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Branching Out into Homeland Security

Tré Branch, who just completed his junior year at UAlbany, views the opportunity to go to college as "a blessing in itself." Branch has secured a summer internship with the National Center for Border Security & Immigration in El Paso, TX. (Photo by Mark Schmidt)

ALBANY, N.Y. (May 21, 2014) -- A University at Albany Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) undergraduate is one of a handful of students across the nation to secure a summer internship with the National Center for Border Security & Immigration at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP). Tré Branch of Monticello, N.Y., has been selected to join one of two internships offered by the 2014 Homeland Security Summer Scholars Academy. The ten-week program was established by the Center, a Department of Homeland Security Center of Excellence located at UTEP.

Branch, who entered UAlbany with 16 college credits and will be a senior this fall, is a sociology major who is considering a career in criminal justice. During his internship, he plans to examine the impact of living in a border community on the mental health of Hispanics.

The project will look at survey data on mental health indicators of Hispanics and immigrants living in El Paso, TX, and seeks to answer the question: Is the border region, with its hard environment and its relative poverty, more likely to increase the likelihood of depression and anxiety? Is the proximity to Mexico a source of emotional support and resilience for immigrants and Hispanics or a source of stress and anxiety?

“This is a really good test to see if I want to work in law enforcement,” said Branch, who is also a Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program (CSTEP) student. CSTEP prepares historically underrepresented and/or economically disadvantaged college students to acquire the skills necessary to pursue graduate degrees that lead to professional careers in the scientific, technical, health-related or other licensed professions.

He credits CSTEP and EOP with motivating him academically. “Being able to go to college is a blessing in itself,” he said, adding he wants to do well to make his mother, L.A. Branch, proud. Branch said his mother has not had it easy financially, adding he hopes to be able to provide for her one day.

Admittedly, Branch was rejected by the EOP program at first due to low SAT scores. “I took the SATs again and got my scores up,” he said. He succeeded in getting the last vacant slot in the EOP class that year.

There are few choices for him back home. “I could be here or on the street. It’s tough. There is nothing for me at home.”

He is already considering grad school, perhaps a master’s in criminal justice at the University at Albany, whose graduate program in criminal justice “is ranked #2 in the country.”

Branch wants people to know that EOP students like him work just as hard and are just as smart as other students who enter through regular admissions. “Often, we just have harder lives and more challenging situations. Every semester I work really hard.” His grades show the results: Currently, he has a 3.71 GPA.

He credits his mentor, Patrick Romain, and his EOP counselor, Tyshena Hunter, with providing academic support. In addition, his best friend from home, Shaylene Acevedo, attends UAlbany. “I have the two brightest and best support systems in the form of my mother and best friend,” he said. “They both keep me inspired, focused, and determined to improve my future in positive ways. I couldn’t imagine getting this far without them.”    

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