Scholarship Winner GEARs UP Southridge

On November 4th GEAR UP welcomed and presented guest speaker Kristina Ellis to Southridge High. GEAR UP partnered with Southridge High to adjust the day’s class schedule. During this schedule change, all junior students were given the chance to listen to Kristina speak about her experiences and what could be expected when applying for scholarships. News media got wind of the guest speaker from Tennessee coming to share her insight at Southridge High School and made an appearance to catch quick interviews with a couple students and Kristina herself. Winner of $500,000 in scholarships and the author of Confessions of a Scholarship Winner, Kristina Ellis shared her tips and tricks on the scholarship application process to all who attended her presentations.

One of our GEAR UP Ambassadors had the opportunity to introduce her to the stage as the junior class took their seats. She was able to relate with the student’s thoughts of fearing rejection and or the lack of motivation to apply for scholarships simply because of the mindset of not feeling smart enough to receive one. Students were surprised to find out Kristina wasn’t a straight A student. Her strategy was to apply to all scholarships she came across that pertained to her and to stay active with school clubs and extracurricular activities, as well as to step up in leadership roles. In hopes to stay a step ahead of any competition, she invented and led her own shoe drive for kids in need. Kristina shared other tips such as, don’t underestimate scholarships that offer small rewards because they will add up, and scholarships of all kinds exist if you search for them. She also informed students that not winning every scholarship you apply for is normal and expected.

Kristina made sure to leave enough time for questions and answers at the end of her presentation to junior students. Students were reminded that here at Southridge, they are lucky enough to have a Scholarship Specialist as a resource. The hours of research that Kristina had to put in for hunting down scholarships is mostly taken care of for Southridge students thanks to our Scholarship Specialist, as well as GEAR UP staff who post upcoming scholarships on a bulletin board in the school’s main hallway.

Teachers at Southridge were also given an opportunity to meet one on one with Kristina Ellis at the end of the day during a brief presentation held in the school’s library. The last presentation given was opened up to all students and parents in the Kennewick School District. In total we had 75 parents show up to hear Kristina Ellis speak on the importance of scholarships and the strategies she used to be a successful scholarship winner. GEAR UP was more than grateful to have such an amazing and successful person come and share her ways to prepare for post-secondary education with Southridge’s students and parents!

Southridge takes the PSAT

On October 14th Southridge High School 10th & 11th grade students took the PSAT. GEAR UP paid for the 10th Grade students to take the PSAT and Southridge High School paid for 11th grade students. GEAR UP at Southridge held a huge advertising campaign to get students to take the PSAT, because 10th grade students at Southridge are not required to take the PSAT.

GEAR UP Student Ambassadors headed the advertising campaign. They came up with ideas & helped advertise. They put up flyers, manned a sign up table at lunch, and made morning announcements. They also recruited their friends and classmates to take the PSAT. GEAR UP staff made classroom visits to announce the PSAT and signed students up. They also contacted parents by phone and email to talk to parents about the PSAT and why it is important.

We don’t just want our students to take the PSAT; we want them to succeed with the PSAT. We held two prep session in addition to our week long PSAT

Prep Summer Camp to prepare students. The prep sessions were 2.5 hours long and took place on early release days. Students tried questions on the official released redesigned PSAT Practice test. They also learned the types of questions and strategies for each type. Each session was full of students motivated to improve their PSAT score.

GEAR UP at Southridge is pleased that so many students took the PSAT and that we could assist them as they did so. It shows our students’ desire to be college ready.

Southridge celebrates GEAR UP Week

September 21st marked the first day of National GEAR UP Week and Southridge High School was ready to celebrate! We started off the week with our Dream Wall on Monday. GEAR UP was set up in front of a bulletin board in the main hallway during lunch in hopes that Southridge students would share their dreams and future plans with the rest of the school by writing on a cloud that would be posted to the board. They did not disappoint! By the end of the lunch period we were happily surprised to find that every inch of the bulletin board was covered with dream clouds.

