Student Success at Southridge: Denver Rangel

Denver RangelGEAR UP at Southridge High School serves lots of great students, but Denver Rangel, a current 9th grader at Southridge High School and a GEAR UP Ambassador, has made some of the most notable improvements.

In 8th Grade, Denver felt his grades were bad and that bothered him, but he ignored it by choosing to think school wasn’t important. He explained that he goofed around and was lazy, especially slacking on his homework, and that was a big factor in his poor grades. Denver wasn’t motivated to change his ways. He just wanted to have fun with his friends. Denver’s teachers, GEAR UP Staff and his family became concerned that he wasn’t reaching his potential and was falling behind. They worked with Denver and he managed to pull his grades up and pass.

First semester of 9th grade, Denver took high school pretty seriously, but he got lazy and started slacking at the end of the semester just like in 8th grade. He was ashamed of his grades at the end of the semester. He decided to change his behavior by doing the following:

  • No slacking
  • Go to the After School Tutoring Program
  • Ask Questions
  • Get help when I need it from teachers and GEAR Staff
  • Participate more in class
  • Study at home, especially for test and quizzes
  • Take more notes in class

He has really improved his grades, but he still has some work to do. Denver is particularly proud of improving his Biology grade from D+ to an A. He is working hard to stay focused, but has found it’s really hard to keep all of his grades up all the time. A couple grades slipped down a little bit.

Denver feels that improving his grades improved his self-confidence and he takes school more seriously when he does better. He thinks he is influencing his friends to do better too. His mother said she was proud of him. Denver is proud of himself too, but thinks he can do even better.

We have been inspired to see that Denver’s motivation is no longer from an outside source, but from himself and his desire to achieve his future goals. Denver wants to be an engineer and go to either WSU or UW. He knows he needs top grades to do that and he is doing the work to get them. Also he is eagerly taking advantage of every opportunity. He signed up to be a GEAR UP Ambassador and attends every meeting. He also attended our Career Success Workshop Series and won a Scholarship to Cougar Quest, and has signed up to attend WSU-TC’s Summer STEM Camp. We look forward to Denver’s continued success here at Southridge and beyond.

Career Success at Southridge

Career Success Workshop FlyerAs summer is approaching and students are starting to think about summer jobs, GEAR UP at Southridge High School decided to help students get ready for career success by hold a series of workshops to teach soft skills, interviewing, team work and other career-related skills to students. To make the workshops even more enticing we offered several scholarships to Cougar Quest at WSU Pullman for students who attended all three workshops and wrote an essay.

GEAR UP at Southridge decided to use materials from Junior Achievement, because they have a ready-made kit with seven 45-minute lessons on Career Success that feature themes we wanted to cover. We decided against doing the lessons one at a time, because our students have too many conflicts; sports, fieldtrips, doctor appointments, and family obligations. We grouped the first 3 lessons together, and then put lessons 4 &5 and 6 & 7 together to make three workshops. We decided to hold the workshops on Kennewick School District’s monthly early release days, when student have less conflicts and more time is available for workshops.

Scholarship WinnersWe made daily announcements over the intercom, put up spiffy flyers all over the school, made a huge sign on our bulletin board, and have manned a table at lunch advertising the workshops. The GEAR UP Ambassadors also announced the workshops in Navigation.

We had 35 students sign up. 23 show up to the first workshop and 17 to the second.

The first workshop was on critical thinking and communication. Students worked together to solve problems and communicate clearly. The second workshop focused on the hiring process and interviewing. Students practiced interviewing and then a local business owner spoke. She gave the student real perspective on what supervisors are looking for at the interview and on-the-job. The third workshop covers work priorities, looking for work, and personal branding.

The qualifying essay for the scholarship to Cougar Quest asked students to answer three questions in their essay: “What was one thing that you learned from the GEAR UP Career Success Workshop that you can apply to getting and keeping a job? How will attending Cougar Quest help you with your college success or goals? Why do you believe you should be a recipient of the Cougar Quest Scholarship?” We required a minimum of 600 words, with 200 words per question.

12 student submitted essays and we decided to award them all the scholarship. Two students wrote essay of particular note. Anika Walker wrote a heartfelt essay. Her clear voice and clarity made her essay outstanding. She wrote that, because of the workshops, “I feel more confident that I will do better in an interview….[and] I feel less stressed and better prepared … for the job I want.” Anika also said that she “hope[s] this experience will help me become more passionate about becoming a vet[erinarian]…[and] broaden my experience with other careers.” The other notable essay was written by Denver Rangel. Denver wrote that people see him “as a goofy kid that messes around,” but they miss his persistence and dedication. He wrote that he “want[s] to have a great future and do what is best for me.” Many students expressed their appreciation for the workshops and how the Career Success Workshop will help them get and keep jobs and help with their careers.

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.

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