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

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.

LEAP Conference: Encouraging Academic Success for Latino/a Students

Walla Walla High School GEAR UP partnered with Walla Walla Public Schools District (WWPS) to send twenty-eight Walla Walla High School students to the Latino/a Educational Advancement Program’s 2015 Conference held in Tacoma, WA on February 26 through 28. At the event, students heard inspirational stories from various Latina/o undergraduate students, graduate students, professionals, and keynote speaker Justice Mary Yu. Although all the speakers shared different life experiences, they all reminded our WaHi GEAR UP students that higher education is important and encouraged them to strive for that education.

Along with endorsing higher education, L.E.A.P Conference gave WaHi GEAR UP students the opportunity to visit the State Capitol Building in Olympia and meet their county’s representatives. During this meeting with the legislature, students presented a problem in the Walla Walla community they thought important. These students chose to address the lack of youth recreational resources as positive alternatives for de-stressing and community involvement. These students also elected Stephanie Reyes (‘15) and Miguel Baza (‘17) as their speakers during their meeting with House Representatives Marueen Walsh and Terry Nealy. While Reyes presented the students’ concerns about extracurricular activities, Baza shared his personal story to highlight why this issue is important to himself and other students. Although Walsh and Leary did not guarantee any projects addressing the students’ concerns they did encourage the students seek out community organizations, empowering these students to create change in their communities.

On the last day of the conference, L.E.A.P. organized two sessions of ten workshops that taught students about the Chicana/o movement, advocacy through storytelling, learning leadership skills, thriving in college, and many other inspirational and motivational subjects. Students even learned how to salsa and tango before the closing ceremony began. Through these workshops, L.E.A.P. provided cultural awareness as well as leadership skills and college readiness.

For most of these students this trip was their first time being in the western part of the state, which made for a perfect opportunity to visit college some campuses these students generally would not have the chance of visiting. Because of Olympia’s proximity to Lacey, we scheduled a campus tour and visit at St. Martin’s University after students met with their representatives. On the next day, on the way back to Walla Walla, students visited the UW Seattle campus and experienced dining at one of the campus’ cafes.

To ensure the experiences and knowledge gained by these twenty-eight students from WaHi was transmitted and shared with their parents, WaHi GEAR UP provide a space for student presentations and invited families to attend WaHi GEAR UP’s L.E.A.P. Parent Night on March 11. Students spoke on various topics during this event. Some spoke about what they learned and what they loved about the conference. Others gave a detailed description of the conference agenda and events. Still others spoke about their new found motivation through, inspiration from, and gratitude for all their families and community have done to set these students up for an educated future. To close out our event, GEAR UP Student Ambassador Gaby Rodriguez gave a presentation on college and career readiness. Students all came away from the experience with valuable college readiness skills, leadership skills and added to their skill set for post secondary success! 

Students included in the LEAP Conference from Walla Walla High School represented all 3 grants; HOH3, HOH2 and OVP2.

It's FAFSA time

Paying for college is one of the largest and most important investments in one’s lifetime. The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and the WASFA (Washington Application for State Financial Aid) can help cushion the dent college tuition makes on one’s wallet. These applications must be completed annually in order to qualify for nine federal student-aid programs, the 605 state aid programs, and most institutional financial aid. The Consumerist recently reported that college students failed to claim more than $2.9 billion in grants last year by not filling out the FAFSA in 2013. Washington state alone had $58.1 million of unclaimed Pell Grant money.

Filing the FAFSA and the WASFA can be daunting, so the GEAR UP staff at Walla Walla High School have spent all of the January Wednesday evenings (5-7pm) in the school library assisting seniors and parents with filing the FAFSA and WASFA, as well as providing general information about financial literacy. They also hosted one of these information sessions at SEA-TECH (Southeast Area Skills Center), one of Walla Walla Public Schools’ partners. SEA-TECH is one of 15 skill centers in Washington State that provides students with access to technical programs of study.

A common concern that students and parent have is that student grades will impact their ability to get money. While many scholarships have GPA minimums, federal aid is not based on grades. Another reason people don’t file the FAFSA is that they think they’ll fall outside the “correct” income bracket for receiving aid. The truth is that the FAFSA formula is based on a complicated formula that accounts for a lot of factors in addition to parental income, and so it’s hard to tell at first-glance if you truly won’t receive money. Don’t let yourself become the reason you didn’t get free money! Finally, some think the process for filing is too difficult. In reality, the FAFSA is easier to file than ever. It’s online and takes less than an hour of your time as long as you have your social security number and tax documents. No matter who you are or what you income is, file your application for student financial aid!

Upon completion of their FAFSA, students were rewarded with fancy WashBoard pens that come with USB flash drives containing information about scholarships and other college financial information.

Final Exams and GEAR UP

Walla Walla High School is right in the midst of finals week. Students have been working extremely hard to prepare for their final exams. GEAR UP provides after school support in the Academic Lab located in the high school’s library. 

In the past few weeks, 9th and 10th grade students in the Academic Lab have been working closely with tutors to review final exam concepts as well as retake quizzes and tests. The Academic Lab tutors have been working with students to improve their study skills. Strategies that have been helping students review and understand material include summarizing notes, completing practice questions/problems, and re-teaching key concepts.

Specifically for Algebra students, the retake process for quizzes has significantly increased students ability to meet specific standards. This retake process is designed to give students the opportunity to review and take a practice quiz, and then retake the actual quiz for a specific algebra standard. This will allow them to potentially increase their overall grade, demonstrate their understanding of a standard and increase their likelihood of passing that standard on the Algebra End  of Course Assessment. 

The Academic Lab has seen an increase in students over the last few weeks, in preparation for finals week. GEAR UP tutors are hoping to see this number of students continue to increase as they utilize the resources available after school. 

Students Find a Kindred Spirit through AVID Speaker Series

“The starting point of all achievement is desire.” In other words, the force behind success is desire. For a senior in high school, desire can sometimes lack: waking up day after day before the sun rises just to go to a place that will only be reality for another year, it’s monotonous and exhausting. I, and my peers alike, sometimes lose sight of the long-term goal. That’s why every week in my AVID class I look forward to Fridays, not just because it is the last day in our weekly prison sentence, but because it is the day we get to listen to a guest speaker.

Nobody knows what it’s like to be me, that’s true, but listening to these speakers gives me hope. They share their stories of trial and triumph, and I go to my next class feeling like I can accomplish anything I want to. The desire is once again alight in me when I see a passionate adult talk about their dreams, their successes and especially their hardships. I thought I had a rough go until Mr. Diaz shared with us the story of his humble beginnings. I thought that I challenged myself until Mrs. Haider exposed us to her life in the Army. Even staff members I already knew, like Mrs. Meyer, were suddenly akin to me; she understood what I was going through, she could empathize with me, and I had no idea until she came to speak in our AVID class.

Though on the surface it seems like a tedious thing, every person has a different story. We high school seniors are indeed on the cusp of the rest of our lives. The scariest thing for us is the fear of the unknown, what lies beyond graduation, what do I do when I wake up the day after the blue caps and gowns are put away? These speakers have done it. They know exactly how we feel and that is something that none of us take for granted. It is an honor to have people who care enough to open themselves up to our class and it remains a key privilege that we AVID students enjoy thoroughly. 

Katrina James is a Senior at Walla Walla High School and an AVID student. 

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