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Official National GEAR UP Week Selfie Material

I heart GU ##




Not sure what to do for your National GEAR UP Week event Sept 22-26. 2014? Print this image and have a ‘I HEART GU’ selfie contest on social media!

Tweet us! @CAGEARUP

Facebook us! https://www.facebook.com/CaliforniaGEARUP


Video: The Power of Relationships for Student Success

vista youtube

Over the course of three years and with the leadership of a group of committed teachers, administrators, teachers, students, GEAR UP, and community partnerships, Vista Middle School transformed from a failing middle school into a thriving Preparatory Academy. The focus of the transformation: creating a school culture centered around student success as the highest priority. Their story is in progress but the results are already telling. Let the video tell the story. 

Shot over three days on location in Red Bluff, CA by Emmy nominated videographer Andy Schlactenhaufen for California GEAR UP.

Special thanks to the Vista Preparatory Academy teachers and community, GEAR UP College Options, Red Bluff Union Elementary School District,

Let us know what you think of the video!


State Board Commends Higher Ed Common Core Approach

In an unprecedented action, the four systems of higher education announced their endorsement of Common Core standards and have engaged in a comprehensive, coordinated approach for implementation that links the K-12 system with higher education on standards, assessments and teacher training.

The leaders of the University of California, California State University, California Community Colleges, and Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities outlined their endorsement of Common Core standards in a letter to the State Board of Education. The announcement is part of the California State Board of Education’s National Governors Association grant for K-12/higher education collaboration.

“This endorsement reinforces other significant actions by higher education to align standards and assessments with Common Core including major revisions to the PSAT and SAT, updates to the a-g requirements for the University of California and California State University, improvements to teacher preparation, and collaboration on the Early Assessment Program and Smarter Balanced assessments for 11th grade,” explained California State Board of Education president Mike Kirst.

“The implementation of the Common Core standards and aligned assessments has the potential to dramatically improve college readiness and help close the preparation gap that exists for California students,” wrote Janet Napolitano, Timothy White, Brice Harris and Kristen Soares. The system leaders note the “transforming promise of these new standards” as more students master them and more teachers, students and parents are given clear and consistent messages about college and career readiness.

The letter states that “Common Core standards provide teachers and districts a roadmap to developing courses that cultivate the deep understandings required for college preparation.  In concert with this transition, the a-g requirements for CSU and UC admission, specifically areas ‘b’ (English) and ‘c’ (Mathematics), have been updated to align with the Common Core standards and the message is being transmitted to schools, parents and students.”

The system leaders also highlight the Early Assessment Program and higher education’s participation in teams working on the performance standards for the Smarter Balanced 11th grade assessments. The “partnership California has built over the last 10 years to implement the Early Assessment Program has helped to define the national effort to measure college and career readiness in the 11th grade, and it places California in an optimal position to successfully transition to the new system of standards and assessments.”

“Collaborative efforts will help ensure that the tests measure standards that our K-12 and higher education systems all agree address appropriate expectations for the preparation of high school graduates who are ready to succeed…. These assessments align with our commitment to new learning outcomes to ensure our graduates are ready to succeed in an increasingly complex global environment,” the letter notes.

The link between K-12 and higher education starts with teacher preparation, according to Napolitano, White, Harris and Soares.  Accordingly, “higher education systems are aligning teacher preparation programs and content with the Common Core standards.”

More information about California’s implementation of Common Core standards can be found athttp://www.cde.ca.gov/re/cc/index.asp.


A Dream Realized: Stories From the National Conference

NCCEP 2014

This year marked the 15th anniversary of GEAR UP and the annual conference was held in Washington DC July 20-23, 2014.  The purpose of this conference is to highlight the importance of education/community partnerships and the accomplishments of the Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP). This conference also serves to facilitate the forging of new alliances among faculty, to help attendees learn about other federal and foundation-sponsored college awareness efforts, to learn about other academic and student support programs, and to find new ways to engage local communities, businesses and professional associations in the work of GEAR UP partnerships. The conference is especially relevant to education practitioners, business leaders and policymakers who wish to learn more about creating and sustaining education collaboratives that can help improve public education and promote student academic achievement.

It was a great opportunity to network and connect with GEAR UP programs/projects around the county. I really appreciated the big picture scope of the work and mission of NCCEP. -Bernadette Ramirez, California GEAR UP

Attendees addended breakout session based on their areas of work and interest. California GEAR UP presented at four different sessions and was excited to share the success across California.

The daily speakers were amazing and reminded us of our purpose and the necessity of all of our contributions.  I left centered and reminded that there people all across the nation working with students to create pathways that provide equal access to higher education. -Crystal Robinson, California GEAR UP.


The GEAR UP Alumni Leadership Academy (GUALA) is a new initiative launched by the National Council for Community and Education Partnerships with support from the national GEAR UP community and funding from The Kresge Foundation.  The GUALA is a 12-month program designed to train and engage GEAR UP alumni in advocacy and leadership, and work toward creating positive change in education policy for their younger peers. The GUALA will select 30 GEAR UP Alumni Leaders annually from across the country and grow the program to one per state over time. Stephani Ruiz, GUALA class 2014 shared her conference experience with us:

“The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet” -Aristotle. That is exactly what I saw at the national Gear Up conference. I saw many speakers, students, and presenters who all said the same thing. Education is hard, but if you keep at it, you can achieve! I tell my students that quote every time they feel discouraged and I tell myself that every single time I feel like quitting. I am a first generation student and for me my education journey was very challenging, but so worth it! I am near the end of my undergraduate journey and there have been times that I have wanted to quit, but my mentors have encouraged me to keep fighting. I am so thankful that GUALA has given me the same opportunity to encourage and help future leaders that are struggling to that they are worth it. I love what Gear Up has done to my community. Gear Up has been a huge part of my life and I am just so thankful that the roots may be bitter, but the fruit, is just so much more sweeter!

Fattah Google

U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah (D., Pa.) touted the progress of a college preparation program he helped bring into being 15 years ago, and announced that the annual GEAR UP convention would come to Philadelphia next year. And he did it while recording his own remarks through Google Glass. (If you want to see what it’s like to deliver a speech to a conference, see the video ). Fattah, of Philadelphia, sponsored the creation of GEAR UP during the Clinton administration, helping found a program that prepares low-income students for college. In his speech at the program’s annual convention last week, Fattah said it had now aided 13 million young people. Quoting former President Clinton’s comments at the 1998 bill signing, Fattah said, “we want our young people to have every opportunity to live and achieve their dreams.”

One aspect of the conference many attendees were excited about was visiting with their local members of congress as part of ‘Hill Visits’. GEAR UP practitioners spent weeks leading up to their capitol trip scheduling appointments with not only members of congress but also their education staff to share the accomplishments of GEAR UP in their districts. California GEAR UP staff met with Congressman Adam Schiff (D., CA) and invited him to visit our local GEAR UP schools in his district.
Did you attend this year? What what your experience?


New Online Toolkit to Help Educators Explain Common Core



SACRAMENTO—Educators and school districts now have a new free toolkit to help them spread the word about how the Common Core State Standards are remodeling California’s education system to better prepare students for college and careers, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced today.

“As students and teachers head back to school they will be experiencing exciting changes in California education, including a new way of teaching and learning through the Common Core,” Torlakson said. “Now educators have additional help in dispelling the mystery and concerns of families about this transition with a new communications toolkit created with the help of several major education groups in the state.”

Explaining Common Core to Californians: A Communications Toolkit” is an online resource created with the help of the California Department of Education, State Board of Education, Californians Dedicated to Education, California County Superintendents Educational Services Association, California State PTA®, California School Boards Association, California Teachers Association, California Federation of Teaches AFT/AFL-CIO, Association of California School Administrators, the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, and the nonprofit FrameWorks.

