EAPrep Summer STEM Campers Receive College & Career Advice

Ricardo Zavala gives EAPrep STEM Campers the low-down on getting into college.

In the Texas July heat, with the refreshingly icy waters of Barton Springs pool beckoning and the irresistible pull of the latest Mario Bros. video game, the average teenager is unlikely to be thinking about college. But at the East Austin College Prep STEM Summer Institute, things are anything but average. Today’s guest speaker, 32-year-old City of Austin after-school programs director Ricardo Zavala, gave a talk about getting into college and finding a great career, giving the 7th to 9th grade students something to think about.

Zavala, an EAPrep board member, had a lot of advice to impart to the students. Having grown up in a similar background as many of the kids in the classroom, it wasn’t difficult for him to relate. Zavala talked about his own somewhat untraditional path through Austin Community College at the age of 21 and eventually Texas State University, where he graduated summa cum laude at the age of 28.

As students shared their college and career aspirations, Zavala emphasized the importance of establishing good study habits, getting involved in areas outside of academics, and establishing mentoring relationships with teachers for the all-important letter of recommendation. Zavala told the students up front his gross yearly salary, which he characterized as “not too rich and not too poor.” He then posed the question of how much money the students would like to make in the future, and whether they would prefer to make more money or do a job they loved (the majority preferred career fulfillment over salary).

Today’s talk was brief but peppered with students’ eager questions regarding the process of applying to college, what makes a good application, and what it’s like to work in various career fields. Even though it’s still a long way off, it’s clear that for most of these students, the wheels are beginning to turn in the direction of a college degree and a successful career.


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