Nearly 10000 GEAR UP Students Journeying from High School to College

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EDINBURG – It’s the time of year when students head back to school. For most recent high school graduates that means starting a new chapter in college.

We met a former GEAR UP program director who’s also embarking a different journey. Tina Atkins served as program director for GEAR UP for nearly two decades.

Atkins said it’s bittersweet seeing students close one chapter of their life and embark on a new adventure.

“The insights you give could make a difference in somebody’s life,” she said. “Whether they’re going to the University of Pennsylvania, whether they’re going to UT Austin, whether they’re going to UTRGV, what they bring to the table is important and they have a voice that’s valuable.”

Atkins said the program has served more than 26,000 students in the Rio Grande Valley.  

“Over the course of the last 17 years, we’ve had three cohorts of kids. This most recent one had 10,000 kids,” she said. “The one before it had about 8,000 and the one before that had about 8,000,” she said.

Atkins said she worked for 17 years to ensure students succeeded after being part of the GEAR UP program.

“Not only are they going to have an incredible voice, they’re going to have new ideas and thoughts that they’re getting from other parts of the state and other parts of the country that they can come back and really influence our community with,” she said.

This send-off will be her last as she steps down from her role. However, Atkins said she’ll continue being a positive influence in the community.

“These kids are all leaving the Valley, but what I would hope is that they come back and impact their communities,” she said.

The latest cohort now has a journey ahead to pave their own path on the road to college. 

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