Gear Up Program Prepares, Energizes Bryan ISD Students for College

Written by: CEHD Communications Staff
Post date: September 14, 2010

A little guidance given to students can make all the difference in their journey to a college education, and helping students reach that college degree is what a partnership between Texas A&M University and the Bryan school district is about. The partnership, called GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs), is all about providing that guidance. "Basically, GEAR UP prepares and motivates students for postsecondary education," says Linda Castillo, associate professor of counseling psychology in the Department of Educational Psychology at Texas A&M.

Supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education, GEAR UP's goal is to significantly increase the number of students from low-income backgrounds, students served by special education and students who are English Language Learners to succeed in postsecondary education and prepare for careers of their choice. In 2008, GEAR UP began working with all seventh-grade students in Bryan ISD. The program will follow this group, which now consists of 1,098 students, through 12th grade.

The students are provided with a variety of support services, including tutoring; academic, college and career counseling; financial aid awareness and application assistance. GEAR UP also offers professional development for teachers and school administrators, and works with parents to increase their involvement in their children's education. "I know parents want to be involved," Castillo says, "but they either don't have the time or they don't have the knowledge of how to help their children." To reach out to parents and extend its impact, GEAR UP partners with community organizations and churches, including the Center on Disability and Development and the Admissions Office at Texas A&M, Project Unity, City of Bryan, Hispanic Forum, KBTX, Brazos Valley Workforce Commission, Brazos Valley African-American Museum, Shiloh Baptist Church and Santa Teresa Catholic Church. "The component that really excites me is how these community organizations come together to help these kids be successful in school," Castillo explains. "For example, KBTX has partnered with our GEAR UP project to provide a college tip of the week that is aired regularly." Castillo notes that the students have responded enthusiastically to the program, especially when given the opportunity to do individual career assessments and academic planning. "The result of having this one-on-one attention made the kids more excited about high school.

They started asking questions.

The feedback the kids gave their teachers was that they had never before had someone who was interested in what they wanted as a career," Castillo says. "Our staff are specifically dedicated to the students in ways that many teachers or school counselors just don't have time to do."