|GEAR UP Student Highlights|
GEAR UP brings a Wide Variety of Guest Speakers to Sager's AVID Classes
A biomedical engineer, a former U.S. Olympian, a minor league baseball General Manager and a community college counselor were all part of GEAR UP’s guest speaker line-up at John Sager Middle School in College Place. GEAR UP Student Achievement Specialist, Bob Young, and Academic Specialist, Brian Kitamura, have teamed up with AVID teacher Michael Anderson to bring people from the Walla Walla community into the classroom to tell their stories to students. “The concept is to expose students to different careers and activities that might pique their interest and lead them to any undiscovered passions they might have,” says Young.
Speakers are encouraged to tell “their” story. How did they get to where they are? Most have shared words of wisdom:
“Don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone. You never know what opportunities it might lead to.” Zach Fraser, General Manager of the Walla Walla Sweets baseball team.
“If it’s to be, it’s up to me.” Debra Enger, U.S. Olympian in Air Rifle.
“If you get a chance to travel abroad, take it. The experiences are unbelievable.” Dan Fayette, U.S. Navy Corpsman and Biomedical Engineer.
“What you do you in middle school counts!” Becky Samitore-Durand, Counselor Walla Walla Community College.
“Look a future employer right in the eye when you meet them.” David Beamer, Dutch Bros. Coffee.
Randy Grant, Executive Director of the Walla Walla YMCA, had the 7th and 8th graders continually chuckling as he mixed humor with history. He shared lots of information about the birth of basketball, volleyball and racquetball. Abby Johnston and Miguel Lara were among those “winning” Y prizes as they answered questions from Randy.
GEAR UP will be helping to bring even more speakers this spring to Sager Middle School including; former Sager student, Sandy Flores, who is the first Latina in Walla Walla County to pass the bar exam in Washington as well as Anthony Remboldt, Flight Instructor from Walla Walla University.
Tutor Spotlight on Abbey McGrath
GEAR UP Tutor Spotlight: Abbey McGrath
After graduating from Whitman in 2012 with a degree in Biology, Abbey McGrath decided to stay in Walla Walla to pursue the opportunity to work with middle school students as a GEAR UP tutor in the AVID program. While she plans to continue her goal of becoming a nurse practitioner in pediatrics, she currently spends her mornings working with the 7th and 8th grade AVID students at Garrison Middle School.
In January, Abbey will have been an AVID tutor through the GEAR UP program for one year. When asked about her favorite part of working with the students at Garrison, Abbey stated, “My favorite part about working with students at Garrison is encountering diversity in the student population and guiding students to recognize and value other students' individuality as well as their own.”
Abbey is no stranger to diversity. While she began her life in Seattle Washington, she lived with her family in Germany for several years, and this is what fostered her love for diverse cultures.
One of Abbey’s favorite AVID strategies is tutorials. She stated that she loves to see students “break out of their shells” to help each other and celebrate the successes they get out of the process. Abbey also believes that the AVID strategies gives middle school students structure, support, and great resources, but most importantly AVID holds students accountable to do their own critical thinking.
When asked to discuss how she sees AVID benefitting college students, Abbey said, “When I first entered college, I wasn't adept at collaborating with others and suspending my own beliefs to consider the validity in others' opinions. The focus in AVID on critical thinking and collaboration begins college preparation for middle school students. For example, even the structure of the AVID classroom promotes skills necessary for success in higher education and careers. With multiple college tutors in each classroom, students engage with more adults of different ages than the average middle school student, which helps them build the ability to interact and collaborate with adults, supervisors, and professors.”
Big thanks to Abbey for her work with the AVID students at Garrison Middle School! She is clearly a wonderful addition to the AVID program, and a huge portion of what makes the GEAR UP program beneficial to Garrison students.
Academic Lab at Walla Walla High School
GEAR-UP’s Academic Lab is a Monday-Thursday after-school tutoring program based in Walla Walla High School’s library. GEAR UP’s goals for academic lab are to contribute to the intellectual development of students, the improvement of students’ grades, and the growth of the academic lab into a welcoming and engaging community of students, tutors, and teachers.
For the past month, 70-100 students have come into the GEAR UP Academic Lab daily to get ahead on schoolwork or, in some cases, to catch up on schoolwork. On any given weekday around 2:30pm, you can see scores of students typing, editing, working alone, collaborating, reading, talking to tutors, calculating, helping each other, researching, and asking for help. A few tutors sign every student into the lab. This initial interaction allows tutors to learn students’ names and what they will work on that day. We like using names in the academic lab. When a tutor uses a student’s name, the student’s face lights up. The reversal is always true, too.
Academic Lab Tutor, Annie Palumbo. To meet all the GEAR UP tutors CLICK HERE
The biggest challenge we face in the academic lab is creating a community. In the beginning, the academic lab is all about building relationships between tutor and student. Trust and respect are vital components to the success of the academic lab. The trust does not just stem from student to tutor, but also from tutor to student. The students come from diverse backgrounds and have diverse interests. Because it is not a referral program, students voluntarily come to academic lab but can be recommended by their teachers. The tutors have to navigate through these complexities. Ultimately, understanding what each individual student needs and seeing their potential is central to the success of our tutors. This type of tutoring is sustainable because it leaves much of the work up to the students and keeps the tutor from micromanaging.
We emphasize process-driven tutoring over product-driven tutoring. Students who ask for help quickly learn that tutors do not give up answers. Dialogue, then, is key to tutoring. What is the point of confusion for the student? Do they have notes from the class? The tutors who work in the academic lab ask a lot of questions. Many students end up mirroring our behavior and, in many cases, guide themselves to a deeper level of thinking and understanding. This re-presentation of problems to themselves is a type of critical thinking. Critical thinking is something we like, here in the academic lab.
