Alamosa, Centauri and Adams State partner through GEAR UP

(06-11-2014)

colorado gear up logo

Colorado GEAR UP prepares high school students for college success. Currently, both Alamosa and Centauri have students enlisted in the program which focuses on increasing math and English skills, and familiarizing students with college.

A federally-funded program, GEAR UP, uses early remediation to assist students with the skills necessary to be successful in college. Liz Tabeling-Garcia works at Alamosa High School and Adams State University through the program and Jasmine Camponeschi works both in Alamosa and Centauri. Alfonso Casias works in the Alamosa School District with Tabeling-Garcia and Camponeschi.

Colorado GEAR UP, Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs, a division of the Colorado Department of Higher Education, seeks to ensure higher education is affordable and accessible to all. Colorado GEAR UP's innovative use of strategies such as early remediation, dual enrollment and CLEP testing has made the program a national leader among pre-collegiate efforts. Colorado GEAR UP predominantly serves low-income and Hispanic students who are the first in their families to go to college.

According to Tabeling-Garcia, eligible students are recruited at the end of seventh-grade and begin the program the following year continuing through their freshman year in college.

The largest component of GEAR UP is ALEKS, an early remediation, self-paced, online, math course. Students begin taking ALEKS daily in eighth-grade. "Classroom teachers oversee and assist the students during the daily ALEKS class," said Lynn Weathers, ALEKS coordinator. "The website is easy to use and self-contained."

Nearly 550 students, in Alamosa and Centauri, are in GEAR UP. Camponeschi said, as pre-collegiate advisors, they meet monthly with the students as a group to discuss college readiness topics such as financial aid, best study practices, how to save money, individual learning styles and types, study groups, and more. They also meet with the students one-on-one for grade checks and any other needs.

Once the high school students reach their junior and senior years, GEAR UP staff members begin tailoring the discussions specifically to individuals, helping them fill out FASFAs and college applications. They also take the students on tours of college campuses and help them with degree plans. "When going over degree plans, we help students be realistic," said Tabeling-Garcia. "If they want to major in pre-med but don't like science…we help guide them in another direction."

As schools, both Centauri and Alamosa qualified for the grant, students who are first-generation, or minorities receive top priority for the program, then spaces available open up to other students. "When students finish both ALEKS programs, and pass the tests on both programs, they receive college transcripts for 095 and 097 math courses," Tabeling-Garcia said. Students who participate in the GEAR UP grant will receive a college scholarship anywhere they are accepted.

Tabeling-Garcia believes the grant works; she has seen improvement in math scores. Camponeschi agrees, "I've heard students talking to one another about how they understand the math concepts better now that they have taken ALEKS."

Through the Colorado Challenge Grant, Tabeling-Garcia's continues the work started with GEAR UP. She follows-through with the students, once they are in college, helping them navigate through higher education policies and standards and complete their degrees in four years. Adams State supplies her with an office and materials and her salary is paid for through the grant. "I am a supplement advisor for the students." An Adams State alumna, Tabeling Garcia '96 '06 said it helps to be familiar with the campus and departments. "I keep in touch with the students. At times all they need is another person to reach out and keep them on track."