DiscoverU began in 2007 as a response to underachievement in a single Houston-area high school. Principal Steve Amstutz recognized that, despite tireless efforts to better prepare students academically and support them more rigorously through the college application process, there were still too many who lacked the informed aspirations or personal leadership skills necessary to navigate and complete college successfully.
Resolved to develop students’ “ownership” or sense of agency for their own educational and career success, Steve and fellow educator, Monica Piquet-Rodriguez, built and launched the first-ever "Fantastic Learning Opportunities" (FLO) program – a targeted, multi-tiered approach to providing students with the resources and support necessary to participate in college- and career- oriented preparatory programs outside of school. In the process, they also established a school-based non-profit to provide students financial assistance for participation in FLOs with tuition and travel costs.
By 2010, the success of the flagship FLO program propelled Steve and Monica to expand Fantastic Learning Opportunities to other schools and communities across Houston. At the same time, the original school-based non-profit organization transitioned to an independent, community-based non-profit that would engage multiple schools, ensuring that larger numbers of disadvantaged youth could gain access to high-quality, out-of-school learning opportunities, or FLOs.
The new non-profit organization adopted the brand, “DiscoverU.” Since 2010, DiscoverU has steadily expanded the reach of its FLO program to work with even more schools and communities. Its growth was strengthened by significant investments in an innovative technological platform that gives students direct access to DiscoverU’s information and tools. The DiscoverU online portal enhanced the personalized guidance and “high-touch” support offered by the staff and school-based mentors. This hybrid development allowed DiscoverU to widen its reach while also deepening its impact on students.
In 2018, DiscoverU executed a FLO contract with the Houston Independent School District (HISD), its first district-level engagement. DiscoverU was now positioned to establish FLO programs in ten of HISD’s most at-risk high schools. The following year, our services expanded to ten middle schools, and as of 2019, 74 schools across the Houston area form the DiscoverU network. As of 2021, DiscoverU serves over one hundred school communities.
Today, with almost 3,500 FLO alumni, DiscoverU is poised to play a leading role in equalizing access to high-quality, out-of- school learning opportunities for thousands more young people in Houston and potentially beyond – informing their aspirations and building their leadership skills to equip them for success in high school, college, career, and life.
“Although I was unsure of what I wanted to do as a future career until I reached college, going to programs like the Hospitality Industry Summer Camp and The Woods Project exposed me to a variety of different career paths that ultimately helped me figure out what career path I want to pursue. Moreso, these programs and the help of DiscoverU helped me discover my own capabilities and ability to control my future. The future can often be uncertain, but there is one thing I am confident of: I will always be able to find my way, thanks to DiscoverU.”