It wasn’t quite lunchtime at South Houston Intermediate on Tuesday morning but something was cooking in the cafeteria.
Twenty-two crock pots of chili were being sampled and judged as part of a faculty and staff cook off that highlighted the second day into College Week at the school.
Sponsored by Mi Tienda, Gulf-Tex Feed, Pasadena Livestock Show and Rodeo, and The Wheeless Companies, the first annual Collegiate Chili Cook-Off is one of the activities during a week-long promotion of higher education to the school’s students. It will reward four winners: first, second and third place, and a Grand Champion, with reward money going back into the classroom.
“We are celebrating College Week as part of promoting higher education and the importance of graduating high school,” said Jackie Krupa, South Houston Intermediate ELS peer facilitator.
The chili is courtesy of the school’s staff and faculty, bringing and cooking their culinary A game before a group of judges, which consist of faculty and PISD Superintendent Kirk Lewis.
Lewis brought his own crock pot of chili to be entered into the contest, positioned right below a Texas Tech banner, his college alma mater.
As much as Tuesday’s cook-off was meant to be fun, the message, highlighted by all the entrants’ college banner hanging overhead, was in stet with the week’s message: to make higher education a visible and accessible option to all the students.
“This is part of what we do to prepare students for beyond high school,” said South Houston Intermediate principal Laura Gomez.
Activities including student field trips to college campuses like Rice and Texas Tech, A&M for tours and football games occur throughout the year and including during the summer.
The school doesn’t reach out solely to AP students - it encourages all its students to see higher education as accessible regardless of financial background or academic record.
“These are not just AP students, but students we feel that we can support and they can be college-bound,” Gomez said.
With a diverse student body, district initiatives like the AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) program promote the idea that all students are capable of higher education if they know it exists for them.
“We want to expose them to those opportunities to open doors,” Gomez said.
That message is all the more important within a district where a high percentage of students are considered ‘at risk’, Gomez said.
“It’s important for them to know that although they may not be in AP, or maybe their parents don’t have the education, they have that ability to go to college and achieve so much more,” she said.