Valley students get a head start on college with lessons on essays

EDINBURG — Juliana Rodriguez read her story to more than 300 Gear Up students.

It was at a college essay writer’s conference held at Region One Education Service Center last week.

Rodriguez, a Point Isabel Gear Up student, is on the fast track to success as she and others finalized their college essay personal statement there.

“I’m ahead of the game,” Rodriguez said. “The writing workshops helped a lot.”

Region One created the series of writing workshops called “The College Essay Writing Project” in partnership with the Texas Valley Communities Foundation (TVCOF), that’s a Mercedes nonprofit promoting education, because the college essay is a critical component of the college application packet for most colleges and universities.

“I think this year-long writing process enabled them to receive feedback in such a positive way,” said Mary Alice Reyes, TVCOF executive director. “At the end of the day it’s the essay that’s going to set you apart.”

The students went through the entire writing process and were taught to take the content and personalize it for different needs, scholarships, internships and college applications.

“We’re hopeful that these essays will give them that edge they need to be considered for selection of admission to the college of their choice,” Reyes said. “To already have worked through this essay is great.”

A good essay can make all the difference.

Rodriguez wrote about the time she had to take control of a moving vehicle at the age of 12.

Her father had fallen unconscious, so she took control and maneuvered the family car to safety.

“I explained how that experience changed my life and how it brought me up into the adulthood I’m in today,” Rodriguez said.

Each student wrote about their personal lives explaining who they are.

The writers conference was the final writing workshop to teach junior status Gear Up students writing techniques to show colleges they are students who will excel at the university level.

The primary goal for Gear Up is to increase the number of students graduating from high school and entering and succeeding in post-secondary institutions.

Over the course of the training, Jeannine Robinson, the creator of, a website writing source that focuses on writing college application essays that get noticed, told the Gear Up students, “show me, don’t tell me in your essay.”

Robinson said her website has tips for students who need help writing their college essay.

“You always have to captivate your audience,” Rodriguez said about Robinson’s training. “And she made it simple.”

Rodriguez said she is almost done writing her three essay prompts for the Apply/Texas college application and she is only a junior.

“As part of the writing process, you write and you edit, and your write and you edit until you come up with your final draft,” Reyes said. “Even so, you’re always looking to improve.”

Reyes said the conference was impactful and powerful and the student participants were amazing.