HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - Mae Jemison High School's band director made band members do a bit of homework over the summer. He had the students make a list of five colleges that they were interested in attending. Then, once school was back in session he required that every senior member spent time applying to schools.
That bit of extra work paid off. All 15 senior members of Jemison High Schools Sounds of the Mighty South Band were offered college scholarships this year.
Jemison High is on the list of Alabama failing schools. It is also a Title-1 school, meaning there is a large percentage of students from low-income families that attend. But as student and band member Hector Cardozo says, "Don't underestimate Jemison."
Band Director Reginald Pearson credits the students saying, "It's really the students. The students have put in all the work. They've put in countless hours here at school and at home."
In total the students have received more than $630,000 in scholarship offers with certain students reviving offers from multiple schools.
Pearson says, "Once they have that band piece and that academic piece, they can almost get a full ride to go to college."
For some students, had it not been for the scholarships, college would not have been an option. Cardozo says that he knew band would be his way toward higher education. "All the stories of band being able to pay for college, I knew I had to be serious about it. I knew this was my one ticket there," He said.
Cardozo is a first-generation college student he says it is "a great honor."
Cardozo wants to major in aerospace engineering and says he hopes to be an inspiration to other young Hispanics who may doubt themselves. Cardozo says he wants younger students to know "don't have to be in the normal, I can be something better."
For these students being in a member of the band means the sound of success.