Project Initiative, An Invaluable Tool for South Florida Students

Andres Flores, interviewing a student at Broward College Project Initiative. Photo by Alfonso Flores, (Andres’ younger brother)
Developed by Miami Palmetto Senior High School student, Andres Flores, Project Initiative offers South Florida middle and high school students, and their parents, invaluable advice about the arduous college application process, through an easy to follow five-part video series. With the slogan “it all starts with you” Flores attempts to capture the attention of the 350,000 students enrolled in Miami-Dade County’s 37 public high schools with an interesting yet educational online tool that is conveniently accessible, and easy to follow and understand.

“Once students have an opportunity to experience this video, they and their parents will have a clearer understanding of their higher education goals and what they can do, while in middle school and in high school, to continue on to college or university” explained Andres Flores who conceived, directed and produced the educational series by himself at the age of 17.

Designed for students who might not have access to high school CAP advisers or do not have the support, at home or at school, necessary to complete the application requisites for entrance into college or university, Project Initiative centers on the perspective and needs of current high school and college students. The videos offer expert advice from more than twenty college and high school officials, administrators and students that address, Introduction, Dual Enrollment, and Student Life.

“I began this project almost two years ago while reading about attrition rates in Florida colleges and universities as well as about the low enrollment and completion rates among certain ethnic groups,” said Flores, who will be graduating in June from Palmetto Senior High to pursue a career in engineering.

“Many high school students are uncertain about what they wish to pursue once they graduate. These students may not know the steps to take if they wish to continue their education, and many don’t even know why they should attend college. This video series provides students with answers to their college-related questions, and not only serves as a guide for how to achieve some level of success in high school, but it also offers answers to key questions about planning for higher education.”

In addition to listening to the interviews, Andres wanted the audience to be able to stop the videos and take notes about the most important aspects of each particular topic. Consequently, he created written bullet points in the form of cards as a step-by-step guide for the process. The cards also serve to highlight important facts, websites, resources, and progression of the process.

Flores’ project also took into account the options for students who might not see their academic levels as an entryway for higher education while developing his project – “There are plenty of other opportunities for students who don’t necessarily have the high or even average grades in math, reading or science. Some of our local colleges and universities focus on other talents and aptitudes, but students are not always encouraged to explore these options.

“Miami has excellent higher education institutions for these particular students. From Johnson & Wales University, which caters to students interested in culinary arts or hospitality, to New World School of the Arts, which offers the BFA or BM college degrees through its educational partnership with Miami Dade College and the University of Florida. New World is recognized for its visual and performing arts programs and it doesn’t even take into consideration academic grades to admit its students. These universities are right in our back yard and ready to accept students interested in very specific careers. All that students need to do is to be exposed to these programs and understand that exploring their passion and developing their talent is their pathway to a better life.”

In an interview for Project Initiative, Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent, Alberto Carvalho, the first college graduate in his family of six, explains, “There’s a competition between students in Miami and the rest of the world. The only way to guarantee that students who graduate today will be able to out-compete their international counterparts is by ensuring that they have a college education.”

While interviewing with Flores, Mercedes Quiroga, President of Broward Community College Central Campus, notes “Students must understand that high school is the first step in getting to college and earning a lifestyle that will allow them to do the things that they want to do.”

Miami Dade College Wolfson Campus Dean of Student Affairs, Billy Jones, who is also thoroughly interviewed for Project Initiative, highlights the importance of a college degree specially for a person that comes from a low socioeconomic background, not just for himself, but also for the community from where he comes – “It’s important to go back into that community and make a difference there to serve as a role model, help rebuild the community and bring others into education.”

With a weighted GPA of 5.96 and a clear understanding of what he wants to study as he enters university in the fall, Flores confessed that school was not always easy for him. While he is now determined to pursue a career in engineering, Andres remembers his academic struggles during elementary school when he barely passed third and fourth grades with a C-D grade point average.

Despite overcoming the hurdles that prevented him from achieving better grades during his younger school years, Flores admitted that fulfilling all the pre-college requisites was not necessarily an easy process for him, in spite of the support he received at home and at school. “I can just imagine how difficult this must be for students whose priorities are not continuing their education, or for those who simply don’t have the school resources or support at home to encourage them, and to help them realize that they can continue on the path to get that other degree – the one that will enable them to live a better life. I think Project Initiative will serve to fill this void.”

Flores believes that the steps to apply to college are similar throughout the nation and many students find themselves questioning how to proceed, if they even consider going to college. After further research, and if South Florida students find Pr
oject Initiative useful to, at the very least, ignite their interest in higher education, he hopes to explore expanding the program to other cities where statistics demonstrate that there is a need for this type of educational resource.

The five videos, which now reside in their own YouTube channel, can be accessed electronically from any web-enabled device, so any student with a smartphone can literally have this guide at their fingertips.

“If you do not have web access at home or a smart phone at hand, a public library with a computer and Internet is all you need to experience Project Initiative. But you need to take the initiative, after all – it all starts with you,” concluded Andres.

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