BRIGHT FUTURES — Memorial’s Gina Flores heading to Harvard’s summer program

Published 12:40 am Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Memorial High School’s Gina Flores has dreamed of going to Harvard since she was a child.

She now has the opportunity to go for a summer semester before even graduating high school.

Flores was accepted into the Harvard University Secondary Summer School, which runs from June 18 to Aug. 6.

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Bill Hollinger, director of Harvard Secondary School Program, said Flores was chosen from an exceptional applicant pool based on her strong academic record and thoughtful application.

According to the program website, attendees “experience what it’s like to be a college student for seven transformative weeks.”

Flores will be able to take two 4-credit courses from a selection of more than 200 college courses taught by world-class scholars and earning college credit.

When she received her acceptance letter, Flores cried.

“Since I was little all I knew was that I wanted to be at Harvard because it’s an Ivy League school,” she said from an office at Memorial High School’s Career And Technology Education Center. “It’s because it’s challenging that it motivated me to strive harder and try to be the top while I try to put the best effort.”

Flores, who is Hispanic, said her family did not have the same opportunity as her so they wanted what’s best for her.

“I try to do what I guess people could say is impossible because we’re from a low-income family, so even if I got there (Harvard), they’re like, ‘how are we going to pay for it,’” she said.

Her determination and desire to prove naysayers wrong kindled her desire to accomplish the goal.

Flores is a sophomore and is enrolled in the Health Sciences program at CATE. While the classes are basic with an introduction to ethics, next year will be more hands-on. By her senior year, she will take a test to become a certified nursing assistant.

Gina Flores prepares to move a mannequin in the health science classroom. (Mary Meaux/The News)

She’s also a dual credit student taking courses at Lamar State College Port Arthur, where she’s studying medical coding.

Once she graduates high school, she will have a diploma, a certificate in medical coding and be a Certified Nursing Aid, she said.

Flores’ work ethic captured the attention of educators and administrators around her.

Regina Cole is Flores’ teacher in the health science course.

“During the first week in class, when students introduced themselves, I knew Gina was different,” Cole said. “She presented a confidence and spoke with such assurance that I knew she is someone to keep my eye on in the future. Every day in class Gina gives her best, does her best, and leads by example. I truly was not surprised when she presented me with her acceptance letter from Harvard University.

“The research for the program, the application for admission and financial aid, and the fees for attending were all done by Gina, independently. When asked what is her motivation to look into such a program, her answer was, ‘Ms. Cole, I don’t have a choice but to succeed and I am going to do whatever I need to do to make sure I get into a good college after I graduate from Memorial High School. I know my future is in my hands.’ She is truly a diamond in the rough and I am very proud to be a part of her educational journey.”

Kathleen Fontenot, CATE counselor, called Flores a dedicated student, peer leader and well-rounded individual.

“She is very self-confidant, persistent, intuitive in her approach to her studies,” Fontenot said. “She sets short and long-term goals.”

Flores would love to be the first of her family to attend and graduate from a university.

She has decided on the two courses she will take while at Harvard — introduction to psychology and writing/literature. Her goal is to become a neurosurgeon.

For now her educators are hoping she can find the financial assistance needed to take part in the Harvard classes.

Cole said even though Flores was accepted, that doesn’t mean it’s a done deal.

“This is a very expensive program, and the financial aid she received does not cover half of the cost she will need to attend this program,” Cole said. “Gina has applied for scholarships for high school students but has not been awarded any at this time. If anyone would like to assist this well-deserving opportunity to Gina, I am sure she would really appreciate the support.”

According to information from Port Arthur Independent School District, Flores earned a $3,500 scholarship to attend the summer program but the scholarship only covers a part of her tuition and does not cover the costs of the courses, room and board, travel to and from Massachusetts.

Contact Flores family for more information on how to help at A GoFundMe has been established here.