New Tradition Begins for Out-Of-Town GEAR UP Graduates

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EDINBURG – One by one, hands trickled into the air as students were asked how much time they had before heading off to college.

"How many of you are leaving to college next week? How many of you in two weeks? How many of you in three weeks?" asked one of the GEAR UP program directors.

The high school graduates are headed to a variety of schools including Texas A&M Corpus Christi, Boston College, Penn State, and even overseas.

The distance from home means they’ll be away from friends and family. That’s why one of the graduates decided to organize a mixer focusing on the “out-of-town” college students.

Issac Aleman is headed to Penn State, which means he’ll be hundreds of miles away from home. 

“I thought, OK, why don’t we do connections from here in the Valley?” he said.

GEAR UP facilitator Silvia Vargas said Aleman, like other students, learned about starting a support system before classes start.

“Isaac came up with an idea to have a mixer for students that were going to go out of state,” she said. “You know, we were having little things for local students and he’s like, ‘OK, we need something for students that are going to go out of state. So, that we get to know who else is going to go to these schools and then that way we have a support system.”

Current college students and soon-to-be college freshmen who call the Valley home attended the event. 

The second and third-year students gave the recent high school graduates advice to help them thrive in their first year. They also gave tips on how to juggle school and social life, what not to do and hacks to power through a busy schedule. 

Students and facilitators plan on making a second annual mixer a reality. They said this way students will have a familiar face going into that first day of their four-year education. 

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