Houston Preparatory Academy
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Opportunity Through Education

Click Here for U-Prep Processual Model
(Click here for an diagram of  the U-Prep Model which illustrates the information below.)

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HPAOutreach and AdmissionsHPA

Potential Students are Identified

With the cooperation of and in partnership with the local school districts, Houston Preparatory Academy identifies 5th and 6th grade students in neighborhoods of Houston, Texas. The targeted students meet the federal requirements for free and reduced price lunch and have achieved above average results on a national norm referenced standardized test.

For the first five years of  U-Prep, students were recruited from the Houston Independent School District with a focus on Zip Codes 77026 and 77020. Beginning in 2003, U-Prep entered into a partnership with the Spring Branch Independent School District to accept a additional cohort of its students as part of  a federal grant initiative called GEAR-UP.
Invitations are Sent to Students

Invitations to apply for
U-Prep are mailed to all students who meet the social/educational qualifications. The invitation asks students and families to attend a community-based  information orientation. 

Family Orientation Sessions

The family orientation is offered on varied days and times to give working parents an opportunity to participate.
U-Prep 's purpose, model and expectations are detailed in these meetings.


After the initial socio-economic, logistical and educational criteria have been met, students who want to apply complete an application, which includes a writing sample that expresses their desire to be selected. The application, the writing sample, the report card, the test scores and a clear desire to participate determine final admission. A new 6th and 7th grade student cohort of twenty students is added each year. When applicable, special consideration is given to the siblings of former and present
U-Prep students.

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Summer Session  at University of Houston

All new
U-Prep students attend a four-week summer session at the University of Houston Central, College of Education.

The U-Prep summer session begins with an intensive, experiential Ropes course. The course is designed to teach students problem-solving, resiliency and how to overcome difficult challenges through trust building, goal setting, appropriate communication and cooperation. The fast-paced, advanced U-Prep curriculum emphasizes reading, writing, mathematics, and test-taking skills. Through the use of classic and contemporary literature, the students examine educational commitment, decision-making, taking responsibility and a myriad of other character-building approaches that contribute to academic and life achievement, the development of a strong sense of self and the attainment of personal goals.

U-Prep symbolism, imagery, and expectations are used to engage the students and to create a unique sense of belonging and privilege that is manifested in friendships, pride and the students? desire to meet the challenges of academic rigor. The camaraderie and individual and group commitment to the ideals and standards of U-Prep remain with the students and their families throughout their experience.

Students who successfully complete the U-Prep Summer Session exercise one of four options:

Return to Public School in the Targeted Community

Even though they do not produce the academic results of former years, the public schools in the U-Prep target area, i.e., northeast Houston, have historical significance. While not the norm, some families and children choose to remain in their neighborhood public schools.

Enter a Public School not in the Targeted Community

Each student is assessed, and whenever possible, is encouraged to take advantage of an educational course of study that will provide the best opportunities. Some families and children choose to attend public schools in the district that are not in the U-Prep targeted neighborhood.

Enter a Magnet or Vanguard Public School

Public Magnet and Vanguard schools were created to give parents and students educational choices. Magnet schools are designed to enhance the students? special talents, such as fine arts, math and science and technology while they develop the students? learning capacity. Vanguard schools serve students who have been identified as intellectually gifted or talented and extraordinarily creative. Vanguard schools offer the most challenging curricula available in the public schools; therefore, U-Prep students are encouraged to attend these schools whenever possible.

Enter a Private School

Top tier independent or private schools provide the promise of a quality education. This, in turn, guarantees that students will have future academic and social opportunities. Elite private schools recognize the value of a multicultural student body to strengthen the school and life experiences for all of the students. Admission and academic standards are very high, and only a select few students meet the criteria to attend.

Once enrolled, U-Prep students are provided constructive, well-supervised activties in a variety of different cultural and social class milieux and are required to do hours of home study. A caring, understanding social work support  network promotes success and achievement.

U-Prep cooperates with a wide range of area private schools to which it recommends potential students and provide thoses students with the social and academic support needed to ensure successful matriculation.

University of Houston/Downtown, Pre-Engineering and Computer Education

Since 1999, upon completion of the
U-Prep summer session, most students participate in the Houston Pre-freshman Enrichment Program at the University of Houston/Downtown, Center for Computational Sciences and Advanced Distributed Simulation (UH/D). The seven-week summer session at UH/D provides 7th - 12th grade students advanced math, engineering and computer science instruction The collaboration between HPA and UH/D grew out of an identified need to increase math and language arts skills and better prepare students who come from poor communities and low performing neighborhood schools.

Also upon completion of the
U-Prep summer session, all students enter the all-year Saturday Computational Sciences Academy where they continue to develop their problem solving and conceptualization skills.

Coordinated by HPA and taught, in part, by UH/D students,
U-Prep parents and family members are encouraged to attend a technology course scheduled concurrently with the Saturday Computational Sciences Academy. The class is designed to familiarize the families with current technology and give them an opportunity to take part in and experience the students? educational experiences.

Graduation from High School

Students are graduated from high school and provided with services to help make choices and transition into higher education.

College: Acceptance, Matriculation, and Graduation

Most current educational programs for poor, marginal and/or nontraditional students focus on high school completion and college acceptance. However, this is only part of the challenge to higher education attainment and completion. Data show that once minority and nontraditional students are enrolled in universities, they struggle to achieve and fit in, and often, do not seek or know where to look for culturally proficient, supportive services.
U-Prep students and families receive guidance and assistance with the higher education process. The goal is to help students navigate the self-directed, sometimes alienating nature of university degree programs. 