On of GEAR UP’s main objectives in the academic lab is that the tutors get to know each face, each name. The academic lab thrives on student-tutor relationships; a student asking for a tutor by name, or a student coming on days their tutor works. A student may enter the academic lab feeling like part of a school of fish, but if they leave feeling unique, then the first part of our job is done; a relationship is established, and they know our doors are always open.
My life changing experience in Washington D.C and New York by student: GEAR UP Student Vanessa Alvarado-Rivas
In the summer of 2012, as a junior at Walla Walla High School I was nominated to visit New York and Washington D.C. for eight days, all expenses paid. Going on this trip was really unexpected for me. I had no idea of how I deserved this trip. GEAR UP Site Director Mrs. Tompkins was the one who choose Ana Andrade, Erika Torres, Cristina Sosa and me for this trip. She said that we have worked hard throughout our years in high school, we never gave up and we were always role models to others because of our leadership skills. I thank her so much for this opportunity that was given to me. I honestly had a lot of fun since the first day. I also met new friends that now are called a family to me. And the chaperones were amazing; they were like parents for us in those eight days!
Summer Travel Camps end with a BANG!
GEAR UP sent a total of 81 Middle School and High School Students to 8 different week long Summer Camp Programs at Universities across Washington State!
Cougar Quest is an Academic Camp held at Washington State University in Pullman, WA. Garrison, Pioneer and Sager Middle Schools represented a total of 47 students out of the hundreds that attended this unforgetable camp experience!
GOOOO! COUGS! GOOOO! COUGS! Behind this chant were groups of Middle School Students from Walla Walla and College Place, as well as from around the state. Over Forty students from Garrison, Pioneer, and Sager Middle Schools attended Cougar Quest. The camp provides a weeklong experience on the campus of a Tier I Research University through a GEAR UP sponsored scholarship. Cougar Quest allows middle school students to be exposed to the college lifestyle by living in the dorms, eating at the cafeteria, using the student recreation center, and most importantly allows these students to be exposed to Washington State University Professors in a verity of academic courses.
These professors taught the students who pre-selected their classes for the week. Courses included: improve comedy, video game programming, taste of design, taste of the world, engineering design, and over twenty more exciting courses. Every night at dinner I would hear students discussing their classes and what they learned, or they would be explaining where and why they were going to college. GEAR UP will continue to support our students education through Cougar Quest as it continues to excite and inspire our students, as this comment from a professor sums up the week, “It is always a pleasure when students want to learn and are excited to learn,”
Students came in not knowing what to expect, but Cougar Quest provided our students with an amazing experience. It only should encourage them to pursue and explore their career and college options…. GOOOOO! COUGS! GOOOOO! COUGS!
Summer Leadership Program
BY: Erica Salgado, GEAR UP Leadership Coordinator
Oh the joys of summer! Kids running around with the sprinklers on, enjoying the fact that they’re not in school anymore. Wouldn’t it be nice to have students learning and gaining new skills as they enjoy their time off school? The GEAR UP/Garrison Summer Leadership Camp was the perfect tool!
This was my first year coordinating GEAR UP's summer camp, and it was amazing! Simply having kids attend the camp showed their willingness to participate in the camp activities.
As the first students showed up bright and early on Monday, they automatically looked for familiar faces. The high school student leaders instantly took action and started talking to the middle school students welcoming them to the summer camp. The high school students’ initiative and willingness to talk to complete strangers exemplified how they took on their leadership role.
Monday’s activities consisted of two small projects in which the students, assigned in small groups, figured out ways on how they would “put themselves out there”. Within each small group every student came up with realistic ways go out of their comfort zone, such as, encouraging others to participate in silly activities. They also came up with ways fun ways to put themselves out there, such as, high-fiving every student that came along their way. These small actions boosted confidence levels and the students took on their leadership roles without thinking about it.
Student groups were given the option to run for a leadership role – leading an activity for the whole camp. Although they didn’t know what this activity consisted of, their creative minds went to work on developing a campaign.
The following day, the small groups presented their posters, speeches, and film productions. After those were done, the students voted for the group they felt did the best in “putting themselves out there.” Once the elected group was announced, the activity for Wednesday was revealed. What I thought was incredible was the amount of energy you could see in their faces. Although, they didn’t know what activity they were going to be leading was at first, after they found out they still had the same amount of energy and excitement.
The last day of camp before the ropes course, the elected group led the last activity. Each small group was to get together and come up with a Public Service Announcement. At 11:30 am they presented their PSA’s toMark Higgins, Communications Director of Walla Walla Public Schools, who presented an opportunity to have them recorded and aired on the radio. Their eagerness to be recorded showed in their faces. The high school students instantly made arrangements with the middle school students and came up with times that would work best to have their PSA’s recorded at KUJ, a local radio station.
During the Ropes Course the following day, all the skills the students had obtained came into action when they worked together to complete the challenges given to them. The students worked well together and came out of their comfort zone to complete the challenges.
There was definitely a huge amount of growth from the students. Comparing the first day of the camp to the last day during the ropes course, those that were quiet took on a huge step to step out of their bubble to help those around them and to encourage those to give their fullest in the activities they participated on.
Who said summer wasn’t meant to learn new things? Well they did and they had fun doing it!
GEAR UP All Aboard Spring Break Trip
Editor’s note: Kimber subsequently applied to Eastern Washington University, was accepted, and will attend in the Fall of 2012.
I'm a Trooper
AVID's Impact on a Trooper
By: Student Achievement Specialist for Garrison Middle School: