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It's FAFSA time

Paying for college is one of the largest and most important investments in one’s lifetime. The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and the WASFA (Washington Application for State Financial Aid) can help cushion the dent college tuition makes on one’s wallet. These applications must be completed annually in order to qualify for nine federal student-aid programs, the 605 state aid programs, and most institutional financial aid. The Consumerist recently reported that college students failed to claim more than $2.9 billion in grants last year by not filling out the FAFSA in 2013. Washington state alone had $58.1 million of unclaimed Pell Grant money.

Filing the FAFSA and the WASFA can be daunting, so the GEAR UP staff at Walla Walla High School have spent all of the January Wednesday evenings (5-7pm) in the school library assisting seniors and parents with filing the FAFSA and WASFA, as well as providing general information about financial literacy. They also hosted one of these information sessions at SEA-TECH (Southeast Area Skills Center), one of Walla Walla Public Schools’ partners. SEA-TECH is one of 15 skill centers in Washington State that provides students with access to technical programs of study.

A common concern that students and parent have is that student grades will impact their ability to get money. While many scholarships have GPA minimums, federal aid is not based on grades. Another reason people don’t file the FAFSA is that they think they’ll fall outside the “correct” income bracket for receiving aid. The truth is that the FAFSA formula is based on a complicated formula that accounts for a lot of factors in addition to parental income, and so it’s hard to tell at first-glance if you truly won’t receive money. Don’t let yourself become the reason you didn’t get free money! Finally, some think the process for filing is too difficult. In reality, the FAFSA is easier to file than ever. It’s online and takes less than an hour of your time as long as you have your social security number and tax documents. No matter who you are or what you income is, file your application for student financial aid!

Upon completion of their FAFSA, students were rewarded with fancy WashBoard pens that come with USB flash drives containing information about scholarships and other college financial information.

Final Exams and GEAR UP

Walla Walla High School is right in the midst of finals week. Students have been working extremely hard to prepare for their final exams. GEAR UP provides after school support in the Academic Lab located in the high school’s library. 

In the past few weeks, 9th and 10th grade students in the Academic Lab have been working closely with tutors to review final exam concepts as well as retake quizzes and tests. The Academic Lab tutors have been working with students to improve their study skills. Strategies that have been helping students review and understand material include summarizing notes, completing practice questions/problems, and re-teaching key concepts.

Specifically for Algebra students, the retake process for quizzes has significantly increased students ability to meet specific standards. This retake process is designed to give students the opportunity to review and take a practice quiz, and then retake the actual quiz for a specific algebra standard. This will allow them to potentially increase their overall grade, demonstrate their understanding of a standard and increase their likelihood of passing that standard on the Algebra End  of Course Assessment. 

The Academic Lab has seen an increase in students over the last few weeks, in preparation for finals week. GEAR UP tutors are hoping to see this number of students continue to increase as they utilize the resources available after school. 

Dayton GEAR UP In-Class Presentation

During the months of October and November, Dayton HS GEAR UP was privileged to have Myra and Claudia, who are student and parent outreach specialists from WSU Tri-Cities, do In-class Presentations on “College Access Information.” We had a total of 115 students participating each month. Powerpoint slides and games were used to engage student’s participation; they also enjoyed a little competitiveness. The game enjoyed most was the Career game. The students received a career with play money and had to budget for a month.  

Some students were given degrees and some only had a high school diploma with their career.  They soon realized how important a degree is to support their life styles. Students learned that cost of dormitory/apartment living, food, books, and personal items such as cell phones, gas for your car, and coffee are all costs aside from tuition. The most important lesson learned was that all students can attend and graduate from college no matter their income status or background. A big thank you to Myra and Claudia who were building relationships with the students while offering practical and emotional support. 

GEAR UP in the Classroom at Southridge High

Tackling Test Questions Workshop FlyerGEAR UP at Southridge High School identified a need for academic skills in our cohort students. Teachers had also expressed concern that students lacked the necessary academic skills for academic success. We decided to create “Workshop Wednesdays” a series of academic skills workshops given at lunch and afterschool each Wednesday during first semester.

The workshops are a mix of lecture, video presentation, class discussion, and practice activities. They are based on a series of videos that GEAR UP purchased. From the videos, GEAR UP created the presentations, including focus questions, discussion questions, practice activities, and note taking sheets for students.

