Inner-city students can go to college, and Roosevelt High School principal Terry Houston proves it every day. In a St. Louis public school that, until recently, struggled with problems ranging from gang activity to poor attendance, Houston implemented structure to celebrate and discipline his students, raising college application rates to 80 percent and attendance to 90 percent.
Terry Houston is making history … by providing his students with a vision for a better future, and an understanding of what it takes to get there. Houston has partnered with College Summit, a non-profit organization that helps students grasp the college application process, as well as the financial options – for example, subsidized loans and scholarships – that make higher education a realistic goal for inner-city students.
To underscore the attainability of a college, Houston dedicates daily announcements to each scholarship offer that comes to a Roosevelt student, taking the time to name the recipient, along with the scholarship name and amount, whether there is one offer or a dozen. He’s also implemented new technology for age-old problems — tardiness and attendance. Each student swipes an I.D. card upon entering a class that automatically records their tardiness and prints out the appropriate disciplinary action. Relieving the burden of tracking tardies and absences from over-tasked teachers allows them to focus on their lessons, and students now race to class when the bell rings.
What’s next for Terry?
This year marks the fifth annual “Day of Love” at Roosevelt High. Houston initiated this celebration of student success to draw attention to outstanding student accomplishments, and to bring guest speakers — last year, world wrestling champ and St. Louis native Devon Alexander — to help students feel loved and aim high.
Meantime, Houston is also going to back to school himself — working to complete his doctorate in educational leadership.
WATCH THEGRIO’S 100 TERRY HOUSTON HERE
What inspires Terry?
“I find inspiration in the lives of many, but I am most profoundly inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr.,” Houston told theGrio.
In his own words …
“We really push these kids to take advantage of the education, because you want to do something with your life. And nobody can blame you for where you come from, but you can be accountable for where you’re going.”
A little-known fact …
In 1950, Mary Jean Price was the first black student to apply to Southwest Missouri State College, which had an all-white student body at the time and rejected Price’s application. Now called Missouri State University, the school honored Price with an honorary bachelor’s degree in 2010.
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