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Contact: Alex Chough; 202-530-1135 x 110;


Twenty-nine Young Adults from 16 States Begin Year of Service 

Washington, DC – The National Council for Community and Education Partnerships (NCCEP) has announced the 29 members selected for the third inaugural class of the GEAR UP Alumni Leadership Academy (GUALA). GUALA is highly selective program that provides 12 months of training and mentoring for GEAR UP Alumni Leaders around the four pillars of the GUALA mission to advance the college and career readiness of students in their communities: peer outreach, social media activism, public speaking, and issue advocacy.

Yearlong training will occur through a number of online platforms which focus on local efforts that Alumni Leaders will spearhead during their year of service. In addition, Alumni Leaders will attend an intensive leadership development training week in Washington, DC from June 13-20, where they will interact with national policymakers and leaders.

The 2016 GUALA Class includes the following outstanding GEAR UP Alumni Leaders:

Angel Alcazar   - Chicago, Illinois
Brianna Avila   - Chualar, California
Francisco Aviles-Pino  - Anaheim, California
Destiny Baird   - Tucson, Arizona
Joseph Camacho   - Anaheim, California
Jakeyla Chavis   - Lafayette, Louisiana
LaTasha Collins  - Los Angeles, California
Jonathan Cruz Rivas - Roy, Utah
Victoria Cuba   - Honolulu, Hawaii
Mark Anthony Figueroa -  Pullman, Washington
Andrea Garcia   - Brownsville, Texas
Jonathan Garcia   - San Marcos, Texas
Yarelly Gomez   - Bothell, Washington
Jazmin Goodwin   - Columbia, South Carolina
Amanda Haynes   - El Paso, Texas
Taylor Hills   - Columbus Junction, Iowa
La'Asia Johnson   - Flint, Michigan
Crystel Joy Lagan  - Waipahu, Hawaii
Daniel Lewis   -  Flint, Michigan
Nicholas Mathews  - North Las Vegas, Nevada
Abigail Ramos  -  Bellingham, Washington
TaQwasha Roberts  -  Aurora, Colorado
Jazmin Rodriguez-Davila -  Las Vegas, Nevada
Kendyl Ryan   -  Danville, West Virginia
Montiqua Speir   -  Las Cruces, New Mexico
Darius Spurlock   -  Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Keyonta Thomas   -  Chicago, Illinois
Rosa Valdivia   -  Moses Lake, Washington
Dejntshia Yang   - Eau Claire, Wisconsin

“We are thrilled to welcome the 2016 class of the GEAR UP Alumni Leadership Academy. These rising leaders exemplify the spirit of GEAR UP,” said Ranjit Sidhu, NCCEP President and CEO. “Each of these students were inspired and supported by the GEAR UP program to dream bigger, take the right steps to prepare for higher education, and give back to their community. We look forward to sharing their powerful stories with you and the rest of the community.”

Throughout the year, Alumni Leaders will help lead local, statewide, and national efforts to educate the community about the impact of GEAR UP had on their ability to apply, enroll, and succeed in postsecondary education.

A generous grant from the Kresge Foundation provided the funding to launch the GEAR UP Alumni Leadership Academy in 2013, and support the activities of this year’s class of Alumni Leaders. “At a time when a college education is more important than ever, these 29 young leaders are helping to ensure that every young person who wants to go to college gets that chance – and knows what path to follow,” said William F. L. Moses, managing director for the Kresge Foundation’s Education Program. “Kresge is delighted to support the Alumni Leadership Academy and the important work of NCCEP and GEAR UP as they seek to educate more Americans to help us become a more just and globally competitive nation.” 

GEAR UP, or Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs, is a federally funded college access and success program serving approximately 551,000 low-income students across 43 states and the Federated States of Micronesia. GEAR UP programs typically begin providing services to students in the 6th or 7th grade, and continue to serve and support those students through high school graduation, or the first year of postsecondary education. GEAR UP programs are designed to meet local needs, and include services such as academic tutoring, financial literacy, FAFSA completion, college tours, parent engagement programs, and more.


NCCEP is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to the fundamental principle that every child deserves an equal chance to obtain a high-quality education. NCCEP establishes community-education partnerships, strengthens research-based college access programs, and develops tools and resources to provide educational opportunities for all students. For more information, please visit us online at