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Do you remember the feeling you had as you neared the beginning of college? The future was scary and innumerable decisions needed tending to. How did you get through it? Did you just jump in and hold your breath, praying you would make it through or was someone there to give you guidance? If you did have the privilege of getting advice from someone, you probably remember what a help it was and how much confidence it gave you.

This confidence is exactly what Bryan Independent School District and Texas A&M University desire to instill in middle and high school students. The two entities partnered together to create GEAR UP, (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs), a program designed to give guidance to students as they make decisions about their future education.

GEAR UP is supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education and seeks to support students from low income backgrounds, special education students, and students who are English Language Learners.

It teaches these students how to study hard and take the right courses to prepare them for college. Tutoring, tips and individual attention help these kids succeed in school and guide them through the admissions process for colleges. GEAR UP is focused on uniting school districts, community

organizations and other businesses to work toward the common goal of helping students find their way into college.

Students from Texas A&M University also work with students in the GEAR UP program and are able to relate to the students’ situations. Some individuals are the first members of their family to attend college and have no idea how to begin the process. To help students understand the process, GEAR UP provides them with a tip of the week. Blinn College, Texas A&M University, and other state universities offer tips that are available on Bryan High School and Rudder High School’s websites each week. These tips are also played on KBTX, Radio Alegria, and are available in The Eagle each Sunday.

GEAR UP also offers numerous online resources for their participants. PowerPoint presentations and summer resource guides can be found on their website: GEAR UP. Some PowerPoint presentations are from the annual conference and cover topics such as advice from teachers, financial barriers, tips for individuals with disabilities, and mental health counseling.

For students who are interested in participating in summer programs, GEAR UP provides opportunities for job shadowing with the City of Bryan or College Station ISD. GEAR UP sponsors many summer camps they also encourage students to participate in including Math Models Readiness Camp, Self-Determination, or Summer Academy at the Brazos Valley Center for Independent Living.

Resources that help students prepare for college are available. They teach students why it is necessary to go to college. GEAR UP students are taught how to unlock opportunities for themselves, explore their options, become more independent and learn to invest in themselves. Leaders of GEAR UP also help the kids focus on why school is relevant to their lives in the future and with their careers.

Many students do not realize the resources available to them. The program teaches students about the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and how they can apply for it. They also raise awareness about scholarship opportunities such as the Hispanic Scholarship Fund. Sources such as Own Your Own Future and College for Texans teaches students about finances while in college and gives step by step guidance.

GEAR UP Provides a number of events for their participants. Parent-to-Parent talks are held to encourage parents to get involved in their kids’ lives. Many parents have a desire to get more involved in their child’s life, but do not know how. GEAR UP works with different organizations in the community as well as churches to hold these Parent-to-Parent talks. The meetings are held about once each month and are about two hours long. Organizations involved in this include the Center on Disability and Development and the Admissions Office at Texas A&M, Project Unity, the City of Bryan, the Hispanic Forum, KBTX, Brazos Valley Workforce Commission, Brazos Valley African-American Museum, Shiloh Baptist Church and Santa Teresa Catholic Church.

Students can also sign up to take college trips to several different colleges. They can visit Texas State Technical College, Sam Houston State University, Prairie View A&M University, Blinn College in Bryan and Brenham, TAMU Health Science Center, and University of Texas at San Antonio as well as many more.

GEAR UP consists of bimonthly meetings for students that are held the first and third Wednesday of each month. “Gearing Up for Better Grades” is a three week series of workshops available to high school students after school. Workshops cover topics such as “Getting the Job 101” teaching kids how to write a resume and prepare for interviews. Hands on banking, money management, skills for life and employment skills are also taught.

Students are also given the option to participate in a Student Leadership Team for each high school. The team meets once a month or every four weeks. Students can also exercise leadership by participating in a mentoring program to help students entering the program after they do.

Susan Hilton (979)764-2100

CENTURY 21 Beal, Inc.

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