In the News

San Luis High School started the GEAR UP program for the first time this school year through a grant it received from the U.S. Department of Education.

With the goal of preparing students to succeed in post-secondary education, all 706 freshmen were automatically enrolled in the program at the beginning of the school year. As part of the five-year grant, GEAR UP site coordinators have been made available to the Class of 2018 as a resource throughout their high school years as well as during their first year of college. This is in addition to the guidance counselor that all students are assigned to.

Matt Buckley, director of community engagement and communications with the Yuma Union High School District, reported that two cohorts of students at other district high schools were previously part of the program. Both Yuma High and Cibola had GEAR UP services for the Class of 2006 and the Class of 2012, respectively.

Buckley said that most recently at Cibola, the Class of 2012 had an increase in the amount of students who enrolled in Advancement Placement (AP) courses compared to previous years. The amount of scholarship dollars earned also went up.

Schools across the state that were selected to have their Class of 2012 participate in the program saw an 83 percent graduation rate, compared to the 76 percent graduation rate for all of Arizona graduates. GEAR UP students also saw a 72 percent college-going rate in 2012, versus the 51 percent for the state. Each student’s actual attendance in college was verified in the fall of the year they graduated.

Carmen Castaneda, GEAR UP site coordinator at San Luis High School, said she expects the program will be successful on its campus as well.

“We hope to have the highest graduation rate that San Luis has ever had,” said Castaneda, who is taking on the task with fellow site coordinator Yolanda Renteria. San Luis is one of 12 high schools in Arizona chosen to be a part of the program this year. GEAR UP was created in 1999 through a federal grant that is aimed specifically at students from low-income communities statewide.

“We’re an additional resource to make sure that students are coming to school and doing well and staying on track to graduate,” she said.

And the site coordinators’ work doesn’t stop there. She added that they will also be following up with students all the way into their freshman year of college to ensure that the students don’t drop out because there is no one to guide them after high school.

San Luis High School recently held a college and career fair on its campus as part of National GEAR UP Week where a number of colleges, military branches and businesses were in attendance to talk to students about what options are available to them after high school. Northern Arizona University, Arizona State University, University of Arizona, Arizona Western College, Grand Canyon University, Yuma School of Beauty, Yuma Private Industry Council, U.S. Border Patrol, Regional Center for Border Health, the U.S. Army, San Luis Police Department, San Luis Fire Department and Universal Technical Institute were all at the event.

Additionally during the week’s celebrations, the campus had a variety of college-themed dress days and a door decorating contest. Students also received a GEAR UP shirt and a pencil bag that contained school supplies.

Castaneda noted that all of these events helped to promote conversations centered around going to college or pursuing some other type of post-secondary education.

In addition to helping students understand their postsecondary education options, Castaneda said that another goal of GEAR UP is to educate parents as well.

Before school started this year, she said they had an informational session for parents to learn about GEAR UP.

“We’re making sure they know how important college is and how important school is period, because a lot of parents don’t know the school system and how it works. We have a lot of parents who don’t know. They know they want a good education for their students, but they don’t know how to get there.”

Castaneda noted that they also went to the feeder eighth-grade campuses last year to make presentations to incoming freshmen about GEAR UP.

While the GEAR UP grant varies from year to year, the total amount of funds coming to San Luis High School for the 2014-2015 is about $245,100.

Expect More Arizona also works with Arizona GEAR UP schools to help strengthen the college-going culture in communities throughout Arizona.

People can visit for more information about the Arizona GEAR UP program. The GEAR UP acronym stands for Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs.

Source: Yuma Sun