UTRGV JumpStart students score high on latest Texas college readiness tests

(From left) Dr. Jonikka Charlton, UTRGV’s assistant vice president for Student Academic Success, mathematics lecturer Zaena Zamora, and Learning Center JumpStart tutor Justin Gonzalez, help high school students prepare for college through the UTRGV JumpStart program, a five-week summer curriculum meant to help students overcome scholastic challenges. (UTRGV Photo by Paul Chouy)

By Gail Fagan

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – OCT. 13, 2016 – Administrators at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley are jumping for joy over the latest test results by students enrolled in its JumpStart Program.

JumpStart is designed to increase the chances for success of first-year college students who are not yet considered college-ready.

JumpStart was initiated in summer 2015 with a five-week Summer Session II academic program, which is a requirement for first-year UTRGV students who are not exempt from college readiness testing and who have failed a college readiness test – the TSI (Texas State Initiative) Assessment in reading, writing and/or math.

“We wanted our first-year students who were not yet college ready to get a jumpstart on their college career and start the fall semester on track with their peers,” said Dr. Jonikka Charlton, associate vice president of Student Academic Success, who oversees the program. “I’m floored with this year’s results – in a good way.”

The enrollment and results of the program’s second cohort (Summer 2016) were:

  • Reading and Writing – 184 students – 94 percent pass rate.
  • Math (overall) – 279 students – 90.7 percent pass rate.
  • Math (pre-stats) – 39 students – 97 percent pass rate.
  • Math (pre-algebra) – 240 students – 89.5 percent pass rate.

The five-week academic program allows students to focus intensively on reading, writing and/or math during the UTRGV Summer II session before they enter their first fall semester. The session includes several key supports that help students succeed, including designated peer mentors and embedded tutors in their classrooms.

Students who do not pass the JumpStart classes must enroll in the fall semester in non-credit bearing, co-requisite developmental education, which will enable them to be college ready, once passed.

Charlton said she is proud of the students, faculty and peer tutors and mentors involved, and of the commitment made by the university to these students.

“We believe in these students,” she said. “They’re smart and they belong at UTRGV. All they need to do well is a little extra support, and this program allows us to give that to them. We use our best teachers, and we have peer tutors and mentors right there with them in the classroom so they can ask questions, try things, and get feedback in real time.”


Entering UTRGV freshman Carolina Velez from Mission said she was able to pass the pre-algebra TSI course with an A, thanks to the help she got in the JumpStart Program. 

“Math was always difficult for me,” Velez said. “In school, I always felt like I was bothering my teachers because I was always asking for help.”

Velez said her JumpStart teacher, UTRGV mathematics lecturer Dr. Zaena Zamora, took the time to explain and made it simpler for her, in words she could understand.

“They gave us individual attention,” said Velez, who also got assistance from a JumpStart tutor, and resources like UTRGV’s Learning Center.

At first, she was unhappy with having to take a summer class, she said, but has come to believe it was the best thing she ever did.

“I met a lot of new people. It made me more confident, and have a little bit better feeling that college wouldn’t be too difficult,” said Velez, a pre-med biology major. “Here at UTRGV, I feel like they believe in me – which makes me believe more in myself.” 


JumpStart mentor Diana Hinojosa, a senior majoring in communications sciences and disorders, with a concentration in speech therapy, mentored 16 of the program’s students this summer, meeting with each one of them once a week.

Hinojosa, who herself benefitted from a mentoring program when she entered then UT Pan American, said she gave students advice on resources on and off campus, time management and how to approach their professors with questions.

In the JumpStart Program, she said, students have a chance to grow not only academically, but also personally.

“The transition from high school to college is not an easy transition,” Hinojosa said. “It is good to have someone there to guide you and help you stand on your own two feet.”


Senior Writer / 956-665-7995

UTRGV Director of News and Internal Communications / 956-665-2742