The resource is a collection of research, recommendations, and sample communications designed to help educators increase their own and the public’s understanding of the kinds of instruction, testing, and support needed to fulfill the potential of the Common Core. For example, educators can download printable message cards that provide metaphors to help them explain Common Core, talking points to help them describe what Common Core does, frequently asked questions on challenging topics, tips on how to use social media, sample letters to parents, and a Common Core video.

Californians Dedicated to Education also will hold a series of Webinars to provide an overview of the Communications Toolkit and practical tips on how to use it with a special focus on back-to-school messaging. Click on the links below to register for the free Webinars. Advanced registration is required. For more information, contact Caitlin Lawrence-Toombs at caitlin@glenpricegroup.com or 510-528-1558:

The State Board of Education adopted the Common Core State Standards for English language arts and mathematics in 2010. Standards define the knowledge, concepts, and skills students should acquire at each grade level. The new standards provide a practical way to prepare students for the challenges of a constantly changing world by helping them learn step-by-step the real world skills they need for college and careers. The Common Core provides all students, no matter where they live or where they were born, a world-class education that’s consistent from school to school so they will graduate ready to contribute to the state and nation. It also replaces the state’s outdated ways of learning with a clear focus on the key knowledge and skills students need while providing teachers the time to teach the standards well.

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The California Department of Education is a state agency led by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson. For more information, please visit the California Department of Education Web site or by mobile device. You may also follow Superintendent Torlakson on TwitterFacebook, and YouTube.


Start the New School Year Off With a Plan to Save for College


kids scholarshare

New classes, new teachers and reunions with old friends make the beginning of the school year an exciting time for students and parents. But also a time to remember that for many families, college is just around the corner and saving money now will pay off later. Saving early helps ease the burden of rising tuition and living expenses and makes it more likely your child will attend. A great way to save is by opening or contributing to a ScholarShare account. ScholarShare, California’s 529 College Savings Plan, can provide parents and relatives – anyone saving for a child’s college education – with valuable tax advantages.

ScholarShare is proud to be partners with GEAR-UP, so we can work together to increase the number of students who are prepared to enter and succeed in college.

According to a 2012 survey by Hart Research Associates, 84 percent of parents considered it “very important” that their children attend college, but not many had started saving.  ScholarShare, which was named one of the nine best 529 plans in the nation by Morningstar, a prominent ratings agency, is administered by the state of California and managed by TIAA-CREF Tuition Financing, Inc.  Named for the section of the internal revenue code under which they were created, 529 plans offer families a tax-advantaged way to save for college.

scholarshare logo


Some of the benefits of the ScholarShare plan include:

  • Accounts can be opened with as little as $25;
  • A wide variety of low-cost investment options are offered;
  • There are no annual account maintenance fees;
  • Potential earnings are tax-free if used for qualified higher education expenses such as tuition and fees, books and supplies, and certain room and board costs;
  • Funds may be used at eligible educational institutions nationwide, and some abroad;
  • Anyone can contribute to the account, making it a great gift idea for family and friends for special occasions.

To learn more or to open an account, visit www.scholarshare.com or call 1-800-544-5248. Like ScholarShare on Facebook at www.facebook.com/scholarshare529 and follow us on Twitter at @ScholarShare529.

Preparing for college academically and financially can help keep students on the path toward success.


Consider the investment objectives, risks, charges and expenses before investing in the ScholarShare 529 College Savings Plan. Please visit www.scholarshare.com for a Program Disclosure Booklet containing this and other information. Read it carefully.

Before investing in a 529 plan, you should consider whether the state you or your Beneficiary reside in or have taxable income in has a 529 plan that offers favorable state income tax or other benefits that are only available if you invest in that state’s 529 plan.

