GEAR UP Schools Participate in US Navy SeaPerch


Underwater Robotics

Three GEAR UP schools (Hamilton, Tincher, Madrid) participated in the US Navy’s 2015 Los Angeles Regional SeaPerch Underwater Robotics Challenge at the indoor pool at the University of Southern California.  Twenty eight schools, primarily high schools and middle schools competed in three different events, an obstacle course, ring retrieval and oral presentation/design of their prepared poster.  The challenge was formidable, particularly the ring retrieval and all of the students were highly engaged and fabulous under pressure.  The opportunity to be on the vibrant USC campus was an added benefit with the Trojan Invitational Track Meet going on right across the courtyard from where the students were.

In the end, Madrid Middle School took first place for their time in navigating the obstacle course and first place in the overall competition for middle schools.

Congratulations to all of the students who participated and many thanks to the teachers who have dedicated their time to work with the students since October to build the robots and find practice venues in preparation for the challenge.  Most were already talking about “next year”!

What is SeaPerch?

SeaPerch is an innovative underwater robotics program that equips teachers and students with the resources they need to build an underwater Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) in an in-school or out-of-school setting. Students build the ROV from a kit comprised of low-cost, easily accessible parts, following a curriculum that teaches basic engineering and science concepts with a marine engineering theme. The SeaPerch Program provides students with the opportunity to learn about robotics, engineering, science, and mathematics (STEM) while building an underwater ROV as part of a science and engineering technology curriculum. Throughout the project, students will learn engineering concepts, problem solving, teamwork, and technical applications.

Building a SeaPerch ROV teaches basic skills in ship and submarine design and encourages students to explore naval architecture and marine and ocean engineering principles. It also teaches basic science and engineering concepts and tool safety and technical procedures. Students learn important engineering and design skills and are exposed to all the exciting careers that are possible in naval architecture and naval, ocean, and marine engineering.

Have you ever wondered where the name “SeaPerch” came from?  We asked the inventor of the original SeaPerch, Mr. Harry Bohm, and he shared the story with us.  Mr. Bohm explains that the name SeaPerch came from the USS Perch, a highly decorated World War II U.S. submarine.

USS Perch was one of a new breed of American submarines and was the first to incorporate an early form of air conditioning. She was launched May 9, 1936 by the Electric Boat Company in Groton, CT and was scuttled by her crew in the Java Sea on March 3, 1942 after being severely damaged during a Japanese depth charge attack two days earlier. The crew was captured and sent to a Japanese prisoner of war camp; all but six of the 54 men and five officers onboard returned home after the war.

Her wreckage was discovered in November 2006 by an international team of divers off the coast of Java and was the object of archeological diver exploration.

SeaPerch is…

  • A hands-on educational tool
  • Fun and challenging
  • A curriculum that meets national learning standards
  • Integrates STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics)
  • Teaches the teachers
  • Builds teamwork and inspires young minds
  • Introduces STEM career discussions

A Hands-On Activity.

Students learn best by doing, and during the process of building SeaPerch, they follow steps to completely assemble the Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV), test it, and then participate in launching their vehicles.

After the SeaPerch robot is constructed, students are encouraged to test their vehicles, deploy them on missions, and compete in a culminating event, the SeaPerch Challenge – a district-wide one-day design competition, to take what they have learned to the next level. The Challenge fosters an end goal, rewards sportsmanship, spirit and presentation skills, as well as mastery of the concepts. Events at the Challenge can include:

  • Vehicle performance – maneuvering and recovery
  • Innovative design (optional)
  • Team presentations – oral presentations to judges
  • Design Evaluation
  • Build Notebooks – document planning, construction, testing, and learning
  • Team spirit and sportsmanship at the event

Winners of local or regional Challenges can compete in the National SeaPerch Challenge, held each Spring.

A Teacher Training Program.

