UHV’s G-Force saves the day for area students

Elizabeth Martinez

As a member of the G-Force, Liz Martinez doesn’t fight crime, giant robots or alien invaders from the Go Centers.

Instead, she unites with the other four members of the team to fight for knowledge, education and a brighter future for area high school and community college students.

The G-Force is a peer mentoring program at the University of Houston-Victoria that helps encourage other students to further their education, said Denee Thomas, manager of Letting Education Achieve Dreams, or LEAD, which oversees the program.

“G-Force members help students research, apply to and secure financial aid for college at Go Centers located at area high schools,” Thomas said.

G-Force members bring high school students from class to the Go Center to research career options and colleges, and apply for admissions and financial aid. Community college students are brought to the Go Center to help them find ways to continue their education and earn a bachelor’s degree.

The G-Force headquarters aren’t secret, so no blindfolds are involved.

They centers can be found at Calhoun and Hope high schools in Calhoun County, and Memorial and Profit high schools in Victoria. Other centers are based at area community colleges.

Martinez, a UHV senior studying to be a high school English teacher, graduated from Calhoun High School in 2004, so many of the students she helps are from families she knows well.

“I want to help kids in any way that I can, and I love that it is high school kids we’re reaching,” she said.

Many students don’t think they can go to college or pay for it. They think that college is a scary place not open to them.

“It’s an awesome feeling to help them get through that because a lot of them don’t have anyone else,” Martinez said.

One of the students she’s helped is Sterling Jones, a senior at Calhoun High School and star athlete.

“She’s given me help with financial aid and all that stuff because I didn’t know anything about it,” Jones said. Martinez walked him through the process of filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid and other documents. She also mentored him along the way.

Without her help, Jones said he wouldn’t have been able to line up his financial aid. And without financial aid, Jones wouldn’t be able to go to college.

He now plans to study kinesiology and become either a football player or coach.   Many of the students G-Force members work with come from families that have no history of a college education. School counselors like Jackie Meyer, senior counselor at Calhoun High School, often refer students with a certain spark to the program.

“We look for kids with vision and determination,” Meyer said. “They know there is something better out there, but they aren’t quite sure how to get to it. The G-Force shows them the way.”

G-Force duties are part of student work study for the five members. But it is more than just a way to earn money.

“It feels great to help them,” Martinez said. “I love my job.”

The program is funded by a grant from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

The University of Houston-Victoria, located in the heart of the Coastal Bend region since 1973 in Victoria, Texas, offers courses leading to more than 80 academic programs in the schools of Arts & Sciences; Business Administration; and Education, Health Professions & Human Development. UHV provides face-to-face classes at its Victoria campus, as well as an instructional site in Katy, Texas, and online classes that students can take from anywhere. UHV supports the American Association of State Colleges and Universities Opportunities for All initiative to increase awareness about state colleges and universities and the important role they have in providing a high-quality and accessible education to an increasingly diverse student population, as well as contributing to regional and state economic development.

Thomas Doyle 361-570-4342