GAINING EARLY AWARENESS AND READINESS FOR UNDERGRADUATE PROGRAMS (GEAR UP)

Kiona Benton High School Students GEAR UP for Their Futures

On Friday, November 20, 2015 GEAR UP, in collaboration with Kiona Benton City High School staff, helped organize the 2nd annual College and Career Day for KiBe students. The event started at 9:10am and ended at 11:45am in time for students to go to lunch. Students attended 4, 35-minute sessions during this time. One session was the college/ military fair going on in the Commons and the other 3 sessions were based off their stated interests.

The planning started in September as all students were asked to label on a survey their top 10 interests. Interests included “Cost of College,” “Mechanical Engineering,” “Computer Science,” “Agriculture Business Manager,” “Viticulture,” “Doctor,” and so much more. GEAR UP Site Manager, Alyse Pivovarnik then compiled survey data to show which topics had the most interest. From September to November, many professionals in the Tri Cities were contacted and asked to share their professions with the students of KiBe. While Ms. Pivovarnik worked on the career and college presentation side of the event, KiBe counselor, Kimm Minkler, contacted colleges, special programs, and military to be present during the traditional college/ military fair portion of the day.

The event grew tremendously from last year, boasting 46 sessions covering 33 topics from last year’s 45 sessions covering 21 topics. Instead of offering a generic “Health Careers” session, Ms. Pivovarnik saw the importance of breaking that broad topic apart and this year offered “Nursing,” and “Doctor” presentations. In addition, last year’s “Engineering” was broken into “Mechanical Engineering,” Electrical Engineering,” “Chemical Engineering,” and “Computer Science” with help from Areva’s North American Young Generation in Nuclear (NAYGN) chapter. There was a greater focus this year on careers during the classroom presentation portion of the day. After all, a student must be knowledgeable of his or her future career in order to determine what education to pursue beyond high school.

The feedback from the event was exciting and encouraging!  Last year, many students did not complete the initial interest survey and were placed in sessions randomly. That paired with the fact that not as much variety was offered, led to some student disappointment. However, this year was different. One teacher said, “I was in the DJ performance and saw students come alive in ways they would never in a gen. ed. classroom. I have already heard from students, ‘I can’t wait for this next year.’”  These student sentiments were confirmed as Ms. Pivovarnik read through comments on the event feedback surveys. Students said, “It opened my eyes. I figured out my life on a career;” “It got me excited about the future;” and "I saw different opportunities." 

Overall the event was a great success as students were able to explore the exact careers they are interested in rather than being in sessions covering broad, general topics. Ms. Pivovarnik looks forward to continuing to improve the event as she looks forward to next year.

KiBe Bears Experience Being an Eagle for the Day

On Wednesday, October 28, 13 GEAR UP students from Kiona Benton High School along with two cohort parents, Kiona Benton High School Counselor, Belinda Loy, and GEAR UP Site Manager, Alyse Pivovarnik boarded a bus to Eastern Washington University (EWU). Students attending the trip had to have a 1.5 cumulative GPA, be passing all their classes currently, and complete a pre-visit worksheet answering why they wanted to attend, what majors they were interested in at EWU, and questions they still had about college.

Eastern Washington University did an awesome job creating an informative, productive day visit for the participants. Upon arrival, students were greeted by friendly EWU staff and taken on a tour of the campus. Because GEAR UP Site Manager, Alyse Pivovarnik, sent in responses she had received from the pre-visit worksheet to EWU staff in advance, the student tour guide was able to point out some of the buildings and resources KiBe students were specifically interested in. Upon completing the campus tour, students were able to experience dining in Tawanka Hall. Many were nervous about how it all worked, where to sit, and how to return used dishes. They were able to safely learn by doing as they were surrounded by peers and supportive staff.