One of the most important aspects of SeaPerch, and one that differentiates it from similar programs, is that it includes training for teachers. The two methods of training are online video training modules or on-site training. The on-site training is offered in several locations at set times throughout the year, and if the teacher has travel funds available for hotel, transportation and travel expenses, and can travel to the site, the training on-site is at no charge for the 1 or 1.5 day training. Continuing education and/or professional development credits may be offered, as educators are often required to attend workshops throughout the year.

An Established Curriculum.

The SeaPerch curriculum has been designed to meet many learning standards and outcomes. With one project, schools are able to teach many of the concepts required for their grade level using a fun, hands-on activity for students. Some of the concepts the students learn during the build include:

  • Ship and submarine design
  • Buoyancy/displacement
  • Propulsion
  • Soldering/tool safety and usage
  • Vectors
  • Electricity/circuits and switches
  • Ergonomics
  • Waterproofing
  • Depth measurement
  • Biological sampling
  • Attenuation of light
  • Moment arm, basic physics of motion
  • Career possibilities

Program Benefits:

Meets Many Learning Standards and Outcomes: The SeaPerch curriculum has been designed to meet many learning standards and outcomes.

Supports Diversity: The program focuses on presenting the possibilities of technical careers to minorities, girls, and underrepresented populations.

Low Cost Per Student: The price per kit is low. Seed funding or subsidies may be available to help your program get started.

Web Resources & Community: The SeaPerch website provides resources, tools, information, and a community.

Sunnymead Middle School Hosts GPA Reward BBQ


For the second consecutive year, California GEAR UP middle school Sunnymead hosted a GPA rewards BBQ for students who earned a 3.0 or higher.

We had 612 students with 3.0 and above for first trimester attend the BBQ!

This is the second year the event was held and the students were very excited and motivated. They enjoyed the food, music, and games played with friends and the DJ.  

This event highlighted college preparedness starts in middle school and our students are aware of the A-g requirements. They need to have the grades for high school graduation and acceptance to college. This is why we do such a big event to reward our students for 3.o and above to acknowledge they are on the right track.

-Karon Woolsey,  6th Grade Math Teacher and GEAR UP Site Contact

California GEAR UP middle schools host events to promote college going culture, understanding of the A-G requirements, and to provide additional resources and support for whole school communities, students and families.

Sunnymead is in it’s 4th year as a California GEAR UP school and is located in Moreno Valley, CA. Check out their GEAR UP page on their website.

Special thanks to Karon for this story!


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!


Save the Date: National GEAR UP Week 2014 Sept 22-26


During the week of September 22-26, 2014 join thousands of students, parents, teachers, partners and college access professionals from across the nation to celebrate GEAR UP and the successes of your hard work and dedication!

National GEAR UP Week is an opportunity for you to raise awareness in your community about the positive impact GEAR UP is having locally.  It’s a time to engage all your stakeholders – local, state and federal elected officials, funders, partners, as well as local, state and regional media – to share your program’s accomplishments and to get them more involved with your services to students and families.

Resources for schools and GEAR UP Programs:

Press & Media

  • Download the National GEAR UP Week logo
  • Media Advisory – This template is to notify media outlets in your area to cover the event you are hosting.  Media advisories are distributed ahead of the event so that outlets can schedule and plan to cover your event.
  • Press Release – This template will help you create some “buzz” about your event.  You can send it out before or after the event takes place, just make sure you edit it accordingly!
  • Op-Ed: Guidelines & Talking Points – Op-eds are a great way to raise awareness about GEAR UP at the local and regional level.  Follow the tips and use the template in this resource to submit your op-ed to your news outlet.


Save the Date: 2013 National GEAR UP Week Sept 23-27


Join thousands of students, parents, teachers, partners and college access professionals from across the nation to celebrate GEAR UP and the successes of your hard work and dedication!

