"It's Decision Time" for Columbia Students

4H Teen ConferenceThree Columbia GEAR UP students had the wonderful opportunity to travel to WSU to attend the 4H Teen Conference. They were able to interact, strategize and learn about themselves with over 350 other delegates from around the state.

While there, they attended four sessions on various topics, ranging from physical fitness and what key it plays in being successful in college to learning about their leadership styles. The three days were packed with team building activities, guest motivational speakers, a college and career day, a texting and driving seminar and of course lots of fun!

This year’s theme was, It’s Decision Time.  The kids learned that it’s decision time when it comes to their future.  Now is when they need to be looking towards their future and the work that needs to be done to make it a success.  This conference gave them the tools to build the foundation of their future, with not only knowledge and education but with leadership, caring and apathy for others and their world. 

4H Teen ConferenceMotivational speaker, Houston Kraft, was a highlight of the trip.  Houston spoke of the different types of love and how they apply to your daily life.  His message is regardless of what you choose to do in life or what you fear, always choose love.  Love of yourself, your world, your family, your friends and most importantly the “love” you show those you just meet.  Choosing to show those who you do not know love, impacts their lives in ways we may never see. “While we can’t choose how we feel, we can choose how we act. While our everyday words and actions may seem small, their impact can be tremendous.” (  Houston’s message of also conquering your fears, especially when it comes to college is a powerful thing.  Not letting your fears dominate your life and understanding fear is a feeling and love is a choice was his main message to the delegates.  Always choose love.

CHS student, Michelle Maine said, “My favorite part of the trip was getting to learn about different college courses and though I may choose one field, it’s never too late to tweak it or improve upon it.”  Reece Humphreys said, “Houston Kraft was the best motivational speaker I have ever heard.”  Jade Bohannon echoed both Reece and Michelle but added that making new friends from all over the state was her favorite part.  All three students gave it an 8 on a scale of 1-10 and when asked why not a 10, they all said because it wasn’t long enough and it had to end!

GEAR UP Senior's Path to Success

Matt BouldsI personally have known Matt Boulds since he was in 6th grade. He was a feisty kid who was well liked by his peers, yet had trouble containing his enthusiasm for life in a classroom setting. Matt is a tremendously gifted poet and was honored with being published at the ripe old age of 14. While attending Columbia Middle School, he became published in the book Celebration of Poets, and won first place in his local library’s poetry contest. Matt also became published, yet a second time, while attending Columbia High School as a sophomore. This time his poem became published in the national FFA Magazine. Though Matt has had his fair share of success, he’s also had his fair share of struggles. As an incoming freshman his grades reached an all-time low of 2.05, barely keeping him eligible to play sports. When Matt was asked why he struggled, he said, “I didn’t take high school seriously. I was lazy and could care less about investing in my education. I wish I would have believed that grades really do matter.” Matt also had experienced a lot of family tragedies, all which seemed to encompass his finals at school. However, the GEAR UP and high school staff knew Matt had amazing potential and gave him the opportunity to attend Cougar Quest, the summer after his freshman year. Both Matt and his mom credit this camp as a pivotal point in Matt’s high school life. While attending Cougar Quest Matt said it was fantastic to experience the life of a college student. His favorite part was “taking” an Econ class. It was as if Cougar Quest jump started his love of school, his grades and his outlook on his education. Matt took full advantage of his school’s GEAR UP program. He attended multiple field trips and in true Matt spirit, poetically describes the Spring break trip they took to the University of Washington. When I asked Matt what are the most important aspects of his school’s GEAR UP program, he had two. “I think the campus tours are by far my favorite. You truly get to have a firsthand experience and see the schools. Also, having help with my college applications was a tremendous help. Whenever I became stuck, Mr. Copeland and Mrs. Atencio would always be there to help.”

This winter Matt was an integral part of Columbia High School’s boys basketball season. The Coyotes were league champions, which is definitely a highlight of Matt’s high school days. Matt’s school spirit has also awarded him his school’s Super Fan award more than any other student. This award is given out to the student who shows the most school spirit while at a sporting event. Matt is a definite stand out in the football stands.

Matt will be graduating from Columbia High School this Spring with a 3.95 G.P.A., as well as, an AA degree from the CBC Running Start program. Matt has been accepted to the University of Washington at Bothell. He will be studying to be a Physician’s Assistant and is considering specializing in either a surgical or orthopedic field.

Matt’s favorite classes at CHS would have to be any of the math classes he took with Mrs. Waters (Geometry, Trig/Pre-Calculus) and Ms. Custer (Algebra 2), and Foods class with Mrs. Williams.

Matt is a shining example of not only a success story but of how GEAR UP can help to change and shape a student.

