Noe Salinas-Rincon has been planning for this for a long time. “I haven’t had a summer since eighth grade,” he says, “because I’ve always loaded as many classes as possible to my degree plan in order to finish quicker.” His single-mindedness comes from the career goal he’s been working toward since seeing an inspiring career day presentation in the fifth grade: joining the U.S. Border Patrol.
It’s a goal he’s closer than ever to achieving, thanks to his experiences at The University of Texas at Austin. Salinas-Rincon, a 19-year-old sociology major from Hidalgo, is graduating early this fall. He is one of approximately 4,700 Longhorns supported by UT for Me – Powered by Dell Scholars, a partnership between UT and the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation that provides Pell grant-eligible students with personalized, multifaceted support to help them stay on track toward their degrees.
As a UT for Me student, Salinas-Rincon received a laptop that is his to keep, annual textbook credits at the University Co-op, and exclusive access to a team of staff members dedicated to connecting him with university resources and programs to fit his individual needs. He was also the recipient of a Dell Scholars at UT Austin financial award of up to $20,000.
Salinas-Rincon doesn’t hesitate when asked if this support has been key to starting his career early. “I come from a single mom, so she doesn’t make enough, and then I have a brother that’s three years older than me,” he explains. “We’re both in college around the same time, so it’s not easy for my mom. As far as how much UT for Me and Dell Scholars helped me, I don’t think I would be here right now if it wasn’t for that. I don’t think we’d be able to afford being here if it wasn’t for that. I owe everything to this scholarship, finishing my degree here at UT. 100%.”
One of UT For Me’s objectives is to increase the six-year graduation rate of Pell grant-eligible students to 90% — and Salinas-Rincon, as the program’s first graduate, is helping to make that dream a reality.
“Noe is blazing a trail and showing us all what’s possible with determination, hard work and the right support system,” says Sara Levy, program manager for college preparation and completion at the Dell Foundation.
“We are so thrilled to have been a part of Noe’s journey here at UT,” says KJ Harris, the director of UT for Me. “It has been an honor to have him as a part of the first cohort of UT for Me students, and we know he has great things ahead of him as he takes on his life’s next adventure.”
Salinas-Rincon’s time on campus was cut short by the pandemic, but there are still many memories he’s taking with him as he heads to New Mexico in March to attend the Border Patrol Academy. “I haven’t had one bad professor,” he says. “They’ve all been very helpful, very kind. I think the professors are what make the experience at UT what it is.”
He believes the sense of community and collaboration he found on the Forty Acres will help him professionally, too. “Here at UT, every time I was in a group, we always stuck together as a team to finish a project — it was never someone carrying the whole weight of the team. It was always everybody putting in some work. So teamwork, that’s something that I’m going to carry with me.”