(Press Release) Recent special education graduate Morgan Baker has already experienced the value of her college education at Texas A&M University, having spent the last two years while working on her undergraduate degree mentoring local students on the importance of a post-secondary education.
Baker’s experiences are part of GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs), a partnership between Texas A&M and the Bryan Independent School District, focused on preparing and motivating high school students for postsecondary education.
Working as a program aide for GEAR UP, Baker provided one-on-one mentoring services to at-risk students, planned field trips to universities, coordinated educational workshops and provided personal home visits to homeless and migrant students.
“I was drawn to GEAR UP because I loved the mission behind it. I feel that all students should obtain some sort of postsecondary education, whether it be a trade or technical school, community college or four year university,” she says. “I know that the traditional four year college education is not for everyone, so my goal was to find an individualized route for each student that suited their educational needs.”
Supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education , GEAR UP’s mission 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 the Bryan Independent School District. The program will follow this group, which now consists of 1,007 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 involvement in their children’s education.
“Not only have I learned how to build strong rapport with high school students and their families, but also how to get them involved in the learning process and to feel passionate about attending postsecondary education,” she says.
Baker was offered a position to teach fourth- and fifth-grade resource in the Katy Independent School District and will begin her teaching career in the fall. She credits GEAR UP for providing many valuable skills and strategies she will implement in her own classroom in the near future.
“I find nothing more gratifying than seeing students in GEAR UP overcome their weaknesses and succeed both academically and behaviorally,” she notes. “I feel very blessed and proud to have worked for the GEAR UP program for the past two years and I look forward to hearing of the class of 2014’s success post-graduation.”
This summer, GEAR UP will hold several camps and activities for local students including a job shadowing opportunity with the City of Bryan, an instructional series on budgeting with the Brazos Valley Center for Independent Living, a three-day self-determination training and a math models camp to help students improve math skills. To find out more information about any of the camps, visit the. GEAR UP website