GEAR UP Week Kicks-Off at Wa-Hi with Ambassadors' Help!

During National GEAR UP Week I worked closely with three other people to come up with an engaging activity to get students excited for college. My group decided to cut out big letters spelling the word college and have people put sticky notes onto the letters. We had the students write fears they had for college, what they want to study, and what college they hope to attend. Our activity really got students involved and encouraged them to talk and tell others about their goals after high school. For some students, considering going to college has never crossed their minds. I would try to tell them some cool job opportunities based on what they enjoy doing. I was personally very surprised at how many students could answer right away where they wanted to go to college.  I think that National GEAR UP Week helped me to learn more about colleges, but I know that it definitely put some positive ideas of college into our student body.

I always knew that I wanted to attend a four-year university.  I knew what I wanted to do, and how I would get there, but what I didn’t know was how I was going to pay for college and everything else that you need to pay for, now I know it’s a lot of money!  During National GEAR UP Week our group really got some student's thinking about college.  When we would explain what they needed to do with the sticky notes we received a few blank faces and other times we got an immediate response.  Some students could straight up tell us that they had no idea where they wanted to attend or even what they wanted to do after high school.  This would often shock me because I’ve always known what I wanted to do in the future thanks to GEAR UP.  GEAR UP has provided me with amazing opportunities, such as visiting universities, leadership opportunities like National GEAR UP Week, and I’ve even been really fortunate to spend a whole entire week at a campus and have the “full college student” feel.  GEAR UP has also helped me find scholarships that are available to me and other ways of paying for college.  Thanks to National GEAR UP Week we got ourselves and other students at Wa-Hi thinking about our futures.

This article was written by Wa-Hi GEAR UP Ambassadors; Pam Lozano, Lily Clancy, Courtney Brown, and Tenika Steen.

Walla Walla GEAR UP Ambassador Retreat

Fifteen Walla Walla High School GEAR UP Ambassadors attended a retreat on Eastern Washington University campus August 4th -6th, 2015. Students had the opportunity to engage in team building activities and work sessions with various EWU staff and professors. These activities not only helped students identify personal strengths and weaknesses but gave them tools to develop strong leadership skills, improve time management, ways to growth mindset and exploring conflict resolution techniques. Being on a university campus provided an adventurous and recreational picture of what college life is really like. Students competed in a scavenger hunt which took them to every corner of the campus and later they tackled the rock climbing wall, played tennis, racquetball and basketball.

While on the campus GEAR UP Ambassadors attended a workshop exploring different career and college paths. Additional workshops covered college admission procedures, scholarships and the financial aid process. Sophomore Pamela Lozano stated, “The best thing was all of the workshops. I learned so much not only about my future but also about myself.” On the final day GEAR UP ambassador students worked together to create a mission/purpose statement for the program: “Our mission is to lead and influence our peers to take opportunities NOW!” The retreat was a success and definitely built momentum for the new GEAR UP Ambassador program. 

Getting That College Experience

College is very different than high school for many reasons, like being on a bigger, more intimidating campus and taking classes which are more difficult, but related to your interests. This spring 30 Wa-Hi students got to experience some of the differences firsthand at Whitman College, a small, private liberal arts college right down the road here in Walla Walla. Whitman Shadow Day was a chance for students to see the campus, hear about the admissions process, and visit classes. 

This event was coordinated in tandem by GEAR UP at Wa-Hi and Club Latino on campus at Whitman College. Students at Whitman volunteered to take a high school student with them to class and Wa-Hi students were matched with Whitman students based on their academic interests. After a brief Q & A session with some current college students, half of the students attended their class, while the other half went on a tour of the campus, including an in-depth look at the special collections department of the Library. Then there was a catered lunch with faculty members and a concert by two of the college’s a cappella groups, followed by a presentation on the college admissions process by one of the Club Latino members.

After all of this, the students walked away with a better understanding of the college experience and some free frisbees. Most of the students had nothing but good things to say about the classes they got to sit in on, and some of them made some quick friendships with the students they went to class with. Junior Wa-Hi student Loreen Herrera reported: “The best part of Whitman Shadow day for me was meeting the student I went to class with. they were really relatable and helpful. I also really liked the class and even ended up taking notes!”

Article contributor; Kevin House, AmeriCorps volunteer at Walla Walla High School.

Walla Walla High School student finds success through AVID elective class

In Mike Gobel's 9th grade AVID class this year, there are many exceptional students. Out of all these hard-working and intriguing young people, one student has shown the most improvement in her work ethic and academic confidence, two key goals of the AVID program. This student is Estefani Rodriguez.

Estefani uses many of the GEAR UP services to help her in her quest to be college and career ready. Estefani spends some time in the library getting help from tutors during Academic Lab. She works with GEAR UP Student Achievement Specialist to help keep her on track with her grades and college goals. 

This is Estefani's first year in AVID, and she entered Mr. Gobel's class unsure how she would be perceived as a student. With the tutors, Estefani is somewhat quiet, but when I asked her about her experience she gave me a very candid response. She told me that she had initially expected to be judged for not having great grades in middle school; but that had not been the case. Her AVID class made her feel like she deserved to be there.

Estefani has truly made the most of this commitment. She started out the year struggling in Math, and says she used the tutorial process to pull her out of the rut. Her hard work has shown results, too--according to Mr. Gobel she is one of the students whose GPA has improved the most over the year.

Yet even as she gathers success in some areas, Estefani remains aware that the road to high school graduation, and beyond, takes four years. She assured me that while her understanding of Math has increased, she is now focusing her efforts on History. In Estefani, I see a quiet determination that is only the beginning of a great AVID success story. I am so glad to have been a witness.

Estefani has been a GEAR UP student since her time in 6th grade at Garrison Middle School. 

Student Success Article by Molly Emmett. Molly is currently an AVID intern at Walla Walla High School, She will complete her undergraduate degree from Whitman College this May.

Dr. Mark Milliron visits Walla Walla High School Students

Dr. Mark Milliron visited Walla Walla High School on March 3rd for a presentation about “Becoming an Engaged Student.” He explained to us about what we can expect after high school and in life. He emphasized preparing ourselves for our future because there are going to be a lot of barriers along the way, but we shouldn’t stop trying to further our career goals. He gave different examples throughout this presentation, but the one that stuck with me and even other students I spoke to is how some famous people failed before they became successful. For example, the recording company for the Beatles said they “didn’t like their sound” but that didn’t stop them. Also, Oprah Winfrey was fired from her job as a television reporter because she was “unfit for TV” but now she is one of the most iconic faces on television. These successful people kept preserving, despite setbacks, to get where they are right now.

I really though Dr. Milliron’s presentation was great because not only did he give me hope, but said that “even if we stumble in life, get right back up and move forward.” He was encouraging and right to the point saying that we can be more than we ever imagined. That gave me confidence that I can be someone in their world if I put my mind and heart into it, especially when it comes to college. I plan on attending Seattle University or the University of Washington to try new things and explore what careers are best for me!

(Dr. Mark David Milliron is Co-Founder and Chief Learning Officer of Civitas Learning, an organization committed to helping students learn well and finish strong on education journeys.)

This article was written by Selina Ruiz, she is a senior at Walla Walla High School.

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