National GEAR UP Week is an opportunity for you to raise awareness in your community about the positive impact GEAR UP is having locally.  It’s a time to engage all your stakeholders – local, state and federal elected officials, funders, partners, as well as local, state and regional media – to share your program’s accomplishments and to get them more involved with your services to students and families.

Don’t miss this opportunity to join Congressman Chaka Fattah (PA-02), GEAR UP’s Architect and Champion, as well as U.S. Department of Education officials, to commemorate your hard work and the progress our students are making towards achieving their life-long dream of going to college!

2013 National GEAR UP Week – September 23-27!

Plan now for success in September!

We encourage you to use the resources below to start planning and preparing for 2013 National GEAR UP Week.

Please share your plans, ideas, and materials with us so we can all benefit from your creativity and energy.  Let us know if you have any questions or comments about National GEAR UP Week and check back often for additional/updated resources.

Inspiration & Resources:

Press & Media

  • Download the National GEAR UP Week logo
  • Media Advisory – This template is to notify media outlets in your area to cover the event you are hosting.  Media advisories are distributed ahead of the event so that outlets can schedule and plan to cover your event.
  • Press Release – This template will help you create some “buzz” about your event.  You can send it out before or after the event takes place, just make sure you edit it accordingly!
  • Op-Ed: Guidelines & Talking Points – Op-eds are a great way to raise awareness about GEAR UP at the local and regional level.  Follow the tips and use the template in this resource to submit your op-ed to your news outlet.

Let us know how you plan to celebrate in the comments section below!


Sec of Education Honors Everett Middle School With Visit



SAN FRANCISCO — U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee visited a middle school in the Mission District this morning to call attention to the improvements made in the wake of federal funding to the city’s school district.

Duncan, Lee and other top school officials held a roundtable discussion during a visit to Everett Middle School, one of nine schools in San Francisco that was awarded federal School Improvement Grants in 2011 and current California GEAR UP School.

The historically low-performing schools in the city’s Mission and Bayview districts were given $45 million over a three-year period that went toward professional development and coaching for school staff, among other improvements, according to school district officials.

Since 2008, those nine schools have had an 18.4 percent gain in English language arts proficiency and a 26.9 percent gain in math proficiency, district officials said.

Duncan said he was “absolutely inspired” by the improvements made at Everett.

He said during today’s visit, he talked to an eighth-grader there who “said she was terrified to come to this school as a sixth grader, and now this school has a wait list.”

Lee said the federal funding has helped reduce barriers for low-income students and those who speak English as a second language.

“Once we get rid of those barriers, our kids who come from all over the world will compete on an international basis,” he said.

Duncan said he is working to get more federal funding from Congress, but “they look at education as an expense instead of an investment.”

He said in the meantime, San Francisco can come up with creative ways to maintain funding for the schools, noting that the mayor has sought help from the private and nonprofit sectors.

“People want to be part of a winner,” Duncan said. “We’ve gotten something started and he’s got a heck of a story to tell.”

(excerpts reposted with permission from ABC news)


California GEAR UP schools believe:

  • That ALL students deserve an equitable education – one that provides the knowledge and skills to choose and be successful in postsecondary education pursuits;
  • That students must master rigorous academic standards to successfully progress along the pipleline from middle school to high school and into and through college;
  • That in order for students to plan for college they need to see themselves in college;
  • That overcoming the challenges faced by low-income, first-generation college-bound students requires the continued engagement of school leaders, families and communities.

Valley High School to Receive Statewide Civic Learning Award

For Immediate Release:                                                                                                                                                                                      

April 30, 2013

Valley High School selected to receive statewide civic learning award

Valley High School will receive the California Department of Education’s Civic Learning Awards Program Award of Merit from the Honorable Stacy Boulware Eurie, Sacramento County Superior Court Judge, in a special awards ceremony at 10 a.m. on Friday, May 3.  This program celebrates successful efforts to engage California public high school students in civic learning and spotlights replicable models for other schools to follow.

