Learn How UT Austin Adviser Cecilia Flores Reached 100% of Her Students

Cecilia Flores doesn’t do anything halfway.

In her first year as an adviser at Juarez-Lincoln High School in Misson, Texas, she met with 100 percent of her 375 senior students — and got all of them to apply to at least one school.

Even better? Almost all of her students — 97 percent of them — got accepted.

We talked to Flores, who is a second-year adviser with UT Austin’s College Advising Corps, to learn her secret to success.

Photo courtesy of Cecilia Flores.

She said that getting all of her students to apply to at least one school was her personal goal when she came to Juarez-Lincoln last year.

“I wanted to make sure that they at least had that opportunity, at least had a backup plan,” she said.

When she first met with her students, most of them wanted to go to work immediately after college — on an oil rig, for example. So getting them to think about college instead was “a little bit of a struggle,” Flores said.

So she didn’t try to change their minds. Instead, she suggested they apply to a two-year institution and get a degree. They could still go work on an oil rig, she pointed out, but now, they would likely make more money.

In Mission, Texas, nearly 27 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, and the median income for a family is $33,465.

She also used their parents as a positive peer pressure tactic. Flores’ school is in a town on the Texas-Mexico border, and nearly 99 percent of her students are Hispanic. Her students take their families’ opinions to heart.

“Their parents are supporting them,” she said. “They want their kids to succeed, to show their parents and their siblings that these things are possible — that they can actually do it.”

Photo courtesy of Cecilia Flores.

Flores understands this on a personal level. She also grew up in a Texas border town and is a first-generation student herself. Until her senior year of high school, she “didn’t really know much about college in general,” she said.

But Flores — who is a Gates Millennium Scholar — had a great guidance counselor.

“She was the reason why I got into UT Austin, why I am a Gates scholar,” Flores said.

And now, Flores is focused on taking the boost she received and paying it forward.

“To see Bill and Melinda Gates are putting so much effort into helping students get an education, that really motivated me,” she said. “I want [my students] to be Gates scholars just like me. That really pushed me to say, I want to make a difference for students in my community.’”

Header image credit: Cecilia Flores