Reflecting on 2021-2022

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Student poses with a cloth face mask at a GEAR UP event.

It has been an exciting year for the UM-Ann Arbor GEAR UP community with many lessons learned and amazing moments captured.

As the students’ middle school chapter comes to a close, they will begin a new one: high school. They will walk new halls with confidence, knowing they have the support of each other, their families, teachers, and the GU staff. Connections they built this year will continue to grow and memories of all they did, observed, and accomplished will be a reminder of the opportunity before them. As the Scholars enter a new year of ninth-grade adventures, they will remember what they learned about themselves and each other through the fun they had along the way.

A Trip to Kings Island

U-M AA GEAR UP students pose for a picture while sitting on a charter bus to Kings Island.
GEAR UP students pose for a picture while sitting on a charter bus to Kings Island.

This includes a trip to Kings Island, a theme park near Cincinnati, Ohio, that provided an abundance of fun to match the 462 miles traveled there and back. Students and the GEAR UP staff visited on Engineering Day, allowing them to participate in an educational program related to the construction of its newest roller coaster, Orion. The group attended a presentation from the Swiss-based company Bolliger and Mabillard, which specializes in building custom-designed roller coasters. Experts described the creative process and mechanical engineering principles involved in constructing the ride. Ideal for future engineers and those curious about the laws of mechanics, it was an opportunity for the students to learn how designers and engineers create thrills using physics and mathematics. Learning they would receive a free trip to visit a new location (which included tickets, transportation, and meals provided by the GU program), students and educators of Thompson K-8 International Academy wept tears of joy and expressed feelings of gratitude and excitement.

Given the pandemic has narrowed the Scholars’ middle school experience in many ways, it was also an emotional moment for the GU staff who shared the announcement with their students.

Informative, Engaging, and Inspiring Moments

Other notable moments include a virtual career panel at Birney K-8 School where tables took an interesting and inspiring turn when a GEAR UP alum returned to share wisdom as a panelist. At a symposium event at Levey Middle School – A STEAM School, Scholars learned the value and benefits of careers in health and medical fields, which one student described as “eye-opening” exposure to different STEM subjects.

Meanwhile, River Rouge STEM Academy (RRSA) Scholars took part in a program where they practiced venturing beyond their comfort zones and flexing their communication skills; at the beginning of the school year, the RRSA Scholars were apprehensive but GEAR UP brought various partners—the Black and Brown Theater and the Detroit Area Pre-College Engineering Program (DAPCEP)—to help the students practice new approaches.

At César Chávez Academy Middle School, the GEAR UP team hosted an innovative rally event outside the classroom. When the students walked into their gym, GU staff greeted them with a DJ blasting popular songs and fun team-building activities, such as hula hoop games and “Ships and Sailors.”

Casimir Pulaski Elementary-Middle School Scholars (CPEMS) participated in an interactive workshop where they learned more about True Colors, a temperament and communication model with the goals of improving the understanding of self, the understanding of others, and the appreciation of differences. While all UM-AA GEAR UP students participated in True Colors workshops, CPEMS students had the opportunity to explore it more deeply through additional activities and conversations. GEAR UP Scholars at Sabbath Middle School participated in mental wellness and growth mindset conversations that helped them learn ways to support each other’s personal development and reflect on their future goals.

Celebrating, Reflecting,
and Looking Forward

These experiences and others bolstered the strong community that will continue to support Scholars as they progress through high school and their first year of college. Reflecting on the year and what comes next, the GEAR UP team feels grateful to have become a part of their Scholars’ stories and optimistic for the next chapter. The staff members are as excited about the students’ promising futures as they are proud of the progress they made this year.

Thank you for a great year.

We are so grateful to have been able to be a part of the communities at Birney K-8 School, Casimir Pulaski Elementary-Middle School, César Chávez Academy Middle School, Levey Middle School – A STEAM School, River Rouge STEM Academy, Sabbath Middle School, and Thompson K-8 International Academy.

Thank you to our amazing students, their families, educators, and schools for welcoming and spending time with us.

To our students—have a wonderful summer. We are so excited to be a part of your journey and are looking forward to seeing you this fall.