The awards ceremony will also feature remarks from Elk Grove Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Steven M. Ladd and EGUSD Board President Chet Madison Sr., as well as presentations from Valley’s Associated Student Body (ASB), Health TECH Academy and Social Sciences Department.

 “Civic learning is at the cornerstone of our society – one in which our students here at Valley are proud to serve,” said Chelsea Bowler-Shelton, principal at Valley.  “The Civic Learning Award shines a light on the students and teachers of Valley’s Health TECH Academy, Associated Student Body and Social Science Department who believe that giving back to their communities prepares students for civic engagement, college and career opportunities.”

To be considered for the award, schools must describe their civic learning practices and programs, with an emphasis on those that incorporate research-based proven practices in civic education.  A panel of experts assesses the applications according to both depth and breadth.

Valley was selected for the Award of Merit for their work with their ASB program, Regional Summer Academy for the Arts and Sciences, Health TECH Academy and Social Sciences Department.  ASB students are involved in numerous civic-minded activities, including School Site Council, Superintendent’s Student Advisory Committee, blood drives and homeless outreach.  The Valley Regional Summer Academy of the Arts and Sciences is a week-long summer program planned and run by ASB students for fifth and sixth grade students.  The Health TECH Academy prepares students for careers in the health field and has forged a partnership with Kaiser Permanente to create the Cultural Awareness and Community Health Education Project (CACHE).  The Health TECH Academy also holds an annual Health and Fitness Expo on campus.  This event draws 50-60 outside vendors to the Valley campus to inform students, staff and community members about the importance of staying healthy and fit.

The Social Sciences Department, in particular, has posted impressive gains.  Through creative ways to bring history to life for students – such as a living history museum and debating as Roman senators while wearing togas – Valley students have made significant improvements in their social science test scores.  Over the past eight years, the number of students scoring proficient and advanced on the U.S. History CST has increased by 47 percent and World History CST scores have nearly tripled.

Click here for more information about the Civic Learning Awards Program.

WHO:              The Honorable Stacy Boulware Eurie – Sacramento County Superior Court Judge; EGUSD Superintendent Dr. Steven M. Ladd; EGUSD Board President Chet Madison, Sr.; Valley High School students, staff and administrators

WHAT:            An awards ceremony honoring Valley High School for receiving the Award of Merit from the California Department of Education’s Civic Learning Awards Program

WHEN:              May 3, 2013

10 a.m. to 11 a.m

WHERE:          Valley High School

6300 Ehrhardt Avenue

Sacramento, CA 95823



About the Elk Grove Unified School District

Since unification in 1959, the Elk Grove Unified School District has provided a learning community that challenges all students to realize their greatest potential.  With more than 61,000 students, Elk Grove Unified is the largest school district in Northern California and the fifth largest in California.  Elk Grove Unified covers 320 square miles and serves students in the cities of Sacramento, Elk Grove, Rancho Cordova, as well unincorporated areas of Sacramento County.  From elementary school to high school, the emphasis is on preparing students to be successful in college and their chosen careers.  Teachers and staff focus on rigorous academic skills and lessons that prepare students for the 21st century workforce and global economy.  Elk Grove Unified has been recognized both statewide and nationally for innovation in professional development as well as career technical education.  For more information about the Elk Grove Unified School District, please visit and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

About California GEAR UP and Elk Grove

Elk Grove Unified School District has been a California GEAR UP Partner since 2006 and is currently part of our Bridge Project, a model project that is characterized by collaboration, student progress tracking, and data sharing among a family of schools across educational levels in Elk Grove for the purpose of preparing all students in the cohort for college.

College Week at Everett Middle School is a BIG Success.

We are lucky to have a guest blogger Michele Molitor, California GEAR UP School Services Coach, share with us some of the systemic success at Everett Middle School in San Francisco.

