Project “Home for the Holidays” returns for the 5th year

As the fall semester concluded, Cardinals across campus flocked home for the holidays, but for 10 Lamar University students, the winter break yielded more than just hearty meals and laughs with family and friends.

For the 5th year, the Lamar University Office of Admissions, Reaud Honors College and Texas Academy have partnered together for a special holiday project called “Home for the Holidays,” an initiative that seeks to bring together current LU students with high schools in both regional and local areas in Southeast Texas during the academic holiday break.
The program first got its start in 2018 with a mission to attract students to LU through an “organic approach” and allow prospective students to interact with Lamar University offices in a non-traditional way. Now, each year when the fall semester ends, Lamar University students trek back to their respective high schools to connect with students, share personal stories and their experiences at Lamar University, and discover new ways to stay involved with their alma mater. home-for-the-holidays

Deidra Mayer, who serves as executive director of Admissions and Aid at the university, said the program provides an opportunity to showcase some of LU’s finest students inside a classroom setting.
“This year, we have 10 Lamar University students representing nine high schools who are involved in this project. The Office of Admissions provides a working session with current students to discuss an overview of the project and recruitment basics” Mayer said. “Each student is then provided marketing materials –– information cards, Cardinal Viewbooks, a gift for the school contact and more –– to bring with them during their visit.”

“Students in the Reaud Honors College, Texas Academy and scholarship students continue to show interest in this program each year and we've had some students participate more than once,” she said. “The other great piece to this is getting the support from the schools and teachers who want to help expose their students to college life and encourage them to stay connected. We absolutely plan to keep this program running.”

Since its establishment, Mayer said the “Home for the Holidays” program has served as a prominent recruitment tool for the Office of Admissions and Recruitment citing that the department has continuously seen an influx of admitted students, especially from regional schools who have participated in the program.

“We try to be our authentic selves when we do ‘Home for the Holidays,’ so we encourage our students to be authentic with their former classmates and talk about what college life is really like and what they can expect when they attend Lamar University,” she said. “Prospective students, in turn, feel more confident with their decision and that's the best we could hope for.
Waverlee Cooper, a junior biology pre-dental major and Reaud Honors College student, was among the 10 LU students in the program and said she considers this as her way of giving back to her alma mater.

“I think it's important for students to learn what they can at a young age to help them prepare for college. This was my first year participating in the program and I was able to sort of be a mentor, answer questions about pre-med and shed light on questions they had about certain programs,” Cooper said. “I think, now, they are better prepared for college, and they know what to expect. It was a huge honor to be able to participate in the program this year.”

The Bridge City, Texas, native said her trek back to her former high school was not only beneficial for future Cardinals, but it honed in on the nostalgia of her time as a high school students.

“It brought back a lot of memories walking into my former high school and seeing how much has changed since I've been there. It was great catching up with all my teachers that I was really close to and seeing new faces,” she said. “The students are actually very interested in hearing more about LU and my time as a student. You hear about a lot of graduates going to LU, but you don't really get all that insight about the opportunities, what they're involved in and what they like about their programs that they're involved in. This was a great way to do that.

This was Cooper’s first time participating in the “Home for the Holidays” initiative, but she said it won’t be her last.

“I will continue to do participate in this program for the remainder of my college years because I think it's a great way to make new connections to students,” she said. “It’s also a good way to educate the younger students at my high school about Lamar University and college life as a whole.”

As for the future of the program itself, Mayer said the trio of departments plan to continue their holiday tradition for years to come.

“We’ve seen growth with this program, even with the difficulties of the pandemic, and we fully intend to continue this program moving forward,” she said. “We're always looking for new ways to make it better, which is why we recently added Texas Academy students to the mix.”

For Cardinals, and future Cards-to-be, the “Home for the Holidays” program is the gift that keeps on giving. Mayer added that yearly, details for the program are finalize in early fall, so prospective students and regional high schools should keep an eye out for new opportunities then.