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

WWHS students visit with area Universities, Colleges and Tech Schools

GEAR UP staff in collaboration with Walla Walla High School’s CCC (College and Career Committee) organized a College Fair held at Wa-Hi on September 30th, 2014.Sophomores, Juniors and Seniors attended the fair during the day through their English classes. They were given the entire class period if needed in order to give them time to visit with each college’s representatives. Washington State 4 year colleges and universities were represented and several regional 2 year colleges were in attendance as well. Perry Tech was also on hand to talk with students about specific tech school options. Several branches of the US military were on hand offering students information about post high school military options.

The initial planning phase of the Career Fair started with the need to reach more students in the High School with the information and services provided by the Universities, Community Colleges and U.S. Military branches. Wa-Hi’s English departments worked with the CCC to maximize the student’s face time with college representatives. One senior student stated that “if it wasn’t for the college fair I wouldn’t have known what all my options were for me as a senior.” The success of the College Fair was in large part this collaboration. English teachers had pre-work discussions and a follow up assignment with their classrooms on the College Fair exhibits. This process made students much more prepared and engaged, numerous college representatives shared that they were very impressed by our Walla Walla High School GEAR UP students’ engagement and conversations.

The College Fair was a huge success that GEAR UP and Wa-Hi are excited to continue in the future.

Watch out Cougs! Another WWHS success is headed your way!

Accountability and accessibility are two words that describe the impact GEAR UP has had on Paola Flores. GEAR UP, through the Student Achievement Program, has been a constant reminder, that steady pulse that helped push Paola to keep her grades strong and encouraged her to challenge herself. Paola and I met at least once a year as part of the Student Achievement Program to talk about her goals, wrestle with her high school class choices, identify her interests and college path. Paola became a constant fixture in the GEAR UP Center her senior year working on scholarships in the GEAR UP Academic Lab or at my desk asking pertinent questions. She frequently sought advice on final edits on her essays, to vent her frustrations and concerns throughout the college application and financial aid process, or would just come to talk.

Paola really dug into “connectedness” with the GEAR UP Student Achievement Specialist staff. She knew she could come to any of us at any time for assistance and did! Early in Paola’s junior year, I recognized her potential as a Gates Millennium scholarship applicant and approached her with the idea of applying her senior year. Her GPA was just below the minimum requirement, but it provided an opportunity to start the conversation about scholarships and the potential for gaining funds to pay for college through scholarship. Paola came to me the end of her junior year proactively looking for more scholarship opportunities. During her senior year Paola would often verbalize her concern over paying for college. Easy access to the Student Achievement Specialists and Academic Lab tutors provided Paola with the resources she needed to juggle school work along with her college and scholarship applications. Paola’s determination to attend a four year college is admirable, and although her family is very supportive of her choice to attend college she is the first in her family to walk through the process.

Paola is attending Washington State University this August and her scholarship efforts have paid off. Paola was awarded a full tuition scholarship through WSU, plus a $1000 award from the WSU Future Cougars of Color. On top of the WSU awards, Paola received two scholarships from the Blue Mountain Community Foundation totaling $2700, $500 from the Walla Walla Penitentary, and $500 from the Walla Walla Valley Educators Association.

Paola Flores is an HOH2 student success story. She is a 2014 graduate of Walla Walla High School and currently attending WSU in Pullman, WA.

Liz Ortiz finds success and heads to Eastern Washington University

If you were to ask my peers and teachers to describe me in three words, they would define me as responsible, active, and social. From a young age, responsibility has been enforced in my everyday life by my parents. Along with responsibility, I have become very active and taken initiative in school. This can be proven through my school involvement and classroom performance. Currently, I am a senior at Walla Walla High School, born in Walla Walla, WA. I come from a humble and hardworking family, where my parents migrated to America to raise a family for a brighter future. Every day I see the exhaustion on my parents faces after longs hours of agricultural labor. Seeing this motivates me to pursue a higher education not only for myself but to make my parents sacrifice worthy.

Coming from a farm working family, many unforeseen obstacles arose. Growing up, my parents worked from sunrise to sunset, seven days a week. My older sister and I had to look after my younger brother and do our house chores. My summers as a child were spent at home doing nothing but reading books and waiting for my parents to come home. To this day, my parents tell my siblings and I that they wish they had spent more time with us during our childhood. During this time my older sister and I helped one another, building a closer relationship. Over the years, my parents work schedules have become more flexible and now have more time for us. I appreciate the sacrifices my parents have made to provide for my siblings and me. Therefore, the person I have become today is due to my parents, helping me grow into a responsible and independent young lady.

