A Letter From Laura Saavedra, Program Director of GEAR UP

The magic in education lies in relationships—with the power to inform, engage, and inspire, they can make all the difference in students’ lives. This is why the University of Michigan’s Center for Educational Outreach (CEO) is excited to launch its GEAR UP program. Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs, or GEAR UP, is a multi-year, federally funded national grant program rooted in early holistic intervention. Through this program, CEO will support and endeavor to increase the number of students from limited-income backgrounds who are prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education. To do this, it will tap into the power of relationships and connections, bringing together the people in a student’s community to create an elevated level of support. This includes providing information and engagement for vital groups like the students’ families and school.

Over the course of seven years, this collaborative circle of support—composed of the student’s family, educators, schools, and U-M CEO staff—will work together to help 975 students build the skills, knowledge, and confidence they need to succeed in postsecondary settings. On a broader scale, this community will help the students and their families develop more awareness of the factors and challenges that limit college readiness and success among certain populations.

Each student will also receive indirect support through collaborations between GEAR UP and key players in the student’s educational experience. These key groups will be provided resources and services that help them assist the students. This includes families who have access to workshops, an advisory board, parent-led events and activities, college campus visits (in-person and/or virtual) and financial education services. GEAR UP will also seek to address the needs of another key group, the educators and schools, by providing professional development workshops, collaboratively addressing emerging challenges or high-priority areas identified in school improvement plans, and a variety of training opportunities.

For the students, these collaborative efforts will provide more holistic support due a high level of coordination. The resources shared between groups will address critical needs, allowing educators and families to focus on the students and their individual development. This holistic approach will also encourage students to be engaged and empowered learners who are equal partners in their own success. Over the course of the program, students will learn the necessary skills to take ownership of their education, an important ability that will serve them well in postsecondary education and instill a sense of confidence and self-ownership that will empower them along their educational journeys.