GEAR UP Education Trust Award Success Story: Angela Sanchez

Angela Sanchez Profile

Angela is now a Program Analyst, College Readiness & Retention for the ECMC Foundation in Los Angeles.

Angela wasn’t even sure she was going to finish high school. Today, she is an undergrad and grad degree holder from her dream school (UCLA), a successful higher education professional, and is an inspiring example of focusing on college dreams early on.

Sanchez says that, without scholarship support, her life today would have been very different. The first scholarship she ever received was a GEAR UP Education Trust Award as a student at Toll Middle School in Glendale, CA, a California GEAR UP school.

Back in 2005, when she received the award, she already knew she was going to college but wasn’t sure how she was going to afford it. This award opened her eyes to the world of scholarships and financial aid, a pathway she followed successfully and is a debt free graduate degree holder as a result.

“An investment in a student is something that pays tenfold,” said Sanchez, a UCLA Alumni Scholar who has earned numerous other scholarships and awards for research, academic excellence and community service, including the Chancellor’s Service Award, the UCLA Distinguished Senior Award, the Carey McWilliams Award for Scholarly Distinction and a Strauss Foundation Scholarship, to name a few. Angela says “There is no greater gift than education.”

We asked Angela for some advice for our GEAR UP schools and teachers regarding best practices for supporting and inspiring students like her.  Of course her perspective was perfect:

Middle school students are at a tipping point age because high school is too late to start thinking about college. The key is to establish a college-going culture in middle school, and saturate every aspect of the student experience with future goals and college information. Saturation is key: college pennants, college fairs, anything that leads to conversations with students about college‘. You have to incubate early, make that connection early.

When Angela was in middle school she was vaguely aware her school was a GEAR UP school, but it was not until her social studies teacher Dr. Vandermey encouraged her to apply did she realize the opportunity GEAR UP affords. Upon receiving the notification that she was a recipient of the $2000 California GEAR UP Education Trust Award, she couldn’t believe it. The path to college had begun.

Angela talks about how her teachers had an impact on her future.

My geometry classroom had A-G requirements displayed prominently. That daily reminder contributed to the immersive college going environment that became normal for me. This should be normal for all students in middle school, especially for first generation students like me.

Angela strongly believes in building the relationship between student and teachers and breaking down walls that can remain throughout a students academic experience.

Teachers and students have to relate, teachers should give students the ability to build meaningful relationships so they can talk about things other than the lesson plan. Students don’t always have people at home that can support them in the same way as teachers are a tremendous college resource. If students don’t have a positive experience with their middle school its teachers early on, they are less likely to break down those walls later in their academic career, such as going to professors office hours, and potentially missing out on a successful college experience.

In November of 2007, Angela was coping with the reality that she and her father were homeless after being evicted from their Glendale home on her 17th birthday. Angela never wavered in her desire to do her very best in and out of school and to remain optimistic. That life lesson is one that Angela now shares with students who are experiencing homelessness.

“Education has always been important to me because it represented a springboard out of my current situation,” said Sanchez, who eventually completed high school with a 4.23 GPA despite not having stable housing between 2007-2009, she was accepted to eight colleges and universities in 2009. Her first choice was UCLA.

Angela graduated debt-free, and attributes that to her focus on finding scholarships and financial aid wherever she could. Being an outstanding student certainly helped her achieve competitive scholarships and grants, she attributes her awareness of how to find the awards to her early successes an ETA recipient. According to Angela “it opened an entire world to me”.

She used the ETA money for tuition, but says that one of the great benefits to this GEAR UP award was the flexibility of what the funds could be used for. Most grants and scholarships have a very narrow use, but the Education Trust Award funds helped her create a strategy to fully fund her education without gaps.

“Youths, no matter what their financial situation or living condition, need to see that they are entitled to quality postsecondary education as much as anyone.” said Angela.

“I really enjoy advocating for education and being a voice for students who are normally overlooked,” said Angela. She now shares a home with her father in Highland Park in northeast Los Angeles and plans to pursue an advanced degree in the future.

Angela was my delightful  luncheon companion at a major event in Los Angeles for Latino students and their families.  The subject of GEAR UP arose and Angela indicated that it had supported her financially in receiving her baccalaureate from UCLA.  When I inquired I learned that, in fact, Angela had been the recipient of an Education Trust Award from the California GEAR UP Program back in 2005.  She, along with over 5,000 of her counterparts, have, or are, achieving their higher educational goals through their participation as middle school students in the California GEAR UP Program.  Congratulations to Angela and all the other Education Trust Award members.

