Most middle school students do not spend much time thinking about college and career opportunities but thanks to the GEAR UP program, 28 Estacado students are looking four years into their future and preparing for the transition from high school to college.
GEAR UP stands for Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs. The program helps potential first generation college students build an understanding of the benefits of higher education and provides students and their families with tools, information and resources to encourage and develop college-ready students.
“You will never have m
Stennett showed the students a book and related it to the story of their life.
“You have already written 14 years of your story, but what’s after that is still blank,” said Stennett. “You get to write the rest of your story.”
“Don’t say at the end of your story I did what I had to do, but not necessarily what I wanted to do,” said Stennett. “If you are going to write a college chapter in your life, you should begin writing it immediately after high school.”
Stennett shared some of the career opportunities that would be available to students through the various programs of study offered at the university.
She handed out sample copies of high school transcripts and walked students through the information on the transcript that colleges would consider before admitting students.
“Your high school transcript tells us how much effort you put into your four years of high school,” said Stennett. “The ACT and SAT scores tell us what you did on one day. It also tells us how you compared with other students across the country.”
“You don’t have to be a genius to go to college. You don’t have to have straight A’s,” She said. “You can erase that excuse right now.”
Stennett also reassured the students that a lack of money would not be a road block in continuing their education.
“The government will even give you money to go to college; there are scholarships and work programs,” she said. “You can’t afford not to go to college.”
Stennett encouraged students to sign up for the Plainview Educational Partnership (PEP) program. The program offers free tuition for the first year at Wayland Baptist University to graduates of Plainview High School and Plainview Christian Academy, provided the students sign up for the program in their junior year of high school. Enrollment for PEP, as it is known, occurs each fall for high school juniors, with an informational meeting at the high school.
During their visit to the Wayland campus, Dr. Estelle Owens, dean of the School of Behavioral and Social Sciences and professor of history, captured the students attention through stories of the university’s founding and the role the university has played in building the community.
The students also attended mock classes under professors, Dr. Peter Bowen and Dr. Charles Starnes.
“The classes were a great way for students to get a feel for what a college class is like,” explained Estacado GEAR UP sponsor Maria Sheetz.
Sheetz has worked with the program long enough to know that it is having a positive impact on students. She has seen former GEAR UP students not only complete college, but continue on with post graduate studies.
The Estacado students completed their tour of Wayland with lunch, provided by a grant from the Joachim Foundation, in the university dining hall.
Then they loaded their bus and headed to South Plains College to see what educational opportunities awaited them there.