Throughout high school, I have taken initiative to become involved on my campus. As secretary of Latino Club, I have dedicated my time and effort to represent our high school at school district meetings, organizing volunteering opportunities for students and holding events to promote our club. For many years, Latino Club has been known for student involvement in the community and the effort the club makes to embrace the Latino culture. In addition to the events we put on, our purpose is to invite student families to meet some of the school staff and update them on what is going on our campus. Also, I have been a student leader for Link Crew, which is a program for student leaders to help upcoming freshman ease their transition from middle school to high school. Other volunteering opportunities I have taken on are volunteering at local middle schools, help set up before the state fair at our fairgrounds and help with concessions during the fair. Also, I have volunteered for the Salvation Army by distributing gifts to families before Christmas.

I will attend Eastern Washington University in fall of 2014. I plan to pursue a health profession because of my interest in science and in making a difference in others’ lives. My career interest is Physical Therapy because I would like to help maximize patients’ mobility and strength, specifically with children. I would like to give as much of a normal childhood to children with disabilities or chronic injuries. At some point during my undergraduate years, I plan to study abroad so I can experience the culture of another country and develop skills related to my intended career.

Since middle school I have participated in GEAR UP. This program helped me think about my future plans by visiting colleges. I visited Eastern, Central and WSU with GEAR UP. I went to the 4H Teen Conference twice with GEAR UP, went to the LEAP Conference twice and also went to Health Care Week at Gonzaga.

Liz Ortiz is an OVP2 student and a 2014 Walla Walla High School graduate.

Students get one on one help with College Entrance Requirements at WWHS!

My first month at Walla Walla High School has been both fast-paced and rewarding. Under the wing of the Wa-Hi GEAR UP staff, I’m coming into my role of College Entrance Assistant. Most of my work has consisted of assisting seniors with writing their personal statements, researching potential colleges, advising on future plans and standardized testing, and helping students fill out college and scholarship application forms. I’m working with a new demographic—some of my students don’t know what the FAFSA is or how to apply to colleges. Some don’t have computers or internet access at home. Some still have trouble reading. Many are the first in their immediate family to graduate from high school and attend college. Realizing the barriers my students face has been important in addressing their needs and figuring out how to help them most effectively. My favorite moments thus far have been seeing my students’ eyes light up when they realize money won’t necessarily hinder their choice to pursue higher education; there is money available to them through scholarships, the FAFSA, and even loans. One particular case will always stay with me: “So what you’re saying to me is that I don’t have to stay here [in Walla Walla] forever?” I still tear up thinking about it. For many of my students, obtaining this money means they can attend their dream school and continue their education, whether in-state or a little further away from home. This means they’re taking steps toward the future they want and the future they deserve.

One of the best things we can do for our students is provide support for them. I attended a family engagement training at WSU Tri-Cities that greatly enhanced my understanding of how to create effective school and parent partnerships that result in the best possible situations for students. It really does take a village. GEAR UP opens up many opportunities to students who don’t know their options, and I’m honored to play a role in the program’s mission. I hope my students are learning as much from me as I am from them.

Zoe Erb is a recent Whitman College Graduate and works with HOH2 and OVP2 Seniors at Walla Walla High Shool

I Want to Make an Impact! Micah Aguilar's Key to Success

“I want to make an impact on this school and leave a legacy” said Micah Aguilar Garrison Middle School’s ASB President of the 2013-14 school year. When asked what his personal goal for 8th grade year was, and some of the answers to this question have been interesting, but most struggle to have set goals and a vision. Not Micah; who’s answer was telling of his character, as he has always had a vision for the future and constantly striving to create a positive impact.

Not only did he have a plan but he and his team were already implementing the beginning stages of his legacy. A dance between the two local middle schools, which combine to create WA-HI, with the intent for future freshmen to connect before summer officially started. Micah had many positive leadership experiences throughout his academic career, and wanted to give back to the school through this activity. He has participated in numerous GEAR UP activities and sponsored programs including: WEB(Where Everybody Belongs), AVID classes, College Field Trips, and 1-1 mentoring around college and career readiness. He is also involved in four sports at the middle school level and plans to continue three of them this year at WA-HI. Micah is a natural born leader as his public speaking skills along with his highly developed vocabulary cause his peers to listen respectfully when he speaks. He has said that this year there has been more work both academically and in the athletic arena, but he is enjoying the challenges they bring. Micah’s family is another layer of his success as both parents are actively involved in his many different avenues, and fully encourage his involvement in academics and athletics.

As impressive as those aspects of Micah’s life are; perhaps the academic realm is even more outstanding. Currently enrolled in three Honors courses: Algebra 2, English, and Science as a Freshmen, Micah’s stellar grades and rigorous course work have been aided by GEAR UP and the school districts programs, resources, and staff. Micah’s overall combination of dedication, involvement, and support has created a foundation for High School Success. Students like Micah inspire educators and their peers to continue to work hard while believing in your dreams.

Micah Aguilar is currently a freshman in the HOH3 Program at Walla Walla High School

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