Student organization prepares teenagers for higher education

The new ASU student organization Sun Devils Rising focuses on pairing University students with juniors and seniors in the Tempe Union High School District.

This mentorship program, started by economics freshman Robert Choueiri, guides high school students through the college application process with résumé building, structuring extracurricular activities and giving advice on college entry exams and essays.

Choueiri said while guidance counselors are a vital part in a student’s transition from high school to a university, having an actual college student’s outlook is also important.

Choueiri grew up living in Lebanon and moved to the U.S. in the seventh grade. He knew very little English and was forced to rely heavily help from students around him.

The experience drove him to want to give back by designing a program that would help others.

“It’s about getting people who are driven to help students,” Choueiri said. “It’s about finding a group of people who are willing to build something bigger than themselves.”

Choueiri’s twin brother, Alexi, a biochemistry and economics freshman, said he and Robert were inspired after helping one of their high school peers their senior year.

“I had asked him a casual question about his future plans, and he seemed lost,” Alexi said. “I was slightly concerned to see a senior still unsure about his future, and sadly this is common.”

The Choueiri brothers walked him through the ASU application process. They showed him certain requirements needed to gain financial assistance, suggested he retake the SAT and improve his GPA to increase his chances of receiving funds.

Later, he received his acceptance to ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering with sufficient financial aid.

“I felt that I had completely changed his life,” Alexi said. “I realized that something as simple as a conversation can have a huge impact on an individual.”

Soon after, Robert began talking with guidance departments in the Tempe Union High School District.

TUHSD Superintendent Kenneth Baca said Sun Devils Rising complements his district’s vision for success in college, career and life.

“As with any new program, it will take time for the number of student participants to grow,” Baca said. “In time, I believe many of our young adults will benefit.”

The club first gained recognition on campus last fall, and now has between 15 and 20 members.

Now that the club has made its necessary connections with the Tempe Union high schools, members have started presenting at different schools and have more presentations planned.

“We try to keep the ‘how to get there’ in the presentations and then focus on their personal questions on specific steps outside of class,” Robert said.

The presentations provide information on the club, the opportunities high school students have though Sun Devils Rising and a tutorial on how to navigate ASU's websites.

“It’s all about giving them the resources to find those opportunities, something I wish I had when I was going through the admissions process,” Robert said.

Another goal of the club is to be able to personalize the mentorship experience as much as possible, Alexi said.

"Since I am a pre-med student, I will address those students who are interested in the sciences and in careers involving medicine and research,” Alexi said. “We have other positions in charge of future careers, which will ensure that students receive quality advice tailored toward their personal interests.”

Robert said as an organization they strive to be as diverse as possible.

The group has formulated their presentations, elected officers and received approval from the Tempe Union High School District, but they still have more work to do, Robert said.

He said the club wants to expand to all four campuses and continue to make connections with other districts.

The organization also intends to launch a website accessible by students and schools and begin fundraising as soon as possible.

Alexi said the organization wants to influence students who will in turn influence others, causing a cascade of educational outreach.

“The best way to improve this club is through experience,” Robert said. “Now that it’s structured, we want to sail forward.”

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