The tax information contained herein is not intended to be used, and cannot be used, by any taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding tax penalties. Taxpayers should seek advice based on their own particular circumstances from an independent tax advisor. Non-qualified withdrawals may be subject to federal and state taxes and the additional federal 10% tax. Non-qualified withdrawals may also be subject to an additional 2.5% California tax on earnings. Investments in the Program are neither insured nor guaranteed and there is the risk of investment loss. The ScholarShare 529 College Savings Plan Twitter and Facebook pages are managed by the state of California. TIAA-CREF Tuition Financing, Inc., Plan Manager

2014 NCCEP/GEAR UP Annual Conference in Washington, DC

Register Now!

2014 NCCEP/GEAR UP Annual Conference July 20–23, 2014 Washington Hilton, Washington, DC On behalf of the U.S. Department of Education and NCCEP, we are pleased to invite you to attend the 2014 NCCEP/GEAR UP Annual Conference, celebrating GEAR UP’s 15th Anniversary!  The theme of this year’s conference is “A Dream Realized.”  To access the online registration, click the Register Now button below.


You may want to spend some time reflecting on your professional goals before attending a conference. Conferences can be highly effective at helping you advance a wide range of professional objectives. For example, they can help you build and extend professional contacts, find a mentor or collaborator, gain experience presenting original work, advance your subject matter expertise, extend your knowledge of resources, introduce you to new theory, methods or tools, gain ideas for new programs and workshops, develop new skills or simply refresh your interest in and enthusiasm for managing programs and working directly with students. Whatever the goal, be intentional in the way you seek to advance your professional identity, contacts and knowledge.  Don’t passively attend the conference use it to advance your career objectives!


There are normally a variety of session formats to select from including pre-conference workshops, panel discussions, team delivered presentations and of course single presenter presentations. Each offers a special experience and learning opportunity. Branch out a bit and see if you can sample a range of presentation approaches and styles.


It is easy to be overwhelmed by the range of activities happening during a conference. Spend some time before you go reading through the program to get a sense of what seems most interesting and relevant. Large conferences may also offer a common reading for thought and reflection and if these are accessed in advance they may add much to your overall conference experience. Taking the time to prepare in advance will help you feel more relaxed and organized once the conference begins. Conferences offer so much – it can be helpful to review, reflect and strategize in advance.


Conferences can be packed with interesting sessions and it can be hard to choose between interesting concurrent sessions. Although it may be tempting to attend individual sessions with trusted coworkers, consider asking your friends and workmates to spread out over the conference and attend different concurrent sessions. This strategy will ensure maximum exposure to what the conference has to offer.  Set some time aside to debrief and share materials and handouts with these workmates during breaks. This will help you gain access to much more of the conference than you could as a single attendee.


Raise your hand, offer a comment, tell a story, frame a challenge, suggest a solution, give an example, reflect, engage and engage others! Be an active rather than passive participate. Much of the learning that takes place at a conference happens through peer-to-peer sharing and interaction. You may also wish to consider volunteering at a conference. This can be a great way to gain professional experience and engage more fully in the conference as it is happening.


Choose to attend at least one conference presentation in an area that you are not familiar with. This might help you discover a new passion, resource or opportunity. Focus not only on extending existing knowledge and expertise, focus on growth.


Conferences are great ways to engage with your familiar and trusted workmates but make it a point to expand your professional contacts by introducing yourself to at least three new people. If you feel awkward approaching others, network with an extroverted friend who can help with introductions. You are likely to meet some amazing people.


Write down a few key takeaways from each session you attend. Consider how you might use what you learned in your professional practice. Be determined to take away at least one idea, tool, concept or bit of information that can be applied to your daily practice. Hang on to your handouts for future reference.


Attend the scheduled social events! These are actually a lot of fun and really help to extend the excitement, enthusiasm and energy of a conference. If you are shy, take a friend with you. Don’t be afraid to relax and mingle.


