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About 150 high school seniors from Anaheim attended classes on campus this month to experience university life and develop strong academic habits as part of the college-readiness program GEAR UP.

The courses in women’s studies and Chicana and Chicano studies sparked discussions about whether Beyonce is a feminist and how Colonial culture and race defined a caste system. Students called the topics “mind-blowing” challenges to their own personal views.

“The course isn’t watered down, and I feel like I’m getting a good class experience,” said James Cho, a Western High School senior.

Students said the discussions forced them to become more aware of racial division on their high school campuses, in their cities and across the nation. The talks exposed hopes that a diverse and “open-minded” university campus, such as Cal State Fullerton, could elevate their education experience.

“I see that I have certain views, myself, and I want to challenge that,” said Ruthie Mendez, a Western High School senior.

Nearly 1,500 students from Savanna, Magnolia and Western High Schools in Anaheim participate in the program throughout the year. Many started working with GEAR UP, or Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Program, in seventh grade and continued in the grant-funded program in high school.

Biology student chosen for national “GEAR UP” leadership academy

James “Ikie” Brooks, a native of Boone County and a student in Marshall University’s College of Science, has been selected to participate in the highly competitive “GEAR UP Alumni Leadership Academy,” (GUALA) a 12-month national leadership program providing students across the country with intensive training in civic engagement and community development.

The GUALA program identifies students with exceptional leadership potential and provides training to help them engage their peers, schools and communities in creating a college-going culture, according to a release by the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission.

Brooks, a junior biology student, was one of 24 persons selected from a nationwide pool of applicants made up of students who have graduated from high schools served by the federal GEAR UP program. GEAR UP, which stands for “Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs,” works to prepare students to enter and succeed in postsecondary education programs.

Sixty soon-to-be high school freshmen are in Des Moines this week getting an early start on college preparation as part of a federally-funded program called GEAR UP. That stands for Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs.

Elizabeth Keest Sedrel, spokeswoman for Iowa College Aid, says GEAR UP is meant to prepare students from a dozen Iowa school districts for the academic and financial pressures of college.

“The way the 12 districts were chosen was by looking at the percentage of students who qualify for free and reduced-price lunches,” she says, “so it was an economic benchmark.” The districts include Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, Sioux City and Fort Dodge.

Tigers earn Daniels Fund Scholarships

Graduating Encampment High School (EHS) seniors Gale Jackson and Cassidy Little have been selected to receive Daniels Fund Scholarships this year. The Daniels Fund provides financial aid to students who graduated from high school in Utah, Colorado, New Mexico or Wyoming and can demonstrate financial need.

According to the organization’s website, other selection criteria for scholarship recipients include an ACT score of 17 or higher in each category of the test (math, reading, writing and science) or an SAT score of greater than 400 in math and 440 in reading.

The website describes the award as highly competitive, and says that after an initial screening of applications, finalists are selected to be interviewed by community members.

For Jackson and Little, that meant that after they received email notification that they’d been chosen as finalists, they had to schedule appointments in Laramie. In Laramie, each went before a panel of five judges for an intensive 30-minute interview.

“The Daniels Fund is a lot about character and service, so they ask you questions about yourself and your plans to better the future,” Little said of the process. Jackson largely agreed with that description, adding that the panel of judges was composed of former scholarship recipients and meant to be anonymous.

Both recent graduates said they thought their community service factored into their selection as Daniels Fund Scholars.

Three Wyoming students have been selected as GEAR UP Alumni Leadership Academy (GUALA) representatives. Only 24 students were chosen from a nationwide pool of applicants.

GUALA is a 12-month leadership development program for alumni of the federal GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) program, with the state office at the University of Wyoming.

Students Claudia Vanessa Hernandez Marquez, KaylaRae Lawrence and William Brooks Van Buren will travel to Washington, D.C., this month to receive training on grassroots advocacy, social media advocacy and leadership skills during a weeklong retreat. The training will help them to educate others about the importance of GEAR UP and assist toward creating positive change in education policy for younger GEAR UP students.

GEAR UP Wyoming is an educational assistance program at UW that prepares income-eligible Wyoming students for success in higher education. The program is funded 50 percent through a grant from the U.S. Department of Education totaling $3.5 million annually, with an additional $3.5 million provided by in-kind and scholarship contributions from UW, Wyoming’s community colleges and the Wyoming Department of Education.

EVERETT — Garry Larson is known around school for his inspirational poetry. This year he was selected as a GEAR-UP student Ambassador, and will travel to Washington, D.C., as a representative of students from Washington state.

GEAR-UP stands for Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs and aims to increase the number of low-income students who are prepared to enter college.

