GU4LA Grads Reconnect, Rebuild Resilience for Post-pandemic Success

As society inches closer to a new normal, GEAR UP 4 LA is providing recent graduates the social-emotional support they need to heal from the impacts the pandemic had on their well-being and strengthen the resilience to persist in their postsecondary journeys.

During a life skills workshop in March, GU4LA graduates from the classes of 2020 and 2021 explored their strengths, reconnected with peers, and learned how to overcome personal and academic challenges in a post-pandemic world.

“We wanted to engage alumni who needed an extra motivational push, lost touch with others, or simply needed support on how to get back on track with their lives after what’s been an overwhelming two years for most of our students,” said GU4LA Senior Academic Advisor Karina Alcaraz, who, as part of the First Year Advising team, guides graduates as they become confident, well-informed, and proactive in their individual pathways.

Despite major obstacles, every student has potential. It’s important for them to know it’s OK to fail and make mistakes but also know how to keep going forward.

Karina Alcaraz, GU4LA Senior Academic Advisor

The workshop was facilitated by GU4LA partner Seeds Training, which uses brain-based learning and social-emotional development to build life and leadership skills in students.

“My favorite part was meeting new people and learning how to be successful,” #GEARUPworks graduate Richard Santiago added.

As part of the workshop, students explored strategies on how to overcome fear, stay motivated, and learn from mistakes. They also participated in interactive exercises in which they engaged in in-depth dialogue to foster meaningful relationships.

“Oftentimes, we don’t ask people enough about themselves, and I think that for the first time in a long time, I felt like I was actually being heard,” #GEARUPworks graduate Grecia Patino said.

To continue proactive advising efforts and provide students personalized support, advisors use Signal Vine, a two-way text-messaging platform that GU4LA launched in Spring 2020 when the pandemic shut down schools and engaging the class of 2020, seniors at the time, became increasingly important.

The platform was rolled out to the class of 2021 the following year, enabling the First Year Advising team to conduct social-emotional and academic check-ins, share resources, and be available when needed as students pursued higher education.

Signal Vine is now being used with the classes of 2024 and 2025 and families to strengthen advising efforts and ensure GU4LA teams meet students and families where they are throughout their educational journeys.

“It’s great because they’re able to send us their questions and we can help out directly through texts or find out what they need and connect them to our partners,” Alcaraz said. “Using texts is convenient – it’s available 24/7 and we can reply when they need our support.”

The team is also using the platform to send reminders, including to virtual follow-up sessions with Seeds in which they learn the science behind how internal obstacles impact behaviors, habits, and productivity.

“While it’s science-based, it’s presented in a fun way that’s informative for students and enables them to use the material to better themselves for successful futures,” Alcaraz said.