Gearing Up Southridge’s After School Tutoring Program

When GEAR UP arrived at Southridge last year, Southridge High School had a tutoring program, known as the After School Assistance Program (ASAP), already established. ASAP holds tutoring Monday, Tuesday and Thursday in the school library from 2:30-3:30 PM. Teachers from the English, History, Science, Math, and Technology Departments volunteer to tutor students as part of a special retirement option available to Kennewick School District teachers. ASAP pays some teachers to tutor depending on demand for the subject. ASAP also has several volunteer student tutors, who volunteer when they can to earn their volunteer hours as part of their graduation requirements.

GEAR UP partners with ASAP to help students get the assistance they need. GEAR UP provides tutors in areas not already covered by another resource. The Student Achievement Specialist also tutors at ASAP which not only helps students, but develops important relationship for mentoring.

This year GEAR UP staff noticed a need among cohort students for Math and Biology help. Students had been telling GEAR UP about trouble understand Math and Biology and GEAR UP had seen a lot of students with low grades in either math or biology, while all other grades were high. GEAR UP consulted with the Math and Science Departments and hired 2 great student tutors, one for math and one for biology. The math tutor is a senior and this year’s salutatorian. The biology tutor is a junior and can tutor chemistry too. Both tutors are quickly becoming indispensable to students and have students waiting in queues for assistance.

Besides tutoring, the ASAP also offers students a chance to take test they missed, using special computer programs for Computer Applications, and do PE makeups. Not making up PE is the number one reason for poor grades in PE. Many student can’t attend the early morning make-ups or the twice weekly lunch make-ups offered by the PE department, so the after school make-ups are their only option.

ASAP is a huge help to students and GEAR UP is pleased to help ASAP reach more students.

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.

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.

PSATs at Southridge

One of Southridge High School GEAR UP's program goals is to increase the number of students taking the PSAT and overall PSAT scores. Southridge has traditionally not had large numbers of underclassmen take the PSAT. We (GEAR UP at Southridge) decided to try something new this year and sponsored all sophomores to take the test. This encouraged students to take the test, removed an economic barrier for lower income students, and gave students more exposure to the test to improve their scores over time.

GEAR UP staff set up a PSAT sign up table at lunch for two weeks to advertise the PSAT and GEAR UP staff manned it. During lunch each day, we told students about the PSAT, discussed why it is important for students to take the PSAT, signed students up, and advertised prep sessions. We also emailed and called parents to get them involved in our PSAT test taking campaign.

GEAR UP staff worked hard to make our Southridge students prepared by holding 13 prep sessions to help PSAT test takers get ready for the test.  We ran two session each on the three PSAT test sections: critical reading, math, and writing, and one session on test tips. Sessions were open to all students and were held at lunch and after school to allow any interested student to attend. GEAR UP also gave out PSAT preparation booklets and referred students to excellent PSAT preparation websites.

On October 15, 2014, 186 sophomores and freshman at Southridge High School took the PSAT. As sophomores were not required to be at school or to take the test, the number of sophomores taking the PSAT shows the motivation and desire on the students’ part to get ready for college. This is big change for Southridge as no underclassmen took the test last year. We are pleased by the progress made on the number of student taking the PSAT this year and have big plans for next year’s PSAT.

PSAT Scores have come back and are being handed out, but simply returning the scores is not sufficient for us. We will hold a presentation for students called ‘PSAT Scores Explained’ during school on January 7, 2015 for all students who took the PSAT. It will cover overall PSAT scores, scores in each section, and how students can improve their scores. We will also have a ‘PSAT Scores Explained’ presentation for parents at GEAR UP at Southridge’s Parent Night on January 15, 2015 at 7 PM.

Celebrating GEAR UP Week at Southridge!

Southridge High School kicked off GEAR UP Week (September 19-25, 2014) with a scholarship presentation by Kristina Ellis. Kristina, a Vanderbilt University alumna, won over $500,000 in college scholarship money. Her message of ‘make yourself unique’ and ‘scholarship attainability’ resounded with our students. After her presentation, she answered questions from our scholarship-hungry students with specific advice on how they could make themselves better scholarship candidates.

On Monday, Southridge had College T-shirt Day. Lots of WSU and UW shirts made an appearance. Juniors and sophomores rocked College T-shirt Competition with the most shirts. They received 15 spirit points for the class spirit competition.

On Tuesday GEAR UP & Southridge students created a College & Career Dream Wall. Students wrote their dream on clouds, and they were added to a bulletin board in the main hallway. Students’ college dreams include colleges in Washington, such as: University of Washington (UW), Washington State University (WSU), and all over the county, including: Brigham Young University (BYU), Arizona State University (ASU), Princeton University, and Tennessee State University.

Many students had dreams in the field of medicine; dentists, doctors, veterinarians, anesthesiologists, physical therapists. Some students have both college and career dreams. These included ’to graduate from WU and be a vet,’ ‘WSU and be a vet or psychologist,’ ‘a aeronautical engineer and graduate from US naval academy,’ ‘sports medicine at University of Oregon,’ ‘ROTC at OSU,’ ‘psychology at BYU,’ ‘engineering at UW.’ Some students were undecided on college, but they had high flying career plans: a flight nurse, a marine biologist, a human profiler in the FBI, the president of the United States, a forensics scientist, a software engineer, a dermatologist, a zoologist, a photographer, a pilot, an architect, a singer, a professional basketball player, a cosmetologist, a teacher, a detective, an athletic trainer, a marine. Spurred by Kristina Ellis’ Scholarship presentation, some students’ dreams included. One student dreams of getting a full ride scholarship. Some dreams included not just attending college but graduating.

Students showed their love for GEAR UP on Thursday with ‘I love GEAR UP’ Photo Op day! Our GEAR UP Ambassadors made signs and hearts for photo props. They also served as photographers with their phones. Many students posed for photos that they put on twitter with the I Love GEAR UP hashtag. Teachers and even our principal Mr. Biehn got in on the action.

We wrapped up the GEAR UP week on Thursday with a college door decoration competition for teachers. We had several Eastern Washington University Doors, University of Idaho doors, UW doors, and WSU doors, BYU doors. Other college doors included UCLA, WSU-Vancouver, BYU, Whitworth, OSU, West Point, Pacific Lutheran University. One UW door included a skeleton outfitted in ducks regalia. Another door said “It doesn’t matter where U go, what matters is that u go!” The athletic office was decked out in WSU-TC their motto was “when the sun goes down, the cogs come out to play,” as Southridge’s mascot is the sun, it was extra cute. 

Southridge’s GEAR UP week was hugely successful! Southridge teachers, students, and staff all participated and shared their college spirit and love of GEAR UP. We increased college awareness and knowledge about GEAR UP here at Southridge. Our GEAR UP Ambassadors enjoyed GEAR UP Week so much, they asked when we are going to do it again.

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