If you are one of only a few people in your immediate working group who is able to attend a conference you may want to focus on what you can take back to others who are not able to attend. Consider yourself an emissary for your entire working group and be committed to sharing what you learned with others. Bring conference highlights home by presenting to your department, host a brown bag debrief and share key takeaways with colleagues.


Use the business cards you collect at a conference in the future. Reach out to others and look for ways to share and collaborate on new projects. This is a great way to form and strengthen professional networks over time. The call for proposals closed on April 1, 2014.

Click here to access the 2014 NCCEP/GEAR UP Annual Conference schedule-at-a-glance.
Click here to access the 2014 NCCEP/GEAR UP Annual Conference program book.
Click here to access the Sponsor, Exhibitor, and Advertiser Prospectus.

Obama Takes Executive Action on Student Loans


(From The Chronicle of Higher Education)

On the eve of a Senate fight over student-loan refinancing, President Obama is taking executive action to ease students’ debt burdens.

At a White House event on Monday, Mr. Obama will announce that he will expand a law that caps borrowers’ loan payments at 10 percent of their income to individuals with older loans—those who borrowed before October 2007 or stopped borrowing by October 2011.

The president will also announce plans to renegotiate contracts with federal student-loan servicers to provide them with financial incentives to keep students out of default. The percentage of students defaulting on their loans within two years of graduating reached 10 percent last year, the highest rate in nearly two decades.

Matt Lehrich, a White House spokesman, estimated that an additional five million borrowers would qualify for lower payments under the president’s plan.

It’s unlikely that many borrowers will enroll, however. While students’ debt levels are at an all-time high, enrollment in income-based repayment plans has remained stubbornly low, at roughly 11 percent of borrowers. And the new relief won’t be immediate, either—struggling borrowers will have to wait until the end of 2015, to give the Education Department time to issue new regulations.

In an effort to increase participation in income-based plans, the administration has been conducting an aggressive outreach campaign.Last fall the Education Department emailed more than three million borrowers to notify them that they might be eligible for income-based repayment. In January the administration announced an agreement with lntuit Inc. to include a banner on its TurboTax tax-preparation website inviting users to learn more about their repayment options.

Meanwhile, the department’s student-loan servicers have come under fire from regulators and consumer advocates for failing to notify borrowers of all their repayment options and benefits.

Slim Chances for Senate Plan

Monday’s announcement comes as Senate Democrats are gearing up for a vote on legislation introduced by Sen. Elizabeth A. Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, that would allow struggling borrowers to refinance their debt at lower interest rates. The idea has populist appeal, but it won’t get much support from Senate Republicans, who have blocked similar bills by Democrats.

In an email a Senate Republican aide hinted that a filibuster was possible, saying there was “deep discussion” within the party on a strategy for how to proceed.

“We’d be happy to engage in an honest debate,” the aide wrote, requesting anonymity in order to speak frankly about the matter. But since Senate Democrats “won’t let us offer amendments, it’s hard to have a debate on a bill when we can’t mount an effort to change this deeply flawed bill.”

“This is obviously just a political stunt,” he added.

Even if Senator Warren’s measure does pass the Senate, it is unlikely to win approval in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, which opposes plans to pay for the measure through a tax increase on millionaires. That means President Obama’s executive action—however incremental—could be the best news struggling borrowers get this election year.

Borrowers with questions about the plan can ask the president himself. He’ll answer them live on Tuesday, in his first Tumblr Q&A.

New $75 Million GEAR UP Competition Announced

U.S. Department of Education

Office of Communications & Outreach, Press Office  

400 Maryland Ave., S.W.

Washington, D.C. 20202     


June 3, 2014

CONTACT:  Press Office, (202) 401-1576 or press@ed.gov

U.S. Department of Education Announces $75 Million GEAR UP Competition

To focus on building successful practices aimed at improving college fit and college readiness for underrepresented, underprepared and low-income students across the country, the U.S. Department of Education announced today the availability of $75 million for two new Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) competitions.

