In 2012, when Natalie Gomez was in the 8th grade at Abell Junior High in Midland,
she decided to apply for the Early College High School at Midland College (ECHS@MC)
“When the counselors told us about ECHS@MC, I was intrigued,” Gomez explained. “I
wanted to be challenged and wanted to get college credit. My mother just took a few
classes in college, but it was my grandfather who inspired me to continue my education.
“My first day in the program, it was apparent that I had made the right decision.
I liked the independence that we were given, and how the teachers assumed we could
do things on our own.”
Little did Gomez know that 8 years later, she would actually be teaching at ECHS@MC.
Today, she teaches Pre-AP World Geography and AP Human Geography to 9th graders in
When Gomez graduated from ECHS@MC with her high school diploma in spring 2016, she
also graduated from Midland College with an associate degree. The program offers
an accelerated curriculum to high school students allowing them to also take college
courses. Thanks to the generosity of the Midland community, Midland College provides
scholarships to all ECHS@MC students enrolled in college courses. The students do
not pay any college tuition, and the majority of students (93 percent) are first-generation-to-college,
which means that they are the first in their family to attend college.
Fortunately for Natalie Gomez her grandfather had a bachelor’s degree.
“My grandparents have been very influential in my life,” Gomez said. “I was raised
by my mother, but I was also very close with my grandparents. They even saved some
money, which they gave me when I transferred to UTPB [University of Texas Permian
Basin] after completing my associate degree.”
In fall 2016, Gomez did, indeed, transfer to UTPB, and in summer 2018 she graduated
with a bachelor’s degree in Child and Family Studies and a minor in History. She
also received a secondary teaching certificate through Texas Teachers of Tomorrow
alternative certification program. While working on her bachelor’s degree, Gomez married
her husband Juan in August 2017 and had a baby. She did all this while maintaining
a 3.48 GPA!
Juan is also a graduate of ECHS@MC, having graduated in 2015, a year ahead of Natalie.
Both Natalie and Juan are currently working toward a master’s degree in Public Administration
at UTPB. Their son Rylan is now 5.
“Many ECHS@MC students transfer to schools outside of the Midland/Odessa area,” Natalie
said. “However, I decided to stay local because of the affordability. In addition
to the money I was given by my grandparents, I was also awarded a Freshman Scholarship
and various other scholarships from UTPB. I can honestly say that the combination
of Midland College and UTPB has given me a great education that has led to a rewarding
“We love living in Midland. Family is important to me. My grandfather passed away
a few years ago, and now we live with my grandmother. She helps take care of Rylan,
and we love having her as part of our family. One of our favorite things to do is
play golf—all of us, even Rylan and my grandmother!”
Since she is an ECHS@MC graduate, Gomez said that she feels like she has a unique
perspective on the students she teaches.
“ECHS@MC students have to assume a lot of responsibility,” Gomez stated. “When I
first get students right out of the 8th grade, they aren’t ready for the independence
needed to succeed in this environment. They have to grow up pretty quickly here.
Fortunately, our smaller size allows individual students’ needs to be met. The environment
pushes them to mature, and we help them to do that. They are still teenagers, and
we encourage them to get involved in activities and have fun, but we also want them
to accept responsibility for getting their work done, studying for tests, writing
papers, etc. We mentor, but we don’t hold hands.
“One thing I did when I first started ECHS@MC was to invest in a planner, and I tell
all my students to do that same thing and then use it. It’s the only way to stay
on track and remember everything.
“ECHS@MC students are really not any different from other high school students, but
they have a desire that makes them want to apply to the program and then gives them
the drive to stay in the program. They want to do more, and they do. It’s a great
program, and I’m proud to be an alum and now a teacher.”
You can help provide Early College High School at Midland College scholarships for
students like Natalie during the Permian Basin Gives Day fundraising event.
Photo: Natalie & Juan Gomez with their son Rylan