Everett Middle School, located in the Mission District of San Francisco, continues to lead the way as a “School on the Move” for California GEAR UP!  Everett has set some big goals, and has had amazing results, including an increase API of 40 and 54 points over the last two years respectively. (insert dramatic pause here, these are MASSIVE API gains) This spring has been a busy time for them as they have engaged their staff and students in a variety of College Going Culture activities.  Their latest success story was College Week – held March 8th through March 15th.

They had a terrific line up of activities for parents and students alike.  They kicked College Week off on Friday evening with Parent University.  This involved inviting parents, students and community members to attend a dinner and college presentation.  There were a variety of providers that shared information on college going programs and college information, which was relevant in helping their students prepare for college.  The community partners included:

There was so much enthusiasm for all the terrific information being shared, dinner was delayed so everyone could soak it all up! While everyone shared in a meal together, a powerpoint presentation was shared, reviewing the A-G requirements, college entrance requirements, where to go for help and information about the upcoming college week on campus.

Earlier in the day, all students received the “College Making It Happen” booklet along with additional information on college and curriculum from their homeroom teachers on how to find the answers to important college prep questions.

Starting on Monday, there was a series of different activities each day for the students.  They received a Student Passport, which they were to fill out during the week as they attended the different activities. A completely filled out passport earned them an A-G t-shirt given out by SF Promise.

Here is just a snapshot of the fun activities they had for the students:

  • Each day homeroom teachers encouraged students to fill out their passport and learn more about what it takes to go to college, plus they had different college talk points to share with them as well.
  • There was a lunch time “rapper” that talked about college and the A-G requirements
  • Students had a chance to get their faces painted with different school logos and take a picture with their high school graduation year as the backdrop.
  • Students had the opportunity to join different college clubs.
  • There was even a booth there about credit cards, to warn students of the interest rates when they borrow money.
  • They brought in real “live” college students too. Students had to interview them and fill out their college bingo sheet to win prizes.
  • Friday was the big finale with a college debrief in their homeroom, followed by a quick student survey.  The Gear Up leadership team also put on a school wide assembly that included:
    • Review of college week photos
    • A student led video with Q&A about college
    • An A-G powerpoint to continue to engrain these important points for students
    • Raffle winners were announced
    • A “Tell us about your college experience” teacher panel was conducted so students in the audience could ask questions of the five different teachers on the panel.
    • And last but not least, students got to silk screen on their A-G shirts “College is my Hustle” or  “I Hecka Heart College”

Overall, it was a powerful week for teachers and students alike.  Big kudos to the entire GEAR UP leadership team that coordinated all of the efforts and spent 2 months planning all of the activities!

This huge effort was only piece of the puzzle too. Everett has a myriad of other activities going on an any given time to help raise student awareness of what’s needed to go to college, increase parent and community participation and improve student test scores.  It’s no wonder that Everett’s API score increased by 94 points in two years! Under the leadership and direction of Principal Richard Curci, Everett’s faculty and student body continue to raise the bar for success – knowing that when given the information, guidance and support Every Student can have the opportunity to go to college!

If you have questions about Everett’s successful College Week activities, contact:

Tracy Brown-Gallardo

Community Schools Coordinator

Everett Middle School

California GEAR UP Schools Complete Statewide Institutes


It took six hard earned weeks, but we are excited to announce all 48 California GEAR UP Middle Schools completed two day institutes across the state. These facilitated strategic planning sessions are the core of California GEAR UP work, involving all School Leadership Team members, Whole School Services Coaches, GEAR UP staff, and our statewide partnership organizations.

“The GEAR UP institutes provide out team the opportunity to further solidify our college going culture here at Samuel Jackman Middle School.  We are able to accomplish this through the team based guided discussions and common planning time that is available to us during the institutes. GEAR UP and the resources the program provides has been a tremendous asset to our school community.”  