Stuffed from the all-you-care to eat set-up, students were relieved to be sitting during the latter part of the day. The participants heard about academics and student life at EWU. The cohort parents were able to get their pressing questions answered. This overview of the campus was followed by a student panel. Three EWU students ranging in experiences, majors, years in school, and involvement were present to respond to any burning questions the students had. At first, the questions came slowly, but once the KiBe students started to connect more and more with the current EWU students, it was difficult to end that part of the visit and move on to the personal statement and financial aid presentation. During the break between sessions, several students ignored taking a restroom/ snack break so they could continue the conversation with the EWU students.

KiBe students and parents learned what it takes to write a good personal statement for college admissions as well as scholarship applications. As “How am I going to pay for college?” is one of the most frequent questions that arises, it was important for students and parents to hear from EWU staff how to make college affordable. To end our visit, students went through EWU’s VOCAL lesson. The lesson asks students to evaluate their hopes for higher education, fears of higher education, hopes if they don’t pursue higher education, and fears of not pursuing higher education. One topic that arose in every single category was money-if you don’t pursue higher education, you hope to make money right away, but a fear is that without higher education you don’t make enough money to support yourself and family. Likewise, if you pursue higher education you hope to make more money in your lifetime, but at the same time a fear of higher education is not being able to pay for it. It was important for students to see that no matter which path they choose to follow after high school, money is always a concern. After making their lists, Nathan Marney, EWU Admissions Advisor walked through aspects of a campus students should focus on in making their college decision. The VOCAL acronym stands for Value, Opportunity, Community, Academics, and Location. Although these five items may be arranged in various orders depending on how important they are to a student, these are aspects they should rank when looking at college options.

Alyse Pivovarnik usually tries to fit two campuses into a single day visit due to how far the campuses are from Benton City, but she was very pleased with her decision to focus solely on EWU. The students were more engaged than in previous visits, she had many students attending that had not attended a visit in the previous year, and it was the first time cohort parents had taken her up on the offer to join the visit. Overall, the trip was a huge success for Kiona Benton High School GEAR UP.

KiBe GEAR UP Students Prepare for the Future and Take the PSAT

In September, GEAR UP Site Manager Alyse Pivovarnik gave a presentation to Kiona Benton High School GEAR UP sophomores and juniors in their English class covering important aspects of the PSAT. She informed the students of the length of the test, when it would take place, what they should bring, how they should sign up, and even handed out a PSAT practice guide from the College Board.

On October 14, 2015, the time had finally come for the KiBe GEAR UP sophomores and juniors to take the PSAT along with thousands of students across the nation. This year, GEAR UP paid for all sophomores to take the test and gave juniors the choice. 105 sophomores filled the KiBe performing arts center (PAC) to take the new and improved PSAT, while 14 juniors decided to take the PSAT in quieter, calmer environment-the library. While some sophomores took the test very seriously, there were some who were too squirmy to focus. Alyse tried to ease their nerves by reminding them it is only a practice to the practice. KiBe GEAR UP chose to test all sophomores so that if students chose to take it in their junior year, the year that would qualify them for the National Merit Scholarship with a high score, they will have had exposure to the test. Knowing that the test is not for everyone and wanting the students to take ownership of their own futures, KiBe GEAR UP decided to offer the PSAT to the juniors as an option. Thus, only 14 juniors decided to take the test with many more who wanted to, but it would have conflicted with their college courses through Running Start. Despite the low number, this was an increase from the 3 non-cohort juniors who decided to take the test last year.

In December, Alyse will review PSAT results with the sophomores and juniors who took the test and will help the students create their My College Quickstart accounts. My College Quickstart is a great tool for sophomores and juniors to use to prepare for the PSAT and SAT, take a career survey, and continue researching their college options!

KiBe GEAR UP Students Get Hands-On at Construction Career Day

On October 6, 2015, Kiona Benton City High School GEAR UP students joined hundreds of other students at the Benton Franklin Fairgrounds in Kennewick to explore options in the construction field. Construction is said to be one of largest employment areas in the Tri-Cities, so it was a great opportunity for students to explore an area they might be able to get a job in after high school. After receiving a t-shirt, hard hat, and safety goggles, students sat through a safety briefing, much like one that might occur before starting an actual job on site.