Some students wrote both college and career dreams such as, ‘I want to go to UW and be an FBI Profiler‘, ‘Pennsylvania State University to study International Business’, ‘Attend WSU to be an X-Ray Technician’ and ‘Go to University of Idaho for Architecture’. Other clouds covered the board with dream careers such as dental hygienist, anthropologist, pilot, pediatrician, anesthesiologist, cardiologist, lawyer and marine biologist. Colleges like University of Oregon, Alabama State, Washington State University, Arizona State University, Stanford and the University of Washington were all represented on the dream clouds by students who were unsure of a career, but knew the college they’d like to attend. It’s safe to say our Southridge students are full of goals and dreams that they work at achieving every day!

Tuesday was College T-Shirt Day. Students and staff were asked to come to school wearing any and all college apparel that they may have to show their college pride! Freshman and seniors battled sophomores and juniors for Spirit Points and sophomores and juniors came out on top for this competition. GEAR UP upped the stakes this year and held classroom competitions as well. Our GEAR UP ambassadors counted all college apparel wearers in 2nd period classes. The 2nd period class with the highest average of students wearing college apparel won a doughnut party. First place this year was won by Mrs. Stiles’ leadership class!

I heart GEAR UP day was next and included a photo op during lunch on Wednesday! Students and staff showed their love to the GEAR UP program by posing in our photo booth that was made by GEAR UP ambassadors, with props and signs saying “I love GEAR UP” and “I’m going to college”. It was an event to not be missed! GEAR UP posted all of the photo booth pics to their Twitter page using the I Love GEAR UP hashtag. Pictures with the most likes won a candy bar from GEAR UP and of course bragging rights!

Teachers got to show their competitive side on Thursday for our College Door Competition day! GEAR UP asked teachers to decorate their doors with a college theme of their Alma mater for the chance to win 1st, 2nd or 3rd place or earn the title of ‘Teacher’s Choice’ or ‘Student’s Choice’. On the morning of 9/24 the Southridge halls were filled with college pride as door after door was covered in college colors and decorations like Eastern Eagles, UW huskies, Gonzaga and WSU flags, Idaho Vandals and Brigham Young cougars. GEAR UP staff had the tough job of judging these amazing doors, but win or lose, all teachers were given thank you treats for participating in the competition and helping spread college awareness and pride!  

To finish off the week with a bang, GEAR UP took juniors and sophomores on a college campus visit to the University of Washington. Students that earned a high cumulative GPA and showed interest in attending UW were selected to tour this giant campus in Seattle. We were escorted by four UW student ambassadors. They explained what UW had to offer academically as well as the extra-curricular opportunities that were found on and off campus. Students learned about the admissions process and got to ask any questions about the UW college experience. The UW student ambassadors shared their own experiences and obstacles in being accepted to this prestigious college. Southridge students were more than just a little intrigued seeing that two of the four presenting UW ambassadors were Southridge alumni! They were able to relate with our Southridge students and made them feel that a future at the University of Washington was attainable. After lunch on campus at the student HUB, we took a tour of the campus where we got to capture some fun group picture shots that can be found on GEAR UP’ s twitter page.

Saying GEAR UP week was a success is an understatement! Our GEAR UP ambassadors had a blast with helping put together this week of college awareness. Southridge students and staff were amazing at participating and supporting the GEAR UP program with the fun contests and activities. The importance of college awareness was in the air! GEAR UP is already planning on how to make National GEAR UP Week bigger and better for next year and staff and students are still reeling from the week’s events. Keep an eye and ear out for what GEAR UP has in store for the rest of the year!

Southridge explores STEM Camp

11 Southridge HS students were invited to attend STEM Exploration Camp in July. Students were selected based on recommendations from their advanced math and science teachers. They spent 4 days visiting three different technical work sites to meet professions in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) fields and to participate in hands-on activities to explore STEM careers.

The first day was spent with Kadlec Hospital. Students attended a presentation on health care careers. Students were surprised how many different career paths are open to them; besides the standard of doctor and nurse, there are specialties and a wide variety of support staff. They broke into groups and toured the Hospital and Columbia Basin College’s Richland Health Science Center. Students enjoyed trying out the practice robotic surgery machine. Then Occupational Therapist Dawn Niccum and Physical Therapist Ashley Manry spoke to the students about their professions and demonstrated some techniques and exercises. Students were surprised by how difficult small exercises used by the physical therapist were. After a break for lunch, Students received two wonderful hands-on presentations from Respiratory Therapist Edna Felix and Audiologist Dr.Curtis Woolf. It was amazing how small and ingenious hearing aids are and how audiologists can help people hear.

