At Thursday’s Madison County Board of Education meeting, board members heard stories from three local high school seniors who have been involved in the district’s GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs).
All three praised the program and the impact of having valuable resources and helpful representatives at their disposal.
GEAR UP is a discretionary grant program designed to increase the number of low-income students who are prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education. GEAR UP provides six-year grants to states and partnerships to provide services at high-poverty middle and high schools.
GEAR UP grantees provide valuable resources and assistance to students beginning in middle school and following them through high school and graduation.
Terry Hosler, GEAR UP coordinator for Madison County, said now that the program is in its sixth year in the county, the impact of the program on student’s lives are more apparent.
“You have all the numbers and records in front of you,” Hosler told board members. “But I always prefer to hear from the student, so I decided to bring three seniors who have been involved with GEAR UP with me tonight to share with you how they have been affected by the program.
Madison Southern senior Allison Reynolds said her involvement with GEAR UP has helped her discover who she is.
“When I started as a middle schooler, I never thought of where I would be in a few years. Like many students, I thought I was going to breeze through high school. It’s a lot harder than you think. I never thought about the future, but through GEAR UP, I’ve found who I am and through that I found out what I wanted to be,” Reynolds told the board.
The senior said she is very appreciative of every opportunity the GEAR UP program provided for her and praised the leadership skills that she gained by working closely with GEAR UP representatives.
Thanks to several experiences provided by GEAR UP, Reynolds said she found her calling, and after high school will be working as an aircraft mechanic for the United States Air Force.
“I plan to travel the world and share my experiences with others and continue to learn all I can,” Reynolds said about her future. “I’m proud to say that I will be serving my country.”
Maison Nichols, a senior at Madison Central, said tutoring provided through GEAR UP helped create more opportunities for her to go to college.
Nichols explained to board members, that as a junior, she was stressed about getting her ACT scores up high enough to net valuable scholarships.
“From one test to the next, my scores jumped up. That’s all thanks to the tutoring I received through GEAR UP,” Nichols explained. “Another thing I’m grateful that GEAR UP does, is provide students with the a chance to step on a college campus.”
The Madison Central senior said she has been fortunate enough to visit and tour a couple of college campuses, which has helped her make a decision on where to pursue her education.
Nichols said she plans to become a pediatric rheumatologist and advocate for children going through diseases which effect the soft tissue, joints and connective tissue.
Nichols said, she too, was diagnosed with childhood arthritis and said the friendly faces at the GEAR UP office and helpful representatives helped ease her mind while she battled through the discomfort.
Jordan Cottrell, a Madison Central senior, said he was grateful for GEAR UP because of the experiences they have helped to provide.
“I’m quite thankful for the GEAR UP program,” Cottrell said. “Sadly we live in a day and age, when every student doesn’t have the resources available to help them make decisions about their future. GEAR UP is a great resource for information about colleges, tutoring needs and basically, anything you need help with. The people involved in GEAR UP are amazing and wonderful to work with and care about helping you succeed.”
Cotrell said the power and impact of GEAR UP is clear and he is grateful to have been a part of the program since middle school.
“I feel like just describing GEAR UP as an educational program doesn’t do it justice,” Cotrell told board members. “I consider GEAR UP to be more like a good friend of mine that has supported me and helped me and been a place I can turn to.”
Superintendent Elmer Thomas said it was touching to see the impact of GEAR UP and hoped to see it continue next year.
“It’s great to see these student's confidence, poise and public speaking ability,” Thomas said. “GEAR UP has been a wonderful program for our students and a valuable tool for students who need help preparing for college. I want to thank all those that work so hard in the program for our students.”
Board Chair Beth Brock said she believes the presence of GEAR UP is one of the reason both of the county’s high schools have reached distinguished status.
Source: Richmond Register