If you ask an area resident what Quest is, they might not be able to give you a good answer. The Humble ISD high school has been around for 22 years, growing through various incarnations over that period in various locations with different reputations. Today, Quest is an early college high school, which, through a partnership with Lone Star College, allows high school students to receive an associate's degree at the same time they receive their high school diploma at no cost to the student.
Quest is outperforming the competition and recently received campus distinction in all seven areas rated by the Texas Education Agency (TEA). Quest was the only school in Humble ISD to achieve this remarkable accomplishment.
“Earning one or more campus distinctions is noteworthy and should be a source of pride in a community,” said Commissioner of Education Mike Morath. “Earning all possible distinctions is a significant accomplishment and should signal to parents that there is extraordinary work taking place on that campus.”
Some of the confusion regarding the type of school Quest is stems from the school’s original location. Quest was initially located on the same campus as the Humble ISD Community Learning Center (CLC), which is a school designed for students who have disciplinary issues.
Quest Principal Ginger Noyes said, “Quest was formed as a result of the superintendent at the time saying we need a place for kids who don’t fit well in one of the huge high schools, who need a smaller learning environment. So they created Quest to increase opportunities and create better programming for those kids. Over the years, because the CLC was there, along with 14 other programs, there was confusion about what Quest was, but we were never part of the discipline program.”
In 2009 Quest moved to Summer Creek High School and then relocated to the West Lake Houston campus of Lone Star College in 2012, before settling in this year in a separate wing at Humble High School.
The Quest partnership with Lone Star College began only seven years ago. Lone Star College waives all tuition and fees for Quest students, allowing a two-year degree to be earned free of charge. Humble ISD purchases the textbooks Quest students need and also provides bus transportation for Quest students.
Any Humble ISD student who applies and is accepted may attend Quest. Noyes said about 200 students apply each year and 125 are accepted for each freshman class. Currently, Quest has 387 students in grades 9-12. All students must begin the Quest program in 9th grade. To apply, students are required to submit an application to Quest in January of 8th grade. Noyes said the Quest staff reviews each application, transcripts and letters of recommendation and also conducts interviews with potential students and their parents. Applications are scored pursuant to a rubric and preferential scoring is given to students who are socio-economically disadvantaged, who are the first in their family to go to college, or who are at risk.
“The main thing we look for in a student is a willingness to be in the program. We actually interview students separately from their parents during the application process to make sure the student is committed and wants to be here. We are very careful to select students who we think will prosper in the program, who have the stamina and ability to work hard in the program. All of the classes are pre-AP or dual credit,” said Noyes.
The majority of Quest graduates go on to four-year colleges after graduation. Kim Mouser, Quest curriculum facilitator/academic lead teacher, said college credits earned at Quest typically transfer to Texas state colleges like UT, A&M and Texas State. Noyes added that students in the Quest Class of 2016 received $3 million in scholarships.
Beyond offering the opportunity to obtain a two-year degree, Quest also provides valuable student development through mandatory service learning every Friday morning. Hundreds of Quest students fan out into the community, providing service to 40 partners, including Humble ISD elementary and middle schools, senior citizen homes, animal hospitals and Memorial Hermann. Noyes said thousands of hours of service are provided to the community by Quest students every year and the total value of the service is estimated at $660,000 annually.
“Service learning teaches kids about the greater world around them, but also teaches them soft skills, like how to work with a manager or boss. We also have service learning leaders where students go out and mentor and give feedback to other students,” said Mouser. Students graduate with hundreds of hours of service, which helps with their development and also with college applications.
The coursework at Quest is rigorous, and Quest has a built-in support network for students in the form of 20 “families” that meet every morning. Each student is assigned to a family they will be with for all four years of high school and each family is led by a Quest facilitator.
Mouser said, “Our school is built on the premise of social, emotional learning, so we can’t just take a 14-year-old and put them in rigorous classes because emotionally, they are still 14. We choose them to come here and we know they are capable of producing the work, and the family structure is like the cushion - the thing that takes care of everything else, besides academics, that enables them to excel. So, for example, their family facilitator becomes like their parent on campus and they will be the first to reach out to parents if there is any kind of struggle. The older students mentor the younger students and there is real nurturing in the families. Students who have graduated come back to visit their families - the connection is that strong.”
In addition to receiving recognition from TEA this year, Quest was also recently included in the “National Rankings for Best High Schools” list published by the U.S. News and World Report magazine. Kingwood High School and Infinity Early College High school in New Caney ISD also made the U.S. News and World Report list.
For more information on Quest, visit humbleisd.net.