In the News

MOUNT AIRY >> GEAR UP, or the Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs, is helping 14-year-old Terrell Bullock-Wallington, of Mount Airy, prepare for college. The eighth-grader at the Morris Leeds Middle School not only meets with his GEAR UP manager, Terry Ward, but attends a host of pre-collegiate activities.

This has caused young Bullock-Wallington to now consider the possibility a STEM (science technology engineering and mathematics) career.

Perhaps no one is excited about the youngster’s interest in higher education more than his father, Robert Wallington. He has seen first-hand his son’s new interest in mapping out his educational and vocational future.

“I really recommend that all parents sign up their children for this program,” Wallington said. “The motto is gearing up students for past secondary education and looking forward at their future employment. The STEM model is great. It gives them to tools necessary to enhance their skills in a global world whether they decided to go to college or vocational school.”

Wallington and his son were convinced the program would benefit Terrell after attending a high school fair last year.

The Leeds student was able to begin the program at the start of the 2015-16 academic year. The initiative played a key role in helping the youngster navigate through the high school application process, according to his father.

“We just received so many pointers to maximize his chances of getting into the right high school based on what he wants to do after graduation,” Wallington said. “What I particularly like about it is that it draws the child out and gives them a voice in the educational process. So often we parents map out our child’s education without them. It really got my son thinking about his future rather than me thinking for him.”

Grandmother Essie Shields, of Roxborough, is a staunch advocate for the GEAR UP initiative. Her grandson, William Frederick, graduated from Roxborough High School last year after participating in the program in middle and senior high school. He is currently attending Northampton Community College in Bethlehem where he is doing well. She credits this, in part, to the assistance he received.

Shields’ granddaughter, Amanda Frederick, is also benefiting from GEAR UP. As a Roxborough High School senior, she works closely with her GEAR UP counselor Debra Smart. She is guiding the 12th-grader through the college application process as she considers going to schools like Indiana University of Pennsylvania or Albright College.

“One of the reasons I would encourage students to get involved is that they get so much information,” Shields said. “Not all the students in the program are low income, but many are. Some of them in that category do not get any help from their family because they may not know about how to go about preparing for college. GEAR UP provides them with so many resources that they can utilize to help them out.

“Many of the public schools do not have counselors like they used to. I know that many students who go to charter or even private schools do not get all the help that GEAR UP provides. Without GEAR UP, students at a school like Roxborough would not have access to all the services,” Shields said.

Shields said that the GEAR UP program even helps students learn about financial resources for college and gives them assistance in filling out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) forms. This has been particularly helpful for her grandchildren, the grandmother said.

GEAR UP was introduced by U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah, D-2, and signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1998. It has helped more than 12 million students nationally go on to college. Each year, students participate in events like National Gear Up Week that kicked off at Roxborough High during the current school year. There is also a GEAR UP annual conference.

“In Philadelphia there are 35 schools that participate in GEAR UP,” Fattah said. “We have already invested more than $5.5 billion into our young people. Students in GEAR UP graduate high school and attend college above the national average. This is a national model of what can be done, and we hope we can get even more students in the program.”

Source: Montgomery Newspapers