Welcome to our first installment of an ongoing series featuring California GEAR UP Education Trust Awards Student Ambassadors. Rosie Powell attended Valley High School in Elk Grove, CA where she was a member of the GEAR UP class of 2011. She received an Education Trust Award from California GEAR UP and it has forever changed her life. Rosie participated on a panel with other ETA Student Ambassadors at the 2011 GU Community Conference. Their stories were the highlight of this statewide event and this article is the first of many students we will follow through their college experience.
Rosie was kind enough to sit down with us and answer a few questions about the impact of GEAR UP in her life.
Rosie, thank you for participating in the California GEAR UP Education Trust Award Ambassadors program. Your journey as a GEAR UP student will be an inspiration and example for young people for years to come.
How did receiving the Education Trust Award effect your educational path?
The Education Trust Award was my first scholarship, so it has more significance than just financial help. Receiving the award instilled in me a realization that it is possible to receive scholarships. The concept was something I knew before, but had doubts about. Being awarded with the scholarship encouraged me to apply for more scholarships and removed the intimidation I felt by the competitiveness of the scholarship world.
How did your friends and family respond to you receiving the Education Trust Award?
My family was very grateful for me receiving the reward, even more so after I received my financial aid package from Howard University. The scholarship removed a lot of stress from my families’ lives because it provided me with the money I would need to pay for books. My friends congratulated me on winning the scholarship which was more than enough for me, because my receiving the scholarship didn’t directly effect them.
How did being a GEAR UP Student effect your education?
Being a GEAR UP student was a profound experience. The GEAR UP staff tremendously aided my preparation to make the transition not only from high school to college but also from a young adult to a woman. Some of the information I received being a GEAR UP student I would have never otherwise asked about, but it was information that I needed and has helped me transform into the college student I want to be. GEAR UP helped prepare me to make time management adjustments and gave me financial aid advice along with advice concerning life as a whole.
What were some of the challenges in high school you had to overcome, and how did you get through?
About half way through my senior year of high school my mother moved to a different city. Of course I didn’t want to leave my current high school and she, being a very understanding mother, allowed me to stay. I stayed with Ms. Blick, a GEAR UP staff member, for six months and I enjoyed it, but being separated from the woman I had known and been attached to my whole life wasn’t easy. I talked to her every day but at times that was not enough. The love and prayer I received from both my mother and Ms. Blick is what helped me persevere with the severe homesickness I was feeling.
What is some advice you can give current middle and high school students that will help them stay on the road to college?
Don’t be discouraged by the amount of work that people say college is, because being a college student I found that if you are doing something you really want to do, working for something you really want to achieve, then the work does not seem so plentiful and at times may be something you will actually enjoy doing. I know many high schoolers love their friends and might not like this advice but anyone who is bringing you down or doubting you should not be a main factor in your life whether it be family and/or friends. A line from one of my favorite gospel songs is “sometimes you have to encourage yourself.” If no one is telling you that you are going to make it, don’t let it discourage you. Encourage yourself, motivate yourself, make a way for yourself.
What are your initial impressions of college? Do they match your expectations?
My first impression of college, as far as academics, was that it wasn’t that different form high school. Yea, there is more information I have to learn on my own, but that was something I expected. Once you become a college student you really are independent. You make your own decisions and handle your own business. I can honestly say I do miss the days when my mother handled all the important things. Overall my initial impressions of college did match my expectations.
What can you tell younger students that will help them be more prepared for their first year in college?
The most important thing is to manage your time. I find that it helps if you reward yourself for accomplishing work. For example, If I finish my English essay Friday like I planned to then I can go out with friends Saturday night. Rewarding yourself serves as a form of motivation. A healthy balance between your social and academic lives is my main priority now and something younger students should work on before getting to college.
What else can you share with us about being an Education Trust Award recipient or GEAR UP student at Valley that might help other students?
Anyone who can be a GEAR UP student should be one. Teachers provide information about college, but sometimes they accidentally leave things out. The GEAR UP team being more than one person makes sure all questions are answered and leaves nothing seeming ambiguous. Besides providing a plethora of essential information about college, GEAR UP builds a family. It was with them that I went on my first camping trip. They make it so that while they are stuffing you with information they are also rewarding you for taking it in. I’ve always felt comfortable talking with my GEAR UP family about anything and they always helped me through whatever was bothering me. I know Valley has a bad reputation but if I had had the choice to attend a different high school I most definitely would not have taken it. Although Valley is not seen as the greatest high school it was the only high school that I felt adequately prepared me for college with its AP course options, career center, and genuinely caring faculty.
And finally, do you keep in contact with any of your GEAR UP teachers or staff?
Yes, I keep in contact with Ms. Blick and Ms. Davis. They continue to give me guidance.
Rosie is currently attending Howard University in Washington, DC and achieved a 3.77 GPA in her first semester. She is interested in studying nursing and is loving her college experience.
For more information on California GEAR UP, Education Trust Awards, and inspirational stories from students, schools, and families please visit our website. You can also call our ETA line 916-479-6742, or email Gear-Up@csac.ca.gov.
Keep checking for updates, we will keep you apprised of Rosie’s continued success. Look for another Student Ambassador Story coming soon!