At the Obama Administration’s College Opportunity Summit earlier this year, the Department made several commitments to support low-income students and help more of them pursue a path to college success. The GEAR UP program helps to ensure that all students achieve the necessary milestones that provide a pathway to a strong future. Today, the Department is acting on its pledge to focus this year’s GEAR UP college preparation program on improving both college fit and readiness, so all students graduate from high school prepared for college without needing remedial courses and enroll in an institution that will help them maximize their success.

“College prep programs like GEAR UP can make all the difference in whether many young people from disadvantaged families can pursue a higher education,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said. “These grants will help provide the mentoring, resources and financial aid that will offer thousands of students the additional support they need to achieve success in postsecondary education.”

In addition to focusing on college fit and readiness, the Department is tailoring this year’s GEAR UP grants to focus on projects that are designed to serve and coordinate with a Promise Zone, which are high-poverty communities where the federal government has partnered and invested to create jobs, leverage private investment, increase economic activity, improve educational opportunities, and improve public safety. This year’s GEAR UP program also places a priority on helping to improve students’ non-cognitive skills and behaviors, including academic mindset, perseverance, motivation, and mastery of social and emotional skills that improve student success. The grants are part of the Department’s focus on increasing the equity of opportunity in America’s schools so that every child – no matter his or her zip code – has a clear path to the middle class. The nation’s schools, teachers, and students have made significant gains, but despite this solid progress, wide gaps of opportunity and achievement continue to hurt many minority, low-income, and other underserved students.

Created in 1998, the grant program has provided funding for academic and related support services to eligible low-income middle and high school students, including students with disabilities, to help them obtain a high school diploma and succeed in college.  GEAR UP provides six-year grants to states and partnerships to offer services at high-poverty middle and high schools, as well as to provide college scholarships to low-income students.

GEAR UP grants currently fund 87 programs that serve approximately 420,000 middle and high school students across the country.

Applications are due by July 7, and grants will be awarded by the end of September. The Department will post further information on the GEAR UP Web page.


Interview: California Teacher of the Year Ang Bracco


Angelo Bracco was recently selected as one of five California Teachers of the Year and is a special education teacher at Solano Middle School in Vallejo, CA, a California GEAR UP School. We are proud Ang is on the GEAR UP leadership team at Solano and was gracious enough to take the time to participate in an interview.

Please tell us about your award and what it means to you

I was recently selected as one of five teacher of the year for the State of California. This was quite an honor since California has over 400,000 teachers. The award was significant to me for a number of reasons. First of all, as I contemplate retirement, this completes a journey that began nearly forty years ago as a law enforcement officer and has culminated as Calif. teacher of the year.

As a Special Education teacher and working with the most challenging of students, this award has brought hope to parents, our district, and our County of Solano. The City of Vallejo has soaring unemployment, is lacking in resources, and crime is high. Students at our school and in my class are proud that one of their teachers is on “You tube”, on T.V., and on the front page of our local newspaper. They are proud of my accomplishments.

The ward has also brought recognition from the Law enforcement community. At a recent retirement dinner for one of my former squad members, I was mentioned prominently not for my service in law enforcement but my recognition as a teacher.

Tell us a little about the community and school.

Vallejo is considered part of the immediate Bay area. Up until 1992, the economy was propelled by a naval shipyard, Mare Island. Many of Vallejo residents worked at the base. When the base closed, there was an immediate impact on the community. Many of the residents left the city in search of work else ware.  Businesses also took a huge hit. Many closed up shop and left permanently. With the exit of jobs from the area, crime, especially in the inner city climbed dramatically. With the tax base slowly eroding, police officers and fireman lost their jobs. Police and fire stations closed.

Schools that were once vibrant also felt the economic impact. With the tax base eroded, funding was cut drastically which eventually led to the closing of several schools in the city, including middle and a high school.

