Starting with a new Principal, a new Superintendent, and the Classes of 2022 and 2023 being reunited under one roof at the high school. All this allowed for an extremely fun NATIONAL GEAR UP WEEK that took place September 23-27, 2019. Teachers participated in college door decorating. Students explored and shared colleges they were interested in and collaborated with upperclassmen to learn their process for applying to post-secondary schools. During lunch, the WSU GEAR UP Advisory Committee students put on a college going skit that was derived from true stories from teachers.
Over that summer, a GEAR UP parent from CPHS attended the NCCEP/ GEAR UP Annual Conference and participated in the Parent Leadership Institute in San Francisco, California from July 14-17, 2019. Following the conference, WSU GEAR UP held several parent outreach meetings at WSU Tri-Cities and other site locations with GEAR UP parents/guardians who attended the conference. GEAR UP at CPHS 2019-2020 was geared to focus on parent outreach, financial literacy, and preparing for college utilizing the support from GEAR UP advocates.
WSU GEAR UP was fortunate to have an hour each week with both cohorts during their Advisory period where GEAR UP staff shared important information to prepare students for their college experience. Students learned about financial literacy, scholarships, career exploration using Virtual Job Shadow, and listened to guest speakers and veteran GEAR UP students from the Class of 2018. Students were able to ask questions of alumni who went straight to a 4-year university, community college, vocational school, or into the military; as well as student athletes who play a collegiate sport. This proved to be a valuable and credible method of connecting current high school students to the reality of life after high school. The guest speakers discussed the process of getting into a college, financial decisions they had to make, what it takes to prepare oneself, the importance of academic performance and accountability.
Volunteer students were asked to join the WSU Advisory Committee along with a few parents and the vice-principal. The students had such a great time sharing their thoughts that it became an unofficial, bi-monthly meeting with just the students to discuss upcoming Advisory lessons. The meetings became a superb platform to have a discussion on what GEAR UP needed and wanted to accomplish, and to share information with students. Their feedback was invaluable and made each Advisory lesson more meaningful.
Sabrina Farrens (Class of 2023) had been selected to attend the 2020 Youth Leadership Summit to be held in conjunction with the NCCEP/GEAR UP Annual Conference in Washington, D.C. Sabrina’s guardian was to accompany her and participate in the Parent Leadership Institute. This was to be a 3.5-day leadership training where she would have represented CPHS and over 560,000 GEAR UP students nationwide. Mrs. Blethen presented the opportunity to all WSU GEAR UP cohort students in their Humanities class and a number of essays were submitted to a WSU committee for review. Of the 222 students that would have been attending the conference, WSU GEAR UP students earned eight spots and Sabrina was selected. While there were many amazing essay entries, the WSU committee also announced that (Class of 2023, CPHS student) Katherine Avila’s score ranked her as 6th among the alternates.
College Place High School is a Project Based Learning school and extremely high tech. When the COVID pandemic caused our schools to shut down on March 13th, CPHS was somewhat prepared in that they already used Google Classroom on a daily basis and communicated virtually between classes to collaborate and work on cross-subject projects. What made it challenging was the fact that no one could then work in person to finalize projects and collaborate. The students were accustomed to working in classes to form projects in small groups. Teachers continued to collaborate and work virtually with all 498 students and presented creative ways to keep school positive. WSU GEAR UP staff maintained constant communication with both cohorts, and offered Google Hangouts support sessions where students could get academic support, post-secondary exploration support, and financial support such as financial literacy lessons and scholarship workshops. WSU GEAR UP had already created their own Google Classroom, so GEAR UP was prepared to present their materials virtually, and reached all 251 GEAR UP grant students and their families.
Summer camps had to be updated for obvious reasons and WSU GEAR UP still offered some of the scheduled camps virtually: Washington Business Week, WSU Leadership Power of Youth Camp with CoolSpeaks, and a Paradigm Shift Leadership camp. On top of those virtual camps, GEAR UP continues to work with students over the summer with math and science skills via Google Hangouts, and to assist with the completion of any core class where students need extra support so they can successfully move up with their grade level.
WSU GEAR UP has had some amazing opportunities and experiences this past school year, with more to come!
“Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence.” - Abigail Adams