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HPAActivities & TrainingHPA

Social Skills and Activities of Daily Living (ADL) Training

Three Students @ Annual Picnic
Educational literature describes and supports a holistic approach to developing the well being of each child. The
U-Prep model simultaneously focuses on the physiological, social, ethical, psychological, cognitive, and language development of the participants. Students participate in a cross-section of activities that promote daily living and social skills within the context of their social frameworks.


The 2001-2002 Undefeated Panthers!For 10 years, Houston Preparatory Academy was a member of the Greater Houston Athletic Conference (GHAC).  Cheerleading and conference competition provided the students with opportunities to visit other schools and gain a better understanding of the Houston area and its available resources.

U-Prep students participate in  learn-to-swim and developmental swimming in the Harris County Aquatics Program at Wheatley High School.

The athletic program includes valuable lessons on the dynamics of competitive sports, discipline, problem solving, social interaction skills, conflict resolution, and health and conditioning.

Internships and Work Study

U-Prep provides hands-on learning experiences for university students. HPA survey data reveal that both pre-service and cooperating teachers believe the U-Prep philosophy and approach lead to effective teaching, learning, and training.

Pre-service teachers are hired to work with veteran teachers each summer session. The situation provides a perfect opportunity for local and international students to make a significant contribution to teaching and learning while they garner valuable cross-cultural pedagogical experience. In addition to the summer session, the fall and spring components provide internship opportunities to University of Houston Graduate School of Social Work (GSSW) students. To facilitate a collaborative learning approach, GSSW students and pre-service teachers work together in interdisciplinary groups alongside the
U-Prep students and professionals.

The community and campus based experiences bolster both the
U-Prep and university students? chances to learn in socially relevant and meaningful settings. This teaching and learning opportunity affords the pre-service teachers a quality, urban, campus-based teaching experience while, at the same time, it provides GSSW students direct community-based social work practice.

The GSSW interns meet with
U-Prep student groups on campus and in the U-Prep students' neighborhood and community settings to highlight and develop life skills, drug abuse and violence avoidance, outreach, case management, and program evaluation.

Likewise, when
U-Prep students turn 14 years of age, they are eligible to receive work-study stipends while they continue to attend summer courses. In 10th grade, selected students become ambassadors to serve as role models to the new enrollees. Ambassadors work and study at the University of Houston Central campus summer session. In their 11th grade year, all students are eligible to interview for community internships that support and reinforce their post high school interests.

Community Involvement and Leadership

U-Prep Student Being  Interviewed...
As stated earlier, the
U-Prep model is rooted in community practice and grows out of the conviction that community development starts with the people who live there. Rather than educate people to eventually leave their communities, the aim is to provide opportunities so they have the ability to reach their full potential and make a difference wherever they live. Leadership is fostered; therefore, community members can create and strengthen a society that is consistent with their values and cultural norms. The aim is to assist young people and their families with a process of self-determination, individual and collective, educational-social liberation to become advocates and change agents in their communities.

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HPAUnderpinning ServicesHPA

Academic Advocacy and Tutorial Support

Pre-service Teacher at Work
The students report their academic progress regularly.
U-Prep faculty and social workers meet with families and public and private school officials to understand the students? needs and determine courses of action. Year-round tutorial support is available.

Engaged Family Social Work Support

Student Achievement Means Family Success
The dialectal relationship between the home, school and community gives rise to a need for holistic, comprehensive social work support for the students and their families. To maximize the students? academic and social success,
U-Prep vigorously promotes self-determination in students and their families and emphasizes that participation, performance, responsibility and accountability are essential elements to maximize opportunity.

Community Service Projects and Activities

Community Service at the Houston Food Bank
Community service teaches students to contribute to their communities. Students choose community service projects that reinforce their desires to make a social difference. Examples of projects include work at the local food bank, support to after school programs and participation in a traveling dance troupe. Students are encouraged to get a quality education, provide local leadership and participate in community activities and affairs.

Research and Professional Development
Staff at Work
Central to the disciplines of education and social work is a strong belief in the need for action research and lifelong learning. HPA subscribes to an ethnomethodological, qualitative research approach that emphasizes symbolic interactionism and participatory observation. Scholar practitioners participate in a meaningful socialRecent Papers context and attempt to understand, evaluate, and inform the professions of field-tested best practices. Annual pre- and post-assessments are administered to evaluate the new students' academic growth, adjust pedagogy, curriculum content, and the overall experience. U-Prep staff presents papers on the U-Prep approach and interacts with researchers and practitioners world-wide on educational issues, theory and praxis.

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HPAThe U-Prep Model At A GlanceHPA

U-Prep provides its students and families, pre-and in-service teachers and graduate level social work students with year-round, campus-and community-based experiences and services:

Academic preparation (math, science, language arts) coupled with an emphasis on the development of analytical and decision-making skills
Competitive sports in the Greater Houston Athletic Conference
Career exploration
Community Service
Life Skills , drug and violence avoidance and conflict resolution programming
Guidance, placementand application assistance to private, vanguard and magnet schools
Scholarships and scholarship information
Communication liaison with education professionals
Higher education counseling and support
Health and social services
Case Management and advocacy
Dovetailing and referrals to existing community-based programs
Continued stress and facilitation of strong family involvement and commitment

If you  want more information, please contact us via e-mail or call 713.659.1199.

Helen M. Berger, LMSW. M.Ed.

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