Solano Middle School where I teach has a student population of 720. This is down considerably from just two years ago when Solano Middle had over 900 students. The drop in attendance is attributed to many factors. Some are economic, other include newer schools being built just north of Vallejo in a city named American Canyon. Also another huge factor was the inception of charter Schools in Vallejo. There are currently three charter schools that are fully functional in our city. This has taken away from the population of schools such as ours.

Solano Middle school’s population consists of 38% African American, 35% Asian, 22% Hispanic, and 4% Caucasian, and 1% “other”. Our API score hovers just under 700 points. Until recently, we were on state probation for failure to achieve our academic target goals. We also had financial issues which resulted in a state “take-over” of our fiscal responsibilities. We have since exited this “take over” by the state and once again on solid footing.

Why special education?

I chose to teach special Education for a number of reasons.  As a law enforcement officer for 27 years in both San Francisco and Concord California, I felt my impact on youth would be better served working with special needs students. When I use the word “Special Needs”, this can be defined from being physically challenged, intellectually or emotionally challenged. Not only did I feel my talents could best be used in this capacity but I also wanted to work in a community that was in need of a person like myself that could that could make a difference in a person’s life. Special education offered this opportunity for me. In a number of my presentations, I often refer to “Special Education” as the emergency room for education. As Special Education teachers we are charged with “leveling the playing field” so that our students can compete in an ever-changing world.

You used to be a law enforcement officer. How does this inform your teaching?

I believe my service as a law-enforcement officer has benefitted me as a teacher. The teaching profession was not totally new to me. As a law enforcement officer, I trained new recruits who were new to law enforcement. I also taught “In service training” at our department.  I also was very active in working in the community both in San Francisco and Concord. In fact, while working in Concord, I was recognized by Senator Barbara Boxer for my intervention in the Latino community in helping to prevent the negative gang influence that was so prevalent in their daily lives.

My previous background actually has been a plus for me in the classroom. It has run the gamete of “no body will mess with us because Mr. B. use to be a cop”, to don’t act out with Mr.B., he was a real cop…..and of course I’m asked constantly to tell  stories which I kindly decline to share.

What are some challenges your school community faces.

Probably the biggest concern I have is parent involvement in their adolescent’s education. It’s extremely frustrating when we call for a parent night and a handful of parents participate.  I realize parents work and our population of single parents is huge.  We also, like so many districts, are strapped financially. With all of this being said, were hopeful the Governors new financial formula will benefit schools like ours who endure insurmountable economic odds.

Why is getting students to think about college in middle school important?

For many, college is their ticket out of poverty. If given a clear path to pursue, the road to a better life, a sense of direction. By preparing students on what classes to consider (A/G requirements), they have a purpose and know even during the early academic years of their lives, they began preparing for the future.

How do adults work together to prepare all students to be successful?

The general answer is making sure you prepare your students both emotionally and academically for the educational road ahead. It’s imperative that teachers communicate from early elementary through Middle and finally high school. The key I have found is knowing who your students are. What is it that they respond to, what is their learning style; all of these questions must be answered to have a truly successful student.

How has the school changed with GEAR UP?

GEAR UP has been such a positive force at our school. Student success has many key components attributed to GEAR UP, including academic support, professional development, and family programming to encourage a college culture from middle to high school. The GEAR UP presence has been especially positive here at Solano Middle School. We’ve instituted the PIQE program which is under the GEAR UP umbrella. We’ve completed these programs in both English and Spanish. We’ve had strong parental involvement throughout these sessions. The Education Trust Awards has also been well received by our staff and students. The Professional Development, conferences, all had to the positivity of our ongoing college culture here at Solano Middle School. Our staff acknowledges without GEAR UP support and the influence GEAR UP has on our campus, we would not be nearly as successful without their support.

What does it mean to be a GEAR UP school?

GEAR UP is constantly changing to meet the needs of our students. We know as a staff as a GEAR UP school, we can obtain the latest innovative job skills to further enhance the education of our students. We also know the GEAR UP foundation is steadfast in their approach to reach our target population, low income; First Generation College bound students that require engagement of school leaders, families, and communities. With GEAR UP as a partner, we have the courage and the opportunity to form a strong bound that will benefit all of our students in the middle school and beyond.