Question: Tell me about being a GEAR-UP Ambassador.

Answer: I'm going to Washington, D.C., in July. It is such an honor. I'm just humbled how they (my classmates) chose me out of all the other kids that I feel could be better than me, and I'm one out of six kids in the whole state. So I just want to put out a good word for everyone I love.

Q: What are your plans after high school?

A: I definitely want to go to a university. I'm not 100 percent sure, but I'm thinking Gonzaga or the UW. I don't have a solid plan in place, but I really love science. I kind of want to go more into history, because I love about learning about the wars, and how we need to learn about history so we don't repeat it.

Q: What was your home life like growing up?

A: I kind of have a complicated story because I lived in the foster care system for 10 years, so it was back and forth between Washington and California. I got adopted when I was 13, and I just kind of look at that as a second chance. Previously, I had no chance of success, I wasn't in a position where I could flourish, but now I'm in a position where I'm succeeding in school, I'm starting to think about my potential.

In February 2015, the Village of Hempstead’s Alverta B. Gray. Schultz Middle School, in partnership with Nassau Community College, received a state grant through an initiative called New York Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs [NYGEAR UP], which is funded with federal dollars from the U.S. Department of Education, funneled through the Higher Education Services Corporation. A.B.G.S. was chosen to receive the nearly $500,000 grant designed to give students college and career readiness in low-income areas where there is a 50 percent or higher poverty level.  The NYGEAR UP program grants schools the funds to have tutors in class and expanded academic opportunities such as: local college visits, summer workshops and camps, educational field trips, and counselors to guide students and parents so they understand what is required for college and courses that will help them master everyday life skills.

The program offers comprehensive college preparation

A quick glance at a few recent headlines on CJOnline will reveal how hazardous it is for Kansas schools to rely on state funding.

“Justice: How much longer will Kansas have unconstitutional school funding?”

“Legislature passes school finance equity plan slammed by Topeka schools.”

“Topeka USD 501 alarmed over potential loss of $300K in expected state aid.”

Read these articles and you will find ample evidence of inequality, inconsistency and short-term thinking in our education system. This is why the need for the GEAR UP program has never been greater in our state, and we are fortunate to have it in Topeka.

GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) is a federal grant that funds training and support for students who plan to attend college. In Topeka, GEAR UP is administered by the University of Kansas, and it provides $2.24 million in services to 720 students over seven years.

The 720 students — who are currently seventh- and eighth-graders at Chase and Eisenhower middle schools — will benefit from KU GEAR UP until they graduate from high school in 2020 and 2021. KU GEAR UP has three objectives: First, 65 percent of these students will improve their academic performance and complete the program’s courses on time; second, the same number of students will graduate from high school and attend college without taking remedial classes; and third, 70 percent of parents will “actively” help their children prepare for college.


A little after 9 a.m. on Saturday morning, 11-year-old Madison Welcher could have been at home. Instead she was at Chase Middle School.

The sixth-grader was compiling and annotating an anthology of 40 poems on her school-issued laptop for reading class.

“I need to get my work done and when I’m home, I get distracted,” Welcher said when asked why she was there. “And also, I need points to go on the field trip.”

Nearby, 13-year-old Montez Simmons worked on an assignment for science class — an illustration of African savanna ecosystems for which the deadline was rapidly approaching.

“I’m doing this so I can get it done,” the seventh-grader said. “Monday’s our last day.”

Welcher and Simmons are among the scores of Chase students who have been staying after school or coming in on the weekends for extra academic time, one-on-one guidance from teachers and a variety of other activities meant to motivate kids to attend. Those activities range from playing soccer with the Washburn University women’s soccer team to taking field trips that require first earning points for good behavior, good grades, Saturday attendance or other actions.

This extra school time — called Chase Academy — is funded with a federal Gear Up grant that flows through The University of Kansas.

For principal Keith Jones, the grant is a chance to increase academic rigor at his school. He doesn’t see demographic hurdles — nine in 10 Chase students come from low-income families — as a reason students can’t excel. Instead, he sees this as a reason to provide additional academic resources.

TUSCALOOSA — Dr. Mark Heinrich, Chancellor of the Alabama Community College System, has not only pledged to provide college tuition waivers to the 9,300 seventh and eighth grade students that make up the inaugural cohort of GEAR UP Alabama (GUA), but Chancellor Heinrich has extended the same courtesy to the legal guardians of GUA students. He states, “We are excited to partner with GEAR UP Alabama by providing tuition assistance to parents of GEAR UP Alabama cohort students who qualify for admissions”.