Financial Aid/FAFSA Night A Huge Success at Columbia

Families from the high school and middle school battled the snowy and icy conditions to attend GEAR UP’s Financial Aid/FAFSA Night on January 7. Families were treated to a wonderful dinner from Fiesta Restaurant while they listened to GEAR UP Site Manager, Julianne Atencio, speak about the basics of the FAFSA. After parents had the opportunity to ask questions, the parents and students broke into groups to attend workshops specific to their needs.  Seniors and their parents went to the library where they filled out the FAFSA with the assistance of GEAR UP staff and CBC’s financial aid expert and Columbia parent, Kamara Brooks. While seniors and their parents filled out the FAFSA, the rest of the parents attended a session provided by GEAR UP parent outreach specialist Mayra Mendoza.  Parents filled out the FAFSA Forecaster so they could have a better understanding about what they will be expected to pay when their students get to college. The parents found this very helpful and were talking about what they had learned after they left the session.

Students attended sessions based on what grade level they are in. Juniors worked with GEAR UP staff and WSU Tri-Cities students to do further research on a career path they would like to pursue.  The students learned about the requirements to get into those majors and were able to ask the college students questions about attending college.  While the juniors were exploring careers, freshmen and 8th graders were learning how to begin saving money for college and different ways to pay for school once they get to that point. 

This night was a very successful night and we know our students and families are one step closer to being college graduates!

Felicity Hundson: An Attitude of Success at CMS

Felicity HundsonTo say the past few years have been a struggle for Felicity Hundson would be an understatement. Felicity has had to deal with changing schools frequently and staying motivated to succeed when she wonders how long she may be settled in one place. This sort of constant change took a toll on Felicity’s motivation, engagement, and self-esteem as a student.

But this past quarter we’ve seen a change in Felicity—a shift toward meeting the expectations and potential that her teachers and mentors know she is capable of meeting. Felicity has utilized GEAR UP services at Columbia Middle School to support her as she embarks on this journey of success. She takes seriously her check-in’s with me and takes ownership over her own learning by setting goals and developing action steps to reach those goals. Her grades are also on the road to improvement; Felicity makes an effort to meet with her teachers to get caught up on missing work and has begun to utilize GEAR UP’s after school tutoring program for additional support. In addition, she engages fully in her 5th hour math intervention class, so much so that she is able to offer assistance to her peers, acting almost as a second tutor. Also, she takes advantage of the college, career, and high school planning presentations and services offered by GEAR UP. She attended the high school planning night and put thought into what classes she wanted to take, not only her freshman year but also all four years of high school, keeping in mind her long term college and career goals.

What is so compelling about this success story is the noticeable shift in Felicity’s demeanor. As she walks down the halls she’s smiling and interacting with her peers. She uses her humor and lively personality to establish connections with her teachers. We are proud of Felicity and her new awareness of her own potential for greatness. She has such an engaged and spirited personality that she has begun to channel into an attitude of success.

Felicity hopes to maintain this track of staying motivated, setting personal goals, and working toward her amazing potential. She is determined to graduate high school and go onto college to become a veterinarian. You can do it, Felicity!

Columbia High School Graduates Leading a New Generation to Success

Burbank is a small community so when alumni come back to work at their alma mater, people take notice, especially the students and staff. GEAR UP is lucky enough to have two Columbia High School graduates, with one being a former GEAR UP student, working with the current students and preparing them for a successful future. 

Sasha TiffanySasha Tiffany graduated from Columbia High School last year with the final class of GEAR UP’s One Vision Partnership I grant.  She is attending CBC full time and will transfer to a four year university after earning her AA in order to get her degree in teaching. To help her on that path, GEAR UP has been lucky enough to hire her as a math and English tutor as well as help in the after school homework center. Her questioning skills and knowledge of the material make her an outstanding tutor in her Algebra class, English III class and every class in between. Students know she will never give them the answer and instead help them understand the concept so they can be successful not only in that problem, but in all problems. Her teachers enjoy having her in class and her Algebra teacher has gone so far as letting her help teach lessons when there is a substitute in class. 

Amber WilcoxA few years before Sasha graduated, the newest addition to the GEAR UP team graduated and left the area to attend the University of Washington to get her bachelor’s in English and master’s in Education. After traveling the United States and living in the Netherlands for a year, Amber Wilcox came back to her hometown to help Columbia students attain their goals. Her attitude that all students can succeed coupled with having high expectations for all students fits in perfectly with the GEAR UP program’s belief and mission.  In just her third week here, Amber has started making connections with students and staff while developing a system to ensure all students she works with will be held accountable to the goals and high standards that are set. As our new academic and career specialist, this will help her get all students on track to not only attend college, but excel in their education and future careers.

Columbia GEAR UP is excited to have two amazing Columbia High School graduates helping the future generations reach greatness.


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