Take Better Notes FlyerOur first workshop was ’Getting Organized,’ which covered time management, organizing school materials, and organizing your space. It was followed by ‘Take Better Notes,’ on 6 different styles of note taking and the best note taking style for your learning style. The workshop series was rounded out with ‘Say Goodbye to Test Anxiety,’ ‘Study Smart,’ ‘Answering Reading Passage Questions,’ ‘Answering Tricky Essay Questions,’ ‘Tackling Test Questions,’ and ‘Taking Math Tests.’

The counseling department decided the workshop series was exactly what students needed. However, students who needed the skills the most would not choose to attend on their own. They asked GEAR UP to partner with the Counseling department and give the workshops in freshman core classes. The counseling department and GEAR UP to do the four most useful and generally applicable workshops due to classroom time constraints. These were ‘Getting Organized,’ ‘Take Better Notes,’ ‘Say Goodbye to Test Anxiety,’ and ‘Study Smart.’ GEAR UP and the Counseling department planned the schedule and split the presentations. GEAR UP trained the counselors for each workshop and provided the materials needed.Goodbye Test Anxiety

The classroom workshop presentations were very successful; 871 students attended at least one workshop. Students responded positively to the presentations and many engaged in class discussions. They also enjoyed the videos, which have an element of humor to make them more memorable. Teachers thought the workshops were a good use of class time, as they applied to their subject and taught students valuable academic skills.

A follow-up discussion with students is in the works. The goals is to remind students of what they learned and to follow up on their use of the academic skills from the workshops. GEAR UP will continue offering these workshops after classes every Wednesday for second semester.

KiBe Seniors Explore Transfer Options in the Spokane Area

On Friday, January 16, KiBe GEAR UP seniors, having just finished semester finals, boarded the bus in the morning relieved to be that much closer to graduation and excited to further explore their post-high school options.  Our overnight visit began with a visit to Spokane Community College (SCC).  At SCC, the seniors endured the cold as snow covered the ground around them to receive a campus tour.  Afterward, they had a presentation on meeting the different degree requirements and financial aid facts.  Students learned about how to utilize the SCC website in order to identify what classes at SCC transferred to the university of their choice.  Seniors were engaged and asked questions about various programs offered. 

After enjoying lunch at Panda Express, students were offered a wonderful presentation at Washington State University Spokane that included an admissions overview, breakout sessions with the nursing,
athletic trainer, and speech and language pathology programs, a student panel, and a hands-on look at what students in the nursing program do.  Students were divided into groups to hear from professors as well as students in the three programs.  Seniors were allowed to go into the nursing lab that housed many dummies.  They met Thelma, a patient, controlled by another person behind a window.  Thelma was as close to a human being as possible it seemed!  She breathed, had an identifiable pulse, blinked her eyes, talked, coughed, and even made guttural noises that could be heard with a stethoscope.  Students were invited to listen to her lungs and stomach with stethoscopes, check for her pulse, and even practice CPR when she stopped breathing!  The program WSU Spokane put together for the students went above and beyond to not only let the students hear about general information, but see and practice what it truly feels like to be a student there.

After an exciting, hands-on visit to WSU Spokane, students again boarded the bus, this time heading to Whitworth University.  At Whitworth, students learned what life at Whitworth might be like if they were attending Jan-term.  Snow covered the ground as we toured the campus learning about the option to attend a Jan-term class, which lasted 3 hours daily or to attend a Jan-term study abroad experience.  Upon completion of our tour around campus, students received further admissions information from a Whitworth alumnus, CJ Perry, who enjoyed his experience as a student so much that he now works for the university as an admissions counselor.  After eating dinner at Red Robin, which some students had never been to, we checked into the Ramada Inn at 8pm leaving the students 2 hours to enjoy the indoor swimming facilities at the hotel before lights out. 

