After 12 hours of travel and three layovers, Mauricio Luna steps off his flight from León, Guanajuato to Syracuse, New York. As he boards an Uber for his dorm, a flurry of eager and nervous anticipation flutters in his stomach. Far from the colorful architecture of his warm hometown in Mexico, Mauricio is unsure what to expect from his new home at a U.S. college campus.
Since his arrival at Syracuse University, Mauricio has come a long way. Now a junior majoring in policy studies at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs with a minor in history, Mauricio is thriving as an involved member of the campus community.
“Coming here, I saw educators who genuinely care about students’ wellbeing and growth,” Mauricio said, comparing the stark differences to what he saw in many for-profit high schools in other places.
Just about 13,000 students from Mexico study at U.S. colleges each year, only a handful of which are from León. With few mentorship opportunities on U.S. college applications available in León, high school seniors have limited help with applications, making the idea of attending an American university a distant thought for most. Students know next to nothing about the foreign application process, don’t have guidance to prepare for standardized tests, and have trouble navigating the cultural differences and new lingo like “Advanced Placement” or “SAT Scores.”
Despite being a bustling business district — the shoe capital of the world— León currently has no college application preparation companies, like Mexico City does. At the same time, León’s challenged school system leaves creative, motivated students with minimal options for pursuing a robust higher education.
This is where Pathway Prep comes in.
Last summer, Mauricio connected with a student from León who expressed that she wanted to go to an American university. Unfortunately, receiving tutoring internationally seemed expensive, and most companies’ tutors seemed older and far removed from when they went through the application process themselves. Nevertheless, the hopeful high school senior needed help with the SAT and Common Application, and Mauricio was a student who recently underwent the same experience. Mauricio got to work, tutoring the girl in SAT questions, coaching her on her personal statement, and guiding her through filling out the final application.
“Her diagnostic SAT test score was very low — not because she didn’t have the capability to reach a high score, but because she had never seen an SAT before. After 2 months of working together, she took another test and saw a score increase of 430 points. Seeing the score increase made the girl’s confidence about going to college skyrocket,” Mauricio recalled. He hopes to inspire this same feeling in other students from his community.
Since then, Mauricio had been approached by more high schoolers, so he decided to develop a tutoring and college consulting company that will assist León students with SAT preparation and U.S. university applications. Pathway Prep would be a more affordable solution for students in León, offering both 1:1 coaching and less expensive group tutoring sessions, which most other companies lack.
“Most people only know the name Harvard,” Mauricio lamented. “I want to introduce students to other amazing schools they can apply to because they don’t know what’s accredited and reputable and what’s not.”
Besides introducing students to the limitless possibilities of universities they can apply to, Pathway Prep will also acclimate students to the lengthy and confusing U.S. college application process. From defining terms in the application to consulting students on their persona statement essays, Pathway Prep will equip students from León — and eventually, all of Guanajuato — to submit strong applications that highlight their potential for success.
Mauricio plans to build a pipeline for students to attend American universities by partnering directly with high schools in León. To do so, he is contacting principals, who welcome Mauricio to share his experiences at the schools and can connect interested students with Pathway Prep.
Mauricio reflects on the importance of having a support system, both in his education and in building his startup. He has been receiving mentorship from professors, SU’s Blackstone LaunchPad, and advisors back home, who have encouraged him to take his idea seriously and received a better understanding of how to structure the business. He has already created a business model, competed in the recent Blackstone LaunchPad Impact Prize competition, received valuable feedback, and plans to continue working on his venture with help from the Syracuse University innovation ecosystem.
“Don’t be afraid to reach out to people for help,” Mauricio recommended to other budding entrepreneurs nervous about starting their idea.
Mauricio finds a lot of value in leveraging collaboration to grow and improve. In building a team, he seeks equally motivated individuals with complementary skillsets that can fill in his own gaps of knowledge and provide innovative ideas of their own. Recently, he recruited another student, Sasha Temerte, as a business partner, and he hopes to continue expanding his team.
Pathway Prep is currently hiring paid English and math tutors to develop a comprehensive SAT preparation curriculum and be able to offer services to more students. If you adept at tutoring English or math for the SAT, please contact Mauricio at email@example.com.
Story by Sasha Temerte ’23, LaunchPad Global Fellow; photo supplied