Melisa Simon is starting her first full year of teaching at Annie Webb Blanton Elementary School in Pleasant Grove. A graduate of Dallas ISD’s W.W. Samuell Early College High School, she credits that program for a large measure of her success as a first-generation college graduate who is degreed and beginning her career at the age of 20. “I’m looking forward to welcoming my new students. I’m excited and ready to give them all that I can.”
Simon said she never set out to become the youngest teacher in Dallas ISD. She learned about the district’s first school-within-a-school early college high school as a student at Skyline, visited the Samuell campus and decided to take a chance. “It was completely new,” she said. “It was a risk I took not knowing anything about college. They told me if you go to Samuell Early College you’ll get free college. I said ‘free? OK, let’s go.’ That small step changed my life and opened so many doors for me, and that’s exactly what collegiate academies can do for students.”
According to Dallas ISD Deputy Superintendent Israel Cordero, the district launched the early college and collegiate academies in partnership with Dallas Community College District and the University of North Texas at Dallas to serve as game changers for students like Melisa and their families. He said, “Currently 25% of our ninth- and tenth-grade students are enrolled in college working toward an associate degree.”
After graduating Samuell Early College and Eastfield with her associate degree, Simon enrolled in the one-year Tech Teach program at Texas Tech University. With the support of a mentor who covered her remaining year of tuition, she was able to graduate debt-free, a circumstance she describes as amazing.
“As I see it, education is the way out of poverty. And just like it happened to me, it can happen to anyone else.”
Dallas ISD begins accepting applications for admission to the collegiate academies each year from November to January 31. With 23 collegiate academies located across the city offering a variety of tuition-free degree opportunities, there’s sure to be one right in your neighborhood. For more information, visit www.dallasisd.org/collegiateacademies.