Gear Up and go

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By Jeffrey Whitehead

By Jeffrey Whitehead

In other civilized societies, say ancient Greece, relationships between the young, inexperienced, and the older, more experienced, were a normal reality for the general public.

The value and necessity of these relationships is painfully obvious to some and this is where mentoring programs come in.

Gear Up stands for: Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for college.It has received $6 million from the federal government to use over six years. It is in its fifth year now and according to Dr. Martinez-Flores and the newsletter the Gear Up workers most recently released, it is confident about its positive affect on the participating high-school students’ academic progress.

Gear Up was created for public school students who otherwise have little influence in their lives from adults who would encourage them to enter college.

The team is currently working with three high-schools in Riverside: Norte Vista, Ramona and Arlington. It provides mentors, volunteers from RCC and UCR, to meet with interested students once a month and spend time with them, hopefully discussing life and survival while both attending college and aiming to graduate.

Gear Up also have a threaded discussion software, a Web based portal similar to e-mail, which allows “mentees” and mentors to communicate electronically between monthly meetings. They can continue to use this resource throughout the summer if they wish. For the teachers at these high schools they provide a software called Edusoft. It allows them to look at each individual student’s test scores and grades. These can then be analyzed to find out what every student needs to work on and where every student is excelling. Teachers are also offered teaching coaches.

These are experienced educators who will step into the teachers teaching situation and show them ways to improve their methods. Martinez-Flores said that many teachers feel a little threatened at first, but often realize after a time that there is something to be learned from the experience.

When the program was started in 2000 the students were in seventh grade. These students were recorded to have had an average grade point average of 2.55 during the grades seven through nine. Their non Gear Up peers averaged 2.15, a total grade point average of .40 for students receiving Gear Up services. Students who had participated in Gear Up since its beginning showed a higher GPA than those students who joined the program at a later date. These students will be finishing twelfth grade when the program ends and if the program has accomplished its goals, these students will be more prepared, more confident, and more qualified to begin college than they would have been without Gear Up’s help.

With a stroke of luck, these students will be successful.

When Gear Up’s six years has run out its workers will be applying for a new grant. They shall see if their mission is deemed worthy and if they can continue their efforts another six years.

At the very least, the students will have benefited, according to Martinez-Flores, “The college student mentors fulfill needed community service hours, while the student mentees get a chance to ask their mentors whatever they want to. Because of these opportunities for the mentees to speak to older college students they also experience a feeling of normality in their apprehensions of an adult life while going to college.”

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