After eight years with GEAR UP 4 LA supporting and guiding them along their journeys, graduates of the classes of 2020 and 2021 are spreading their wings and flying solo as the program wraps up its 2014 grant and first-year services come to an end.
GEAR UP concluded services for alumni – most of whom have been with GU4LA since middle school – in September as they enter the second and third year of their postsecondary journeys equipped with the knowledge, tools and confidence to persist through higher education and pursue their passions.
“This group of students is proof that when the door of opportunity is opened, the possibilities are endless,” said Project Manager Karina Alcaraz, who supported graduates as a senior academic advisor.
Over the life of the grant, GU4LA supported 4,332 students, providing 485,482 hours of comprehensive services, including counseling and advising, college knowledge and financial aid workshops, college visits, career exploration and more.
Grecia Patino, a business major at Bakersfield College, attributes the reason for going to college – and seeing higher education as a possibility – to GEAR UP.
During the final year of services – which bridges the gap between senior year and postsecondary options – GU4LA First Year Advisors provided over 3,700 hours of personalized support to over 1,000 students, including Mohammad Alam, a data science major at UC Berkeley, and Jennifer Gutierrez, a neuroscience major at USC.
“These people were superheroes changing lives,” Alam said. “I’m truly honored to be part of such an amazing program.”
“I have become more confident and resilient than before because I knew that there were people who supported me, and I wasn’t alone in this complicated journey as a first-generation college student,” Gutierrez added.
As part of the transitionary support, advisors empowered students to overcome summer melt challenges, conducting regular one-on-one outreach, providing social-emotional support and helping students persist through higher education.
“Despite facing unimaginable challenges brought on by the pandemic and the struggle of everyday hurdles faced by inequities, our students continue to strive and stay committed to creating positive change for their futures and communities,” Alcaraz said. “It has been heartwarming to see their growth and transformation over the years, and I’m confident that they will thrive in their chosen path.”