-Penny Edgert, Executive Director, California GEAR UP/ICC

“For students who come from backgrounds such as my own, who are often disadvantaged, underprivileged and overlooked, I’d like to see not only their acceptance, but their retention at universities,” she said.

She hopes this journey starts in middle school just like it did for her.

Angela was featured in the “Let There Be” UCLA centennial campaign.

Angela established the first university faction of the nonprofit ‘School on Wheels’ at UCLA, assisting K-12 homeless students with tutors and in navigating postsecondary education. Ms. Sanchez has created college admissions and financial aid workshops tailored to the students’ needs. In addition, she’s a recruitment, student training, donor and community relations, and development volunteer. She continues her work for student advocacy at ECMC Foundation, college access and student retention.

For more information on the California GEAR UP Education Trust Awards, please visit our website.

GEAR UP Student Ambassador: If You Believe, You Will Achieve


We are pleased to share the second featured GEAR UP Student Ambassador, Rosemarie Correa, an extremely forward thinking and intelligent tenth grade student at Monterey Trail High School in Elk Grove, CA. We were lucky enough to meet Rosemarie at the National GEAR UP Week celebration in Elk Grove where she was a featured speaker. Rosemarie was a recipient of a California GEAR UP Education Trust Award while a student at Harris Middle School and has since been an advocate for early college readiness, steadfast academic pursuit, and believing in her dreams. Harris Middle School has been a California GEAR UP school since 2006 and receives school-wide services to create a college-going culture by focusing on the adults within the school. One aspect of the services are the Education Trust Awards each school receives to distribute to a select group of students.

How did receiving the Education Trust Award effect your educational path?

Receiving the Educational Trust Award in middle school made me even more motivated to strive for my goals and that I am that much closer to going to the college of my dreams. Receiving the award in middle school was important because it helped me and my family to start thinking about college early.


How did your friends and family respond to you receiving the Education Trust Award in middle school since most college awards are usually given out in high school?

My friends and family were so proud of me! It also reminded me that anything is possible as long as you keep yourself motivated and remain positive.


What were some of the challenges in middle school and how have you overcome them?

A challenge I faced in middle school was not being very sociable. I was able to overcome my bashfulness by participating in different activities like GEAR UP college events, and by doing so I started to feel more comfortable talking to others. My teachers and parents were very supportive of me which helped greatly.


What is some advice you can give current middle and high school students that will help them stay on the road to college?

I would advise current middle and high school students that grades are very important and to remain motivated by focusing on your long term goals. If you don’t think about your future and all that you need to get done before hand, then you will most likely not push yourself and will not strive for your goals. Planning ahead of time is important, especially with your family and supporters at your school.


What are your college dreams?

My college dream is to go to The University of the Pacific and to get my Bachelors in Business. It is important to go to college so you can become successful in life. College is where you discover who you are and who you want to truly be. If you go to college, there are more opportunities and it’s also the place where all of your hard work pays off because it is the begining of your entire future.


What can you tell younger students that will help them be more prepared for high school?

Do not procrastinate on any homework no matter how much it may be, because it weighs heavily. They must be ready to take a lot of notes especially Cornell notes. As long as they maintain high grades and work hard they will succeed.


Anything else you want to share with us?

If you believe you will achieve.


Rosemarie’s philosophy of studying hard, staying focused on her goals, and relying on her family and school supports to achieve her college dreams are the true embodiment of GEAR UP school culture. Her passion and drive are an inspiration to all students and families with college aspirations.

For more information on California GEAR UP whole school services, Education Trust Awards, and inspirational stories from students, schools, and families please visit our website. If you are a former recipient of an Education Trust Award you can call our ETA line 916-479-6742, or email

Keep checking for updates, we will keep you apprised of Rosemarie’s continued success. Look for more GEAR UP success stories here on the blog or nationally on the GEAR UP Works! blog hosted by NCCEP.

If you have an inspiring college dreams story, please contact us here:


Student Ambassadors Share GEAR UP Success Stories


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

Keep checking for updates, we will keep you apprised of Rosie’s continued success. Look for another Student Ambassador Story coming soon!