UTEP Receives $13M Grant for GEAR UP Program
Last Updated on October 30, 2018 at 12:00 AM
Originally published October 30, 2018
By Victor R. Martinez
Jaime Regis, a doctoral candidate in The University of Texas at El Paso’s College of Engineering, is everything the campus’ GEAR UP program represents.
The 2014 Del Valle High School graduate is the first in his family to earn a college degree. Regis was awarded his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in the spring of 2018.
But, Regis said, if not for the Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs, or GEAR UP, his academic dreams might not have come to fruition.
“I knew I wanted to get a college education, but I didn’t know much about how to go about it,” Regis said. “With GEAR UP, I had the opportunity to go on field trips to different colleges and universities and that really helped me get an idea of what college really was.”
UTEP’s GEAR UP program recently received a $13 million, 6-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education that will help more than 2,700 local students get more out of high school and navigate the path to college.
GEAR UP will provide comprehensive support to students in 10 Ysleta Independent School District (YISD) middle schools through academic counseling, tutoring, mentoring, community service opportunities, academic workshops and activities, college tours, college and career awareness and readiness activities, and financial aid planning.
It is the very program Regis was a part of when he entered seventh grade at Camino Real Middle School.
“If not for GEAR UP, I wouldn’t have been able to afford those college visits,” he said. “I wouldn’t know how to or who to ask about campus visits. I had no idea about financial aid or scholarships without the program.”
Juliette Caire, who has been the director of GEAR UP since 2001, said the new grant’s main goal is to assist students in preparing for and attending college.
This six-year grant will follow and support all members of the class of 2024 enrolled at the 10 YISD middle schools through their high school graduation.
“We are very grateful for the support of the U.S. Department of Education and for their investment in UTEP and YISD,” said Gary Edens, Ed.D., vice president for student affairs at UTEP. “The GEAR UP program has proven to be a catalyst for educational attainment and progression to a post-secondary degree. This grant will result in more students completing high school and pursuing a college degree. What a great win for El Paso!”
UTEP’s GEAR UP program has served area students since its first grant cycle in 1999.
The next group of students for the program will be pulled from Bel Air, Camino Real, Desert View, Eastwood, Indian Ridge, Parkland, Rio Bravo, Riverside, Valley View and Ysleta middle schools.
Since 1999, GEAR UP has secured more than $49 million in research grants and has guided 10,688 students in the Ysleta, Socorro and El Paso independent school districts.
“We have three goals: one is increasing the academic readiness for postsecondary education,” Caire said. “Everything we do for the seventh grade through the 12th grade is increasing academics, knowledge of navigating the postsecondary application process, increasing knowledge about degrees and careers, and very important, the financial aid process.”
GEAR UP students receive tutoring from trained UTEP students; have access to mentoring services; attend cultural events, summer programs, and leadership seminars; and take college visits.
UTEP student Amanda Haynes was introduced to GEAR UP in 2011 when she was in seventh grade at Parkland Middle School.
“GEAR UP was very helpful in getting me prepared for college,” she said. “Without GEAR UP, I would have had no idea what I was doing. I stlll would have been applying to colleges but as far as scholarships and financial aid, I would have been clueless.”
Haynes, who graduated from Parkland High School in 2014, has earned a UTEP Presidential Scholarship throughout the past four years. She, too, will be the first in her family to graduate from a university when she receives her bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering later this year.
“They were great during high school,” said Haynes, who is scheduled to graduate in December. “They would help if I had any issues with any class. They were always there for me.”