Rick Cruz is the founder of EMERGE and the Houston Independent School District (HISD) College and Career Readiness Officer. EMERGE works with high-performing students from underserved backgrounds to prepare them to attend and graduate from selective colleges and universities. Rick began his career in education in 2008 as a fifth-grade teacher in HISD with Teach for America. Two years later, he launched EMERGE. In 2013, he became HISD’s Assistant Superintendent for College Readiness. I first met Rick around that time, and was so impressed that I wound up writing about him in The Cage-Busting Teacher. Now, with EMERGE having recently attracted more than $10 million in external support, it seemed like a good time to check in. Here’s what he had to say.

I founded EMERGE in 2010 while still teaching. It started as a volunteer-operated program serving 14 students and has since evolved into a nonprofit organization partnering with multiple school districts and serving over 1,500 high school students and alumni in college. Top-tier colleges provide low-income students with life-changing opportunities, including robust financial aid, strong support systems, and significantly higher graduation rates.

Most of the students we work with are initially completely unaware that these opportunities exist. They don’t know, for example, that schools like Stanford will offer full scholarships to students from a household income below $125,000 and that schools like Amherst have the highest graduation rates for low-income and minority students in the country. Equally important, students may not have the resources and know-how to pursue these opportunities; these gaps in information, support, and resources are what EMERGE addresses.

Read more on EMERGE's programs and goals by Frederick M. Hess at AEI