GEAR UP Alumni Leadership Academy (GUALA)


PLEASE NOTE: We Are Not Accepting Applications to the GUALA Program for the Class of 2018. Information Below is for Archival Purposes Only. 

About the GEAR UP Alumni Leadership Academy (GUALA)

The GEAR UP Alumni Leadership Academy (GUALA) is an initiative launched by the National Council for Community and Education Partnerships with support from the national GEAR UP community and funding from The Kresge Foundation

Designed to strengthen the individual leadership and advocacy skills of GEAR UP alumni—deemed Alumni Leaders— GUALA is a dynamic, innovative resource for the national GEAR UP community.

About the GUALA Program
Each spring, NCCEP selects up to 30 Alumni Leaders—identified and recommended by GEAR UP professionals around the country—to participate in GUALA, a highly selective, 12-month program beginning in May.

GUALA uses training, webinars, skill-building, and interaction with local, state, and national decision-makers to develop future leaders with the skills, vision, and commitment to enrich the entire GEAR UP community.

After an intensive, week-long training (June 12-18, 2016) held in Washington, D.C., Alumni Leaders commit to contribute approximately 10 hours of community service each month that benefit local, state, and/or national GEAR UP.

Participation in GUALA requires GEAR UP to identify and provide a GUALA Coach to work with Alumni Leaders chosen from their program. While Alumni Leaders fulfill their monthly community service commitment, GUALA Coaches mentor Alumni Leaders throughout the program year and integrate them into GEAR UP activities, as appropriate.

With an emphasis on service learning, GUALA encourages Alumni Leaders and their GUALA Coach to co-create meaningful community service opportunities throughout the program year that:

  • inform policy makers,
  • inspire near peers, and
  • strengthen their GEAR UP community.

The Kresge Foundation currently funds all of GUALA’s program expenses. As GUALA matures, it is expected to evolve into a tuition-based program—the fees for which may be covered by GEAR UP Grants as professional development expenses.

GUALA’s Objectives

For Alumni Leaders:

  • Strengthen individual leadership, knowledge, and advocacy skills.
  • Build awareness of and commitment to community service and civic engagement.
  • Encourage active participation in GEAR UP activities, particularly those that inspire younger peers.

For GEAR UP Grantees:

  • Strengthen the GEAR UP community’s impact on local, state, and national education issues.
  • Deepen the pool of skilled GEAR UP Alumni who can provide support to GEAR UP activities like mentoring, workshops, public speaking, and District Days.

GUALA’s Professional Training
Alumni Leaders selected for GUALA kickoff the program year with a week-long, intensive training in Washington, D.C. (June 12-18, 2016). Hands-on and experiential in nature, the training incorporates skills-building, civic engagement, critical thinking, and self-reflection. Daily sessions focus on:

  • Peer Outreach – Understanding the power of peer influence and learning how to mobilize peers effectively to address local and national needs.
  • Social Media Activism – Understanding the social media tools available and learning how to use them strategically to advance advocacy efforts.
  • Public Speaking – Understanding the impact of using one’s personal experience as an advocacy tool and learning how to craft an effective, non-exploitive personal narrative tailored to specific audiences (lawmakers, parents, current students).
  • Issue Advocacy – Understanding the role of consumer advocates in a civil society and learning how to advocate by visiting elected officials, responding to/initiating calls to action, and participating in an issue briefing.

During the training, Alumni Leaders spend a full day on Capitol Hill dedicated to briefing education policy makers and staff about the importance and value of GEAR UP. In advance, Alumni Leaders learn how to:

  • draw from their own experience to share the challenges of preparing for, applying to, and affording college, and
  • articulate the federal return on investment for GEAR UP support (earning a livable wage, paying increased taxes, strengthened citizen engagement, and better public health).

Benefits for Selected Alumni Leaders

  • Mentoring – Ongoing support from a GUALA Coach provided by the nominating GEAR UP program
  • Advocacy & Leadership Training – A week-long learning experience filled with skills-building workshops and direct access to a wide variety of policy makers and influencers (June 12-18, 2016)
  • Capitol Hill Experience – Opportunities to use newly acquired public speaking and advocacy skills in meetings with lawmakers
  • Community Service – Opportunities to lead efforts (in partnership with GUALA Coach) and build community support for local, state, and national GEAR UP activities
  • Social Media Proficiency – Ability to access the power of social media to create platforms and strategies that advance local, state, and national GEAR UP efforts and visibility
  • Civic Engagement – Increased confidence to harness leadership potential thereby becoming empowered, engaged, community-centered citizens

Benefits for GEAR UP Community

  • Advocacy – GUALA trains Alumni Leaders as skilled advocates who strengthen the capacity of GEAR UP’s impact on local, state, and national education issues.
  • Community Service – GUALA promotes a cadre of young people dedicated to advancing education, inspiring their younger peers, and enriching the larger GEAR UP community.
  • Depth – GUALA inspires Alumni Leaders to create, lead, and/or participate in GEAR UP activities like mentoring, workshops, public speaking, and District Days.
  • Civic Engagement – GUALA fosters a sense of community, partnership, and collaboration among Alumni Leaders that leads to active involvement within their GEAR UP community.






GEAR UP Program Locator

Are GEAR UP services available in your state or region? You can find out by clicking on this interactive map. Here you will find where GEAR UP programs currently serve students, the size of their grants, how many students they serve and a link to their website for more information.