Students were then released to practice their skills on various heavy machinery. Students were able to learn how to operate a forklift through moving a pallet from one area to the next. The event had machines set up in the form of games, to show the students how to operate the equipment. For example, one machine had a cone hooked to the front of it, and students had to maneuver the machine in order to make that cone stack on top of one of five cones in a semi-circle around the machine. Another allowed students to pick up a tire in one area and drop it around a metal pole on the other side. Alyse Pivovarnik, GEAR UP Site Manager, was excited to see the number of students participating who were more focused than she had ever seen them before.

Before lunch, students were able to do some more hands-on activities inside with smaller equipment. Some students smoothed out cement while others practiced nailing wood together. There even was what looked like a video game set up to help students learn how to operate heavy equipment but from the safety of the indoors without actually being on the machine. There were also booths set up for different labor unions and colleges.

The event was awesome as it allowed students the opportunity to explore via hands-on activities that connected them with local professionals and college students in the very programs they might be interested. 

KiBe GEAR UP Ambassadors Rise to the Occasion

KiBe GEAR UP kicked off the month of August with ambassador training. Although the ambassador program started last year, the GEAR UP team at Kiona Benton High School decided to start the 2015-2016 school year with an amped up ambassador program. This began with the application and interview process in May, followed by a bonding day in June and culminated in a week long ambassador training. Ambassadors had to successfully attend all meetings in order to continue on with the program.

The week before the training, co-presidents Brandon Scevers and Heaven Camacam contacted their fellow ambassadors to remind them of the mandatory training and organize a potluck lunch. Their contacts paid off as the majority of those students who applied and attended the June training showed up on Monday August 3rd ready to sharpen their leadership skills.

On Monday, with 9 ambassadors present, Alyssa Carrillo began the training with teaching the students how to be effective tutors. Tutoring will become a major responsibility of the ambassadors as the GEAR UP staff hopes to build some sustainability for their services at KiBe. In one activity, GEAR UP staff acted as students at varied learning levels during the “Peanut Butter and Jelly” activity. The ambassadors helped the “students” create a peanut butter and jelly sandwich as they each gave one directive as to how to create the sandwich. Sentences like “open the jar” were interpreted in different ways. While one student knew how to open the jar, the other two struggled with opening the jar as they tried to pull the lid off or banged the jar on the table. This exercise proved to be very enlightening for the students as they had to practice patience, carefully choose their words, make sure all students were being successful, and even sometimes clarify what someone else might not have been so clear about.

Afterward, the ambassadors spent a great deal of time coming up with their own vision and mission statements. The ambassadors thought deeply and analytically. They imagined what a slogan might sound like to an outsider and took into consideration people’s current ideas about GEAR UP. The KiBe GEAR UP Ambassador program’s vision is “Guiding students to take a shot at their future for high school and beyond. #anythingispossible.”  The ambassadors realized how difficult branding can be.

On Tuesday, the leaders spent the majority of their day meeting with their committees and coming up with plans to improve the college-going culture at KiBe as well as planning community service events to get students involved and allow them to grow their college and career readiness. After some serious planning, the students enjoyed a potluck lunch to celebrate their hard work and kick off the new school year! 

The next day students eagerly boarded the bus to head to Washington State University in Pullman to complete their ambassador training. At Pullman, KiBe GEAR UP Ambassadors learned what it meant to be a mentor, the impact of sharing their story, the importance of building connections, and much more. Students quickly made friends with students from other GEAR UP sites. The fondest memories created during their time in Pullman was the bond they formed as a group and the ideas they were able to take back to campus.

The journey ended on Friday and KiBe students were able to brainstorm activities for National GEAR UP week, visit The Bookie, pose for some photos, and hear from a guest speaker about taking action. Students closed out their training with a quick trip to Ferdinand’s for some homemade ice-cream. Ambassadors had a wonderful time and look forward to keeping the momentum going throughout the year!

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