On Saturday, after breakfast at the hotel, we ventured to Eastern Washington University (EWU) where we spent several hours not only learning about what EWU has to offer, but also general college selection information.  Randy Corradine, Diversity Outreach Coordinator at EWU, shared his family history, what it was like being the first in his family to attend college, as well as some of the things he learned from his mentor about choosing the right college.  Students were engaged as they were able to hear from someone whose experience they might be able to relate to or learn from.  Before leaving for the campus tour, Randy challenged the students to define “university.”  While the students came up with wonderful definitions, they were not quite what Randy was looking for, but he acknowledged the validity and power the students possessed in being able to come up with clear definitions in their groups.  After the campus tour, students ate lunch in Baldy’s Food Court among actual college students.  Figuring out how to discard their trays, plates, and trash proved to be a learning experience for the students—one that they were able to accomplish.  KiBe seniors then returned to the classroom to learn about how to best determine college fit using EWU’s VOCAL acronym (Value, Opportunity, Community, Academics, Location).  Randy emphasized that the students need to find the school that works best for them as individuals.  Randy also wanted the students to focus in on their dreams as he gave them a handout to identify their dream career along with 3 action steps they need to take in order to achieve that dream.  Following Randy’s presentation, Site Manager, Alyse Pivovarnik, and College and Career Planning Specialist, Ashley Myers worked with the students on how to navigate choosing classes at any college or university to ensure they are meeting the requirements to complete their degree.  After a quick pit-stop for dinner at the Pita Pit in Pasco, students were excited to be home.  Students reported that this trip opened their eyes to greater possibilities.  One student said she is now considering continuing her education beyond cosmetology school after having attended this trip while another said he is now more interested in EWU.   

KiBe GEAR UP would like to give a big thank you to Becki Meehan at WSU Spokane, Randy Corradine at EWU, Ramona Barhorst at Spokane Community College, CJ Perry at Whitworth University and KiBe GEAR UP’s own Ashley Myers for putting together a wonderful visit for the students!  

GEAR UP at Southridge takes College Fair

In November, we took our Southridge High School GEAR UP Ambassadors to Washington State University’s College Fair at Columbia Basin College. It was the first trip to CBC for many of our students and their first college fair too.

The GEAR UP Ambassadors were unsure of what to do and how to introduce themselves. To alleviate their fears, we created a series of trainings where they learned to do college research, practiced introducing themselves to college recruiters, and worked on questions to ask recruiters. Our students had a goal to research 3 colleges attending the event and come up with some questions based on their research. We also discussed professional attire, what it is, why it is important, and some examples. Our ambassadors had quite a few questions about professional attire. One of the ambassadors explained that wearing nice professional clothes helps people see your best side, and professional clothes and grooming doesn’t distract people from paying attention to what you have to say.

While the college fair was not large, our GEAR UP Ambassadors were nervous when we first arrived. After some hesitation they warmed up and soon began introducing themselves and asking questions to the recruiters with enthusiasm. We encouraged our students to speak to each college, university and organization at the fair, because as 9th and 10th graders, they have only just started their educational journey and may change their mind about colleges and majors.

The ambassadors were expecting colleges and universities to be at the fair, but were surprised to meet representatives from financial aid and scholarship organizations. The cost of college worries our students and they were excited to learn about financial aid and scholarships that could help them pay for college. The students also enjoyed the professional attire fashion show. Some said that they might adopt some outfits they saw when they interview for jobs and college admission.

Our ambassadors were overwhelmingly enthusiastic about their experience at the college fair. They were surprised how much they enjoyed it and that they could approach and talk to recruiters. Our ambassadors gained valuable experience for college planning and have a much better idea of what to do at a college fair. They also learned to leave their comfort zone and discovered some cool colleges they hadn’t considered before.

Finley AVID Goes to LIGO

On December 19, 2014 GEAR UP had the pleasure of visiting Tri-Cities’ very own LIGO site. LIGO stands for the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory.  As the students learned during the presentation about LIGO’s history, there are only four sites in the world and we are fortunate enough to have one about 45 miles from River View High School. This visit was very educational and interesting for all Finley GEAR UP AVID students and staff. LIGO seeks to detect gravitational waves that are produced from events such as black holes or even neutron stars.

After the welcoming presentation about LIGO, the students were broken off to go and test out the hands-on  exhibits and other activities that were set up for them to explore. Some  activities consisted of picking up a box and looking through the open  crease that allowed one to see the light it produced; this activity was called Scoping the Stars. Another fun activity students were excited to test was Giant Slinky, this exhibit was very impressive. It  resembled a huge slinky for a lot of the students, hence the name. The student had to pull a lever back and forth a couple of times in order for the large spring to move and create waves.

This field trip was also a job site visit for River View students. Dakota Damerow was able to speak with a programmer while touring the control room at LIGO.

Finley GEAR UP partnered with LIGO and River View High School in order to take our GEAR UP AVID students on this exciting trip. Our students really seemed to enjoy their visit because they expressed it to us on our way home from LIGO. Thank you to Dale Ingram for planning this visit for River View AVID Students. 

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