UTRGV Graduate Shares How GEAR UP Helped Him Prepare for College

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WESLACO – A Rio Grande Valley college graduate said a college awareness program taught him to fulfill his goal of obtaining an education degree.

Former GEAR UP student Cesar Gonzalez said it was in June of 2006 when his family made way to the Valley from Mexico.

“It was really hard. Like starting from scratch again, moving places, getting adjusted to the area,” he said. “We went to Wal-Mart and we got an air mattress, and we slept on an air mattress for a few weeks until my dad got us an actual mattress.”

Gonzalez signed up at Kenneth White Middle School in Mission. At the time, he said he only knew how to speak Spanish. He said one day they pulled him out of class and told him he was going on a field trip.

For Gonzalez, it was the beginning of an exciting journey with the GEAR UP program. He said the visit to a university was also an eye-opening experience.

“It was a really exciting experience. To see college students who know they’re way older than me and it was so exciting,” he said. “But it was really hard at first. I didn’t know what they were saying, but I was barely here a few months, learning the language.”

Although the former GEAR UP student wasn’t familiar with how college worked in the U.S., he said GEAR UP gave him the courage and ability to persevere and do well in high school.

Gonzalez said he used his early challenges as the subject of an essay that won him a VAMOS scholarship. Because of that he was able to pay for college and obtain an education degree from the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

“We can never replace what they did for us. We graduated from college, debt free,” he said. “Thank you to Miss Sonia Falcon who helped with the program.”

Gonzalez said people should know where there’s a will there’s a way.

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