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Mandy Acevedo, Department of Psychology

Academic Achiever Program graduate helps others stay focused in college

Mandy Acevedo

When Mandy Acevedo was attending Austin High School in Houston, two things happened that changed the course of her life.

Her mother’s kidneys failed and an English teacher told her about the Academic Achievers Program directed by the Center for Mexican American Studies.

Since her mother only speaks Spanish, Mandy had to become her mother’s translator and primary caregiver while juggling high school coursework. College might have slipped off her list of priorities if her teacher had not encouraged her to apply to the Academic Achievers Program.

“I applied and they accepted me and I received a scholarship, which allowed me to attend the University of Houston,” Acevedo said.

On December 20th, she graduates with a bachelor’s degree in psychology – just three and a half years after starting her college career. She got to this point through her determination and intellect with an assist from the Academic Achievers program.

Established in 1985 as the Hispanic Family College Project, Academic Achievers has evolved into a successful program operating in the East End neighborhood of Houston and addressing high school dropout prevention and college enrollment and completion.

The Academic Achievers Program provides high school students a number of services, including tutoring, mentoring, academic workshops, and SAT preparation classes – all in an effort to move the students from high school into college.

College students accepted into Academic Achievers are eligible to receive a $12,000 four-year scholarship, receive priority registration, and career and leadership opportunities.

“Academic Achievers provided me with math tutoring, because I am not good in that subject,” said Acevedo. “They helped me write my essays, and with planning what courses to take. Not many colleges provide that kind of support.”

As a college student, Acevedo balanced her time between campus life and the Texas Medical Center, where her mother spent a total of seven years undergoing dialysis and battling kidney failure.

“I took it as a challenge – I was the only one who could help my mother,” she said. “My mom really encouraged me to stay in school despite everything.”

Throughout college, Acevedo maintained a binder with her college schedule and her mother’s medical appointments schedule in it.

“My mom’s doctors all became familiar with my schedule and were willing to work around it,” she said.

Acevedo said Academic Achievers gave her the tools she needed to do well in her classwork. The program also gave her the money she needed to go to college and remain at home to take care of her mother.

She is paying that help forward now by using her organizational skills and drive to succeed to help others accepted into the program.

“Mandy has been active as a tutor/mentor for the high school component of the Academic Achievers Program for several years,” said Rebecca Treviño, program manager for the Academic Achievers Program. “Her experience is about overcoming life challenges with her ill mother, but she has never given up.”

In April 2013, Acevedo’s mother had a kidney transplant. Although that did not end her need for frequent medical care, it has improved her health dramatically.

After graduating, Acevedo hopes to attend graduate school and earn a doctorate degree in psychology. She will take next semester off from school, however, and try her hand at working in a hospital setting.

“Because I spent so much time at the hospital with my mom, I got to know a lot of the staff there,” said Acevedo. “One of the hospital’s social workers told me that once I graduated she would help me find a job so that I can get some hands-on experience.”

- By Monica Byars