isn’t there.”
For Mackenzie Mahan, college might not have been an option without Hutchinson’s help.
“I wanted to go, but I wouldn’t have known what to do,” she said. “If it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t have gone to college next year.”
Hutchinson works with students on college preparation, discussing the importance of standardized tests, choosing possible majors and applying for scholarships and financial aid. He takes students on college tours.
Hutchinson’s encouragement to enroll in dual credit classes helped Mahan to pursue an associate degree.
“He helped me do everything I needed,” Mahan said. “He helped me get my FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), and he helped me do all my scholarships. I won three of those.”
Mahan will continue at College of the Mainland next year before heading to a university.
Hutchinson advocates for students to pursue education beyond high school, whether at a university or community college.
“There’s been a trend with more community college interest,” he said. “We’re capturing more of the students who weren’t thinking about college and getting them interested in it.”
Hutchinson attributes the rise in numbers of college-bound Hitchcock students to the grant and the funding made available from it.
“The grant has made a difference in the past two years,” he said. “Plus, the more kids you get interested in college then the more underclassmen get excited and interested, and then more students start thinking college and career.”