GU4LA Conference Features National College Access GEAR UP Leader

To support foster youth and students with special needs on their postsecondary pathways, GEAR UP 4 LA recently hosted a professional development conference, where staff learned about the tools and resources available to support underrepresented students and gained a deeper understanding of their role in increasing college access and family engagement nationally.

During the Dec. 9 mini-conference, staff participated in workshops led by the Los Angeles Unified District Office of Transition Services and Student Support Programs, which highlighted the comprehensive services and supports available on school site campuses and best practices to overcome challenges.

“It’s critical that our staff know what the challenges are and how to remove barriers to support the academic success of all students while increasing their awareness of the options available to them after high school,” Senior Program Manager Sharon Yamada said.

The team also heard from Betty Paugh Ortiz, vice president of programs at the National Council for Community and Education Partnerships (NCCEP), who spoke about how GU4LA fits into the national landscape of increasing college and career readiness for first-generation students and engaging families in the process.

“You’re not only helping students. You’re also improving communities. I cannot tell you how much we appreciate what you do.”

Betty Paugh Ortiz, Vice President of Programs, NCCEP

“Not all first-gen look the same,” said Paugh Ortiz, a first-generation college graduate. “There is a lot more diversity, a lot more levels, to what that looks like in the students you’re serving. You’re not only helping students. You’re also improving communities. I cannot tell you how much we appreciate what you do.”

This was the final all-staff PD of 2022, which could not have come at a better time for many, including GU4LA counselor Oscar Perez.

“From learning about Betty’s upbringing as a young girl in Puerto Rico, aspiring to one day attend American University in Washington, D.C., to gaining critical LAUSD resources to support our homeless and foster youth, GEAR UP once again found a way to inspire us all,” Perez said. “We have many Bettys on our campuses quietly looking for that special someone to count on. We are that special someone. Her story added fuel to my fire, and I am even more motivated to complete the fall semester and start the spring semester on a high note.”

Back to top