The second day was at Irrigation Agriculture Research and Extension Center (IAREC) in Prosser. IAREC runs the State AgWeather Net System which consists of 166 weather stations across the state and growing. The weather stations update every 15 minutes. The information from the stations is available online at The students learned about each part of the weather station. Then they toured IAREC and observed a working weather station.

IAREC consist of a group of scientist and research who run the system and do research using the information from the weather stations to benefit agricultural growers and wineries. The students talked with the professors and graduate students about their research. Then students came up with and researched their own research question use the weather station data.

The third day students visited LIGO, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory in Hanford. LIGO is a joint research facility supported by MIT and CalTech that as LIGO states “seeks to detect gravitational waves -- ripples in the fabric of spacetime. First predicted by Einstein in his theory of general relativity, gravitational waves are produced by exotic events involving black holes, neutron stars and objects perhaps not yet discovered.”

Students toured the facility and got to watch controllers in the control room. Students were matched with an employee and shadowed the employee, which many said was the highlight of the day. After lunch, the students tried to model a Laser Interferometer, a very difficult task, but several group achieve the patterned waves of light indicating success.

The fourth day students invited their parents to attend a dinner and discussion with their student of what students have done during the camp. Parents enjoyed touring LIGO and learning about what their student has been up to. Parents were very enthusiastic about the experience and the opportunity of their student to be exposed to these STEM facilities.

Southridge Freshman visit Central

On May 8th, 2015, GEAR UP at Southridge HS took interested freshman with a 2.0 GPA and no Fs to visit Central Washington University in Ellensburg, WA. We started off with a campus tour by student tour guides, then an admissions presentation, followed by a student panel, and ended with lunch.

We started our tour in the Recreation Center. The Recreation Center has a rock climbing wall, an elevated indoor running track, basketball courts, and up-to-date fitness facilities for students. Then we saw student dorms, the Nicholson Pavilion, the International Center, and CWU’s brand new Science Building, including a fresh water turtle in an animal exhibit in the Science Building. We also got to visit the older historic parts of campus and take pictures in front of Barge Hall, a beautiful old building with a bell tower that was Central’s first building. Last we toured the Student Union Building, which includes a cafeteria and the book store.

The admission presentation discussed guaranteed admission with a 3.4 GAP if they have taken CADR classes (4 years of English, 2 years of lab science, 3 years or Math, including algebra I, algebra II and geometry, 3 years of social science, 2 years of world language and 1 art credit). The ACT/SAT test scores of those student do not matter in regards to their admission. Test scores for students with a GPA from 3.0 to 3.39 will affect their admission. Students with GPAs below 3.0 will be reviewed and admitted based on their test scores, GPA< senior year schedule, and test scores. A college admission essay is not required but it is recommended for students below a 3.4 GPA. It also discussed the majors available at Central.

Students were interested to learn that while they can earn college credits by taking AP, College in the High School, or Running Start classes, they are still considered first year college freshman and must live on-campus and are eligible for scholarships for new freshman.

Then we attended a student panel by student ambassadors. The panel focused on what it is like to attend CWU. The two student ambassadors discussed living on campus, class sizes, roommates, studying abroad and what classes are like. They described the variety of student living arrangements and dining options. Dorms are mixed in with academic buildings at CWU so campus is a community. They also discussed dorm advisors and academic advisors and how they help students. The student ambassadors also praise the variety and quality of food and dining plans available. It was clear that the student ambassadors love Central Washington University.

After the student panel, we ate lunch in the cafeteria at the Student Union. Our always-hungry freshman loved the cafeteria, which has so much more than their school cafeteria. After they got their fill, we made a quick stop at CWU’s bookstore. Then we got back on the bus for the long trip back to Kennewick.

CWU made a big impact on our students. The student were impressed by how CWU takes care of their students and many options for major, and living and dining exist. Many said they are interested in going to CWU and would make a 3.4 GPA their goal.  Others who had never gone to a college campus before were surprised how much they could see themselves enjoying college. Overall we were pleased to find to visiting CWU made college much more of a reality for our students.

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