Project TEACH, an incentive scholarship program at Hope College geared toward helping minority students become teachers, has chosen an eighth group of participating high school students.

Tiffany Khousakoun, Esperanza Rodriguez and Victoria Vicencio, all of the Holland area, have joined the program beginning with the new 2003-04 school year. They will be recognized during a reception at the college's Maas Center auditorium on Thursday, Sept. 11, at 7 p.m.

The public is invited. Admission is free.

"Each chosen student brings enthusiasm, commitment and a shared vision of a new future for themselves and for the students they will influence in the future," said Barbara Albers, director of Project TEACH. "I look forward to the day when they graduate from Hope and fulfill their dream of becoming effective, dedicated teachers who are significant, positive role models for all students."

Project TEACH (Teachers Entering a Career Through Hope) provides mentoring and instructional support for the high schoolers, who begin as sophomores or juniors. The program also provides scholarship aid for the participants as Hope students. The program's goal is to help local students while increasing the number of minorities who become teachers locally.

The program enrolled its first high school students in the fall of 1996. A total of 20 are now participating, including several who are students at Hope.

"I am also very pleased to see 10 of our Project TEACH students on the Hope campus now," Albers said. "Two freshmen have joined this year's freshman class, and we will have our second class of Hope graduates this spring. Three more Project TEACH students will become Hope alumni and join the teaching profession."

"Meyly Sew and Sonia Soto have each graduated from Hope and become our first Project TEACH alumni," Albers continued. "Each has earned her teaching certificate and is starting her professional teaching journey."

Khousakoun is a sophomore at Holland High School, and is the daughter of Mon and Melissa Khousakoun of Holland. She is interested in teaching at the middle school level, possibly seventh or eighth grade.

Rodriguez is a sophomore at Holland High School, and is the daughter of Gualberto and Anita Rodriguez of Holland. She is interested in teaching at the upper elementary or lower middle school level.

Vicencio is a junior at West Ottawa High School, and is the daughter of John and Sonya Vicencio of Holland. She is interested in teaching at the elementary level.

All three of the students appreciate the positive difference that teachers have made to them and hope to play a similar role for others.

"I really like helping people," Khousakoun said. She recalled teachers who took a personal interest in her as an upper-elementary student. "No matter what I was going through, I could always talk to them and they always seemed to understand."

Rodriguez also has positive memories of teachers going back to her elementary years, which is why the career has been a long-time interest. "Ever since I was young I've wanted to be a teacher," she said.

Vicencio agreed. "I've had a lot of good teachers throughout my education," she said. "I've seen what impact they've had on my life, and I want to have that same impact on another child's life."

In addition to this year's new students, the program's participants are: Kristine Brandt, a sophomore at Hope; Justine Campos, a freshman at Hope; Tiffani Delaney, a senior at Holland High School; Kristina Kyles, a senior at Hope; Kristina Martinez, a senior at Hope; Monica Martinez, a junior at West Ottawa High School; Yadira Martinez, a freshman at Hope; Tung Nguyen, a senior at West Ottawa High School; Jessica Nykamp-Schwander, a senior at West Ottawa High School; Dinah Rios, a junior at Hope; Adam Rodriguez, a junior at Hope; Diego Romero, a junior at Holland High School; Pannha Sann, a junior at Hope; Pong Somprasong, a senior at Holland High School; Wanda Turner, a junior at Holland High School; Dina Vathanaphone, a senior at Hope; and Antoine Williams, a sophomore at Hope.