‘Keys’ Event Opened College Doors for EMAC Student
Former Event Attendee Offers Ideas, Encouragement to Other Hopefuls

Joe Posada saw himself in each of the 1,111 Dallas ISD middle and high school students attending the recent Las Llaves del Exito (Keys to Success) college fair at UT Dallas.

Joe Posada

Joe Posada is attending UT Dallas after receiving help from Las Llaves del Exito.

He had once sat where they were, hopeful about obtaining a college education but doubtful that his dream would become reality.

The emotional rollercoaster led Posada, a first-generation college student and a sophomore majoring in emerging media and communication (EMAC), to speak as part of a Llaves panel of young Hispanics who’ve made their way to college. He and fellow panelists fielded questions ranging from financial concerns to the availability of tutoring to how to cope with being away from family. Other Llaves sessions addressed college entrance examinations and the importance of planning for college while still in middle school.

Mission: Matriculation

Posada didn’t always have the answers about college. His mother, who was educated in Mexico, has been involved in his learning since his elementary school days. His father, who works in construction, taught him to “work hard now, enjoy life later – or, enjoy life now, work hard later.”  But despite the encouragement at home, he didn’t have all the resources he would need.

By the time Posada was in middle school, he knew he wanted more than a high school diploma. But he had doubts.

“I wondered if I was smart enough to go to college,” he said.

Posada discovered a future career in Web design through his Algebra I teacher, who offered tutoring in the subject off-hours.

His affinity for both the technical coding and the creative side of Web-based communication led him to the UT Dallas EMAC program during a Scholar’s Day visit.

“I knew UT Dallas was where I wanted to go,” he said. “There was no other program like EMAC anywhere in Texas.”

Posada got involved in extracurricular activities during his last two years at Adamson High School (DISD) in South Oak Cliff, “late” by his own admission. He grew socially and rounded out college applications by re-energizing his youth LULAC chapter, and by joining Rotary Interact and National Honor Society. He also participated in Junior ROTC.

As his senior year wound down, Posada received enough scholarship support and financial aid to live on campus during his freshman year.

The transition was a rough one. Posada didn’t realize the amount of coursework required and the accompanying amount of study it would take to be successful in college. He also didn’t realize he’d be starting over socially.

“I needed a guide,” he said.

He’s found an informal study group, and he uses the GEMS Center for help with math and writing. He also gets help from faculty when needed, EMAC-style.

“I use social media, mostly tweets, to ask questions of my EMAC professors,” Posada said.

Doubts about college lingered. During an especially challenging time, he tweeted that perhaps “college was not for me” and that he might join the military rather than complete a degree. EMAC faculty member Dave Parry saw the tweet and called Posada in for an office appointment.

“After our talk, I felt like I had a chance because he made me see the bigger picture – college requires time and dedication in order to succeed,” said Posada. “Dr. Parry now calls me out in class, even when I sometimes want to hang back and not comment. Knowing I’ll be accountable for the material pushes me to study and come to class prepared.”

Looking Ahead to Graduation

His second year of college still holds challenges. Posada juggles a 15-hour class load, a job as a high school mentor in DISD for the University’s Office of Diversity and Community Engagement, and a weekend job with his family. Now a commuter student, he uses his hour-long train ride to study for classes.

“I’m not going to let a number tell me I can’t make it. I’ve made it so far. Now I’m looking forward to my next goal: graduation.”

Joe Posada

“I’m not going to let a number tell me I can’t make it,” he said, speaking of statistics that show low Hispanic college enrollment in Texas, particularly among Hispanic males. “I’ve made it so far. Now I’m looking forward to my next goal: graduation.”

He’s also paved the road to college for his sister, who is four years his junior. The Llaves attendee is focused on grades and earning as much dual credit as possible through El Centro College, part of the Dallas County Community College District.

“I wish I had known about dual credit when I was finishing my sophomore year in high school. I didn’t find out about that until I was a senior,” said Posada. “My sister is on the right path.”

Joe Posada offers inspiration to attendees of Las Llaves del Exito at UT Dallas.

Twice-Yearly Las Llaves EventsHelp Families Chart Path to College

Las Llaves del Exito (literally, Keys to Success) is a bi-annual event open to Dallas ISD middle school and high school students and their parents. Llaves attendees receive information about college preparation, admissions and financial aid. They also hear from Dallas education leaders about the importance of college and meet with recruiters from community colleges and universities across Texas.

Raul Hinojosa

Raul Hinojosa, director of community engagement, spearheads UT Dallas efforts to share the benefits of college with traditionally underserved communities.

“The University is committed to help improve college access among underrepresented populations in Texas by hosting programs like Llaves that prepare young people and families for higher education,” said Hinojosa. “By increasing the number of diverse students that enroll at UT Dallas, we can continue to be a place that promotes excellence and innovation.”

Event partners include the Dallas Independent School District, Dallas County Community College District, Dallas County Schools, Greater Dallas Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, LULAC National Educational Service Centers, Inc., UNT Dallas, Texas A&M University – Commerce and Education is Freedom.


Las Llaves was hosted by Office of Diversity and Community Engagement student workers, staff and event volunteers.

Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].