Fallbrook seventh and eighth graders GEAR UP for college

Seen at a “College Is For Me” field trip, held at CSUSM on Aug. 2, are 340 students from Fallbrook, Vista, Valley Center-Pauma, Escondido and San Marcos. The GEAR UP kick-off pep talk theme was “If I Plan to Learn, I Must Learn to Plan therefore, College Is For Me!" It was a day of academic inspiration, college and career planning.
Seen at a “College Is For Me” field trip, held at CSUSM on Aug. 2, are 340 students from Fallbrook, Vista, Valley Center-Pauma, Escondido and San Marcos. The GEAR UP kick-off pep talk theme was “If I Plan to Learn, I Must Learn to Plan therefore, College Is For Me!” It was a day of academic inspiration, college and career planning.

Lucette Moramarco
Staff Writer

Last spring, a new federal program was started at Fallbrook elementary schools for the students then in sixth and seventh grades. GEAR UP, a grant-funded seven-year long program offered through Palomar College, is now offering college readiness and outreach services to the students who will be graduating from high school in 2022 and 2023 in Fallbrook as well as Valley Center and Vista.

GEAR UP stands for gaining early awareness readiness for undergraduate program. Program director and Valley Center resident Calvin One Deer Gavin said, “The beauty of GEAR UP is that the program follows these same students from middle school through high school graduation and into college; it’s a longitudinal student success program! We work to guarantee they graduate from high school and college! We get them “geared up” for careers and life!”

GEAR UP works to support those two classes of students by preparing them to attend post-secondary schools, particularly at-risk, low-income, and first generation college-bound students. It provides opportunities for them to interact with college students and programs. The younger students take two weekend field trips each semester to colleges in San Diego County while older students are taken to colleges as far away as Sacramento.

The goals of the program are to increase student academic performance, high school graduation rates, and participation in post-secondary education, as well as to increase GEAR UP students’ and their families’ knowledge of post-secondary education options, preparation and financing.

GEAR UP marketing and business advisor Therese Cisneros-Remington said that “post-secondary education” includes trade schools and the 250-plus certificate programs at Palomar College besides four year colleges and universities.

According to its brochure, GEAR UP is “a matching and proven United States Department of Education grant that puts federal tax dollars, in collaboration with business partners, back into our educational system”.

Two years of work went into getting this grant, called the Rural and Reservation Partnership Grant. Cisneros-Remington contacted the Fallbrook Chamber of Commerce to recruit local businesses to sign on with the program. She said a wide spectrum of diverse businesses from corporations to water districts and chamber members form a work/education partnership with the schools.

The goal is “to create a stronger dialogue between businesses and students” and to leave a blueprint for success in how businesses work with students.
Having the businesses as partners provides students with an opportunity to learn what jobs are available locally and what they need to do to qualify for those jobs.

GEAR UP director and Valley Center resident Calvin One Deer Gavin, center, is seen with two students from Vista, Aiden Davis, left, and Agustin Ramirez at Cal State San Marcos.
GEAR UP director and Valley Center resident Calvin One Deer Gavin, center, is seen with two students from Vista, Aiden Davis, left, and Agustin Ramirez at Cal State San Marcos.

That preparation starts with education. The program emphasizes the STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) approach to preparing students for careers.

Each school with participating students has a site coordinator and program assistants who work with those students. Tutoring is provided before, during and after school.

The program is hiring college students as academic leaders who can gain valuable experience tutoring and mentoring the middle grade students in GEAR UP.

Tutors, who must be attending a two- or four-year college, work up to 20 hours a week. Subjects required at the seventh and eighth grade level are pre-algebra, algebra, English, social studies, physical science and life science.

For more information or how to apply, contact Edwin Torres at (760) 744-1150, ext. 3675 or etorres@palomar.edu.

GEAR UP not only impacts the students it works with but also affects their parents and siblings, teachers and administrators. “We are here for seven years and we want to make the most impact,” Cisneros-Remington said.

The program works to create a college-going culture, including the GEAR UP model of “If I plan to learn, I must learn to plan.” The students are helped to build their talents and interests, and to learn about the resources local businesses have to offer. They also learn that they must do well in middle school to get the classes they want in high school or to participate in sports.

They are also exposed to college life on their trips to both Palomar and Cal State San Marcos. They are also taken to places like the Birch Aquarium, the Museum of Science at Balboa Park, and the Ruben H. Fleet Museum to learn how science and technology are used. All expenses are paid for by the program.

GEAR UP students are getting a head start on college preparation with help of their community. Anyone interested in learning more about the program or how to get involved as a business partner, can visit www.palomar.edu/gearup, email gearup@palomar.edu or call (760) 744-1150, ext.3680.

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