What efforts and resources best support creation of a college-going culture?

Many of our students come from a home that education was not paramount in their lives. Although many may have dreamed of attending college, they really didn’t know or have any idea where to start. With GEAR UP providing awareness and guidance to both staff and students, we now feel the pathway is clear and the directional signs are clear. We recently held a job fair where students were exposed to different occupations in the job market. We have a classroom that is solely dedicated to college culture and how to pursue colleges and Universities that students might be interested in.

Other efforts include the Parent Institute for Quality Education, the Latino Family Literacy Project, Family and Schools together (F.A.S.T.) GEAR UP has given us the foundation to expand our horizons to truly create a college culture on our campus.

What can teachers do in any school to best help ALL students succeed?

I don’t want to sound simplistic in this answer, but as we know, I was chosen one of five California Teachers of the Year. I feel I am a very good teacher, not a great teacher that when you walk away from one of my lessons your so awe struck your unable to speak.  No, that’s not me. But what I can tell you as a mentor and coach, if you are able to form a bond between you and your students, and they feel you are that person they can trust and look up to, the battle to higher education has been won.  Although I am a Special Education teacher, my class is filled with students of all walks of life who come to visit me throughout the day. Forming relationships with students who have been unsuccessful in all of their academic endeavors, find a home where optimism and positivity thrive. The fact that students know you’re genuine and care, opens doors that were previously iron clad shut.

How does your school prepare students for and to succeed in college/career?

With the advent of STEAM (Science-Technology-English-Art-and Math). Wall to Wall Academics at the High School level, Project Based Learning, and now with the introduction of the Common Core State standards, we feel our students are being prepared for the next level. We are now teaching Geometry at the middle school level which in the past would have been either a 9th or 10th grade course. As mentioned earlier, we have job/technology fairs and other extra-curricular activities that keep students interest at a high level.

Why is an educated workforce important for strong communities?

A workforce with talent brings jobs and the marketplace to the city in which you live. Without an educated workforce, businesses look outside your realm and either go elsewhere or recruit outside talent. All one has to do is reflect on the success of Silicon Valley. Businesses flock to the San Jose/San Francisco Bay  Area knowing there is a pool of talent there that they can draw from. An educated work force is the key to a community success.

How do teachers ensure access to high quality academics?

Many of our teachers are constantly being exposed to all types of “In service training”. As part of Common Core, we’ve just introduced Project Based Learning, a key component to the common Core. Our teachers at Solano Middle School are committed to the success of our students. We have tireless workers who spend countless hours on their own time to ensure this success of our students. Our teachers participate in the decision making of new adaptions for our district. We’re on the ground floor for higher academics. Our teachers collaborate not just monthly, but weekly and yes even daily to provide the best opportunities for our student’s success.

What are some of the challenges in preparing all students for career/college?

There are many challenges when you’re faced with low-income, poverty, and sometimes a family structure that is not supportive. Once our students get past that all may not be the next NFL running back, the next NBA Super Star, or the next Hot Rapper, and then reality sets in. You never want to lose sight of attaining those goals, but let’s have a back-up plan if were not quite there to meet those challenges. Another challenge that we face in our students is “why is college important, we in our family survived without it”. And that’s the whole focus, why do you just have to exist or “survive”? Why not have a meaningful productive life for you and your family?

Anything else you would like to tell about yourself, your school, or your students?

I personally want to thank the GEAR-UP team for all the support they have given our school. I especially want to thank Michele Molitor, our school service coach. Ms. Molitor is a tireless worker and is always there when we request her services. She visits our school on a frequent basis and is there for special events, for instance at our career fair last week. Having Ms. Molitor as our service coach has been invaluable and provides the foundation for our success here at Solano Middle School.