Teaching & Learning

Gearing up for Success

Utah State University received a federal grant in 2005 to become a partner in a national project — Gaining Early Awareness & Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP), a program designed to help increase the number of low-income students who are prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education.

“The GEAR UP program provides opportunities for students to get into college who otherwise wouldn’t have been able to,” said Vice President for Student Services Juan Franco. “The program is designed for students who have a desire to further their educations.”
GEAR UP is structured to meet the educational needs of Cache Valley’s middle and high school students. To participate, students must meet a specific socio-economic level, apply for the program and remain an active member for the duration of the school year. Students participate in educational and out-of-school activities to build solid relationships with USU and its students.
While the program is in its first year at USU, university students are eager to take part in the program by working and volunteering as tutors and mentors to the youths.
Each school is assigned a USU student as on-site tutor coordinator to ensure that participating students attend tutoring sessions once or twice. The tutors work with students reviewing homework and in-class struggles, as well as preparing them for the ACT and college admission.
“My participation with GEAR UP has been very gratifying and although the program has just started, I can already see the impact it’s making,” said Monica Rodriguez, on-site tutor coordinator at Logan High School. “The students are energetic and ambitious; all they need is a helping hand in the right direction.”
Aside from the hours put in every week by tutors, the mentor program is comprised of approximately 25 USU students devoted to planning and attending monthly activities with the youths. Activities usually include a team building experience and are often USU-based; past activities include basketball games and other sporting events.
“We feel that by bringing the youths on campus and involving them in USU events, they might feel a connection with the school and its students,” said GEAR UP Program Coordinator Celestial Starr Bybee.
The program not only involves USU students and almost 200 youths throughout the six schools in Cache Valley, it also brings together parents and the community. As a way to join USU students, public school students and parents, coordinators have hosted receptions for all involved. Also, in-house liaisons work at each school, representing the program and recruiting new students.
GEAR UP coordinators and volunteers also ensure that parents and students are familiar with college application processes for financial aid and scholarships. While scholarships are in the process of being designed, USU has created a scholarship handbook that is given to future Aggies and their parents. Program coordinators are willing to go step-by-step through the process with active members.
“We work with the students and their parents to make sure they understand the application processes,” said Bybee. “We want to give them as much information as we can and help them further their educations.”
GEAR UP is a national program that is run on a state level. Utah Valley State College was the original state grantee and then divided the funds between various Utah colleges and USU to help students throughout the state. As a grantee, USU has the ability to help 200 students throughout six schools in Cache Valley.
For more information on GEAR UP and to get involved, contact Program Coordinator Celestial Starr Bybee at (435) 797-1758.
Writer: Lindsay Thomson, lindst@cc.usu.edu
Contact: Celestial Starr Bybee (435) 797-1758
USU students in the GEAR UP program

Utah State University students work in the GEAR UP program as tutors and mentors.

USU mentors sharing GEAR UP experiences

USU mentors met to discuss the GEAR Up program and to share experiences.

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