-Principal Paul Burke, Jackman Middle School  

The two-day Institute uses the SSAR (school self assessment rubric) to look at school-wide perceptions  and offers strategies and techniques for focusing on the school-determined needs. It provides opportunities to learn about successes and challenges from other school teams. The institutes also provide additional opportunity for the School Leadership Team to work on the SSAR conditions and plan for implementation of their PDAP (professional development action plan)goals. Trained facilitators provide direction through a guided discussion and reflection promotes the beginning of a shared vision, the identification and coordination of resources, and the use of student data to develop and implement a unified schoolwide plan.

Featured activities at the institutes included Leadership Team panels to kick the first day off. In Glendale, Gage Middle School from Huntington Park, CA shared their pathway to becoming a GEAR UP School, and implementing a college-going culture throughout their school while increasing their API and gaining community wide buy-in for their common goals. In Northern California, Harris Middle School (pictured above) shared an inspiring story of coalescing a high functioning leadership team, and even finished their panel with a rousing school song. In Irvine, Vista Heights Middle School in Moreno Valley, CA shared their journey of engaging parents and families effectively while convincing teachers to continue to strive for high expectations despite ‘good’ API results, and the resulting ‘good to great’ transformation.

“California GEAR UP work is about building relationships with the adults who want to change school culture for the better, so that ALL students are prepared to go college. It is systemic change. Despite lay-offs, budget cuts and the changes that come along with these:  teachers, counselors and administrators want what is best for kids and it has shown in the amazing work of the leadership teams at our events.  This is truly meaningful work.”  -Gina Rodriguez, Whole School Services Manager.

Statewide Partnership Services were featured over the two day institutes and include professional development from The College Board and AVID, as well as family engagement services from PIQE and CEP. Presentations from MDTP (math diagnostic testing project) and CaliforniaColleges.Edu shared services to be used directly in the classroom.

Schools teams will now return to their sites with a better understanding of creating a transformative community-wide college going culture while being better equipped to leverage GEAR UP resources. Being a California GEAR UP school is a 6 year process, of which schools are embarking upon their second year. California GEAR UP School Services Coaches will meeting with schools across the state to facilitate use of GEAR UP tools, work on implementing Professional Development Action Plans, and scheduling Partnership and Statewide Services.

The purpose of California GEAR UP is to develop and sustain the organizational capacity of middle schools to prepare all students for high school and higher education through a statewide network of support for adults who influence middle school students, specifically their counselors, faculty, school leaders and families. As a result of this expanded capacity, a higher proportion of students, particularly from backgrounds and communities that have not historically pursued a college education, will enroll and succeed in higher education.

For more information on California GEAR UP, please visit our website.

To see pictures of California GEAR UP Schools in action, check out our Facebook page and let us know what you think.

National GEAR UP Week Celebration Announced in Elk Grove

September 7, 2012
Elizabeth Graswich
EGUSD Director, Communications


California GEAR UP and the Elk Grove Unified School District will celebrate National GEAR UP Week from 11:15 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Monday, September 10, 2012 in the Board Room at the Robert L. Trigg Education Center (9510 Elk Grove-Florin Road, Elk Grove 95624).

Greg Darnieder, Senior Advisor to the Secretary of Education on College Access, will attend this celebration as a special guest. Event attendees will also include local and state education officials, teachers, students and family and community members.

National GEAR UP Week is September 10-14, 2012. Across the nation and in California, school communities will mark this occasion through activities, contests, college fairs and other events in celebration of college access for ALL students.

GEAR UP is a program of the U.S. Department of Education, developed to provide school-based services to ensure that students and their families have multiple college and career choices after high school. Since 1999, California GEAR UP has effectively served over 300 schools across the state by providing local and efficient community based services.

Working in collaboration with nine schools in the Elk Grove Unified School district, GEAR UP provides direct support to students, principals, teachers, counselors and families. More information is available at

For more information about this event, contact Elizabeth Graswich at 619-686-7732 or Sean Brennan at or 415-948-9262.