GEAR UP Continues to Assist Students in Local Community Colleges

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MCALLEN – Although many students are in their first year of college, they are still getting help from GEAR UP.

There are thousands of Rio Grande Valley graduates who stayed home to further their education.

While students head to class to meet with a professor or prepare for an exam with a study group, they will find an additional presence within the crowd.  

“With Region One GEAR UP, we were afforded a really unique opportunity which is to follow our students into their first year of college,” said Melissa Lopez, education specialist at Region One.

“Time management is a big factor because now they have more freedom. It’s not as structured as the high school setting. So now that they’re here, it’s a different type of environment but we’re still there. We didn’t just throw them out. So, if they need any support, resources, we’re here to help them,” said GEAR UP facilitator Sandra Garza.

This school year, facilitators will visit local campuses like South Texas College. They’ll be there to answer any questions former GEAR UP students have.

“We help them with financial aid, with advising and just so they don’t feel so lost here at a college setting,” said Garza.

Garza prepared students like Ivan Izaguirre for college.

“It can be intimidating, you know, going to someone. It’s almost like you grow up so fast and these students, obviously, we want them to grow up and we know they’re mature, but they also need to learn things like how to speak to certain individuals and STC has been wonderful,” she said. “They’ve been great and they’ve been very welcoming to our students and they’ve been collaborating because there’s so many stakeholders here so we all want our students to succeed.”

Izaguirre is studying business and culinary. He said he’s focusing on time management in order to finish both career tracks at the same time.

“So far, it’s going all good. I’m just managing my days, planning my days out every single day,” he said.

Garza said the connection she and other facilitators have made with the GEAR UP students will spill over into the new phase of their lives. She said they’ll be there every step of the way to ensure students will reach their next milestone: a college degree. 

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