Elk Grove School Board Honors GEAR UP Partnership



Chet Madison-Board Member, Felicia Bessent-Principal of Harris MS, Yuri Penermon-Principal of Rutter MS, Bill Del Bonta-Principal of Harriet Eddy MS, Richard Wal- Principalof Smedburg MS, Mike Anderson-Prinicpal of Jackman MS, and Tina Penna-Associate Superintendent. Director Shelley Davis and Project Manager Crystal Robinson.

On October 15, 2013 the Elk Grove Unified School District School Board recognized the long time partnership between the district and California GEAR UP with a presentation to Director Shelley Davis and Project Manager Crystal Robinson. Here is part of the text from the board resolution:

We continue to be honored to work with EGUSD in this amazing partnership that has endured since 1999. California GEAR UP looks forward to more success in creating a college-going culture throughout Elk Grove and the entire state of California. With partners like this we have no doubt we will succeed.


National GEAR UP Week 2013 Round Up

Valley nguw

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! GEAR UP programs across the country celebrated many different ways, including videos, proclamationa, letters of support, student photo booths, Governor support, field trips, and of course many many dream walls.

National GEAR UP Week is an opportunity for to raise awareness in our 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.

Fattah NGUW 2013

Congressman Fattah, the architect of the successful national college readiness and access program GEAR UP celebrates GEAR UP Week and thanks students, program staff, families and partner organizations for their hard work! Congressman Chaka Fattah (PA-02) as he kicked off this national celebration to raise awareness about GEAR UP in our communities.

Dr. Ladd Letter

California GEAR UP received a letter of support from Elk Grove Superintendent Ladd. Since 1999 GEAR UP and Elk Grove have collaborated on student success and creating college-going culture. Thank you, Dr. Ladd for helping us celebrate National GEAR UP Week.

arne duncan letter pic

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan honored GEAR UP with a letter of recognition for all the hard work of GEAR UP programs across the country.

I heart GU Campaign

In addition, we successfully launched our ‘I HEART GU’ campaign during NGUW in order to let supporters know how they feel simply by sharing a photo. Download the pdf file I love GEAR UP and you can participate just by Tweeting us or posting a photo of anyone holding the ‘I HEART GU’ on our Facebook page.. #GEARUPworks. More photos on our Facebook page.

California GEAR UP schools across the state celebrated in a number of ways, including Shasta Lake School  who did an activity at lunch with K-8th grade student with the event/activity consisting of the banners being made out of post-it notes and the students were to write there name, dream, goal, college or what they wanted to be when they graduate on one of the post it notes. This activity will continue in classrooms to make sure that at least all 6-8th grade students get to write something. Then the banners will be laminated and hung in the cafeteria as daily reminders for the students.

Frisbee Middle School in Rialto, CA had all grades participate in creating a DREAM WALL and it was great to see students really start thinking about their dreams and routes to get there. Many went from “I want to have money” to “I want to be a vet”. They started connecting totheir intrinsic side, which is always fun to see.

The California GEAR UP Bridge Project celebrated during their homecoming parade by chanting “A through G, I can see me with a college degree.”  The excitement and engagement is evident with their GEAR UP flags and energy. Students also celebrated all across the Valley High School campus with the ‘I HEART GU’ campaign.

How did you celebrate National GEAR UP Week?


Elk Grove Unified School District Honors GEAR UP Week

Dr. Ladd Letter

We are proud to share a letter of recognition of the partnership between Elk Grove School District and California GEAR UP from Superintendent Ladd. Since 1999 GEAR UP and Elk Grove have collaborated on student success and creating college-going culture. Thank you, Dr. Ladd for helping us celebrate National GEAR UP Week.


Jackman Middle School Culminates with GEAR UP Bridge Project

ETA Jackman 2013

 (Education Trust Award Ceremony)

This year marked the celebration of 480 eight graders completing their final year at Jackman middle school and California GEAR UP Bridge Model cohort. The California GEAR UP  Bridge Model is characterized by collaboration, student progress tracking, and data sharing among a family of schools across educational levels for the purpose of preparing all students in the cohort for college. Data is  collected to measure the impact on student achievement and retention and provide valuable information as to the importance of aligning curriculum, increased communication across educational levels.  California GEAR UP supports the entire school community in creating a college-going culture.  While the model and project services focuses on the cohort of students that will enter high school  in Fall 2013, GEAR UP will continue to provide resources and support throughout the seven schools in the Bridge Model.

“GEAR UP has been welcomed into schools throughout the Elk Grove Unified School District. Together with them- the students, families, teachers and friends – we are building the bridge to be sustained beyond the life of our program.”  – Shelley Davis, California GEAR UP Director

The broader success of this model reflects the investment made by GEAR UP in building relationships throughout the district engaging the Superintendent, School Board Members, Principals, Vice Principals, Counselors, Teachers and families at both Jackman Middle School and Valley High School. With the Bridge Project model, there is increased potential for sustainability of effective practices across a family of schools while  supporting the Elk Grove regional collaborative initiative and the continued support of California GEAR UP through the Whole School Services Model. 
John Reith 6th grade GEAR UP
(Reith Elementary-a Bridge School- at a GEAR UP event)

Successful components of the Bridge Project Model include:

The Leadership Skills Initiative (LSI) is a component of the Bridge Model Project.  The Initiative has evolved to combine positive role models and mentoring, with educational skill building and a safe space for students among others with common issues and challenges.  Data is collected specific to the students involved with LSI from among the cohort of students participating in the Bridge Model.  Program participation has shown to impact student retention, decreased suspensions and increased academic performance, leading to increased graduation rates.  Short term rewards keep students engaged with changes in habits, self awareness and student performance among the long term benefits.

CORE Values-Students participate in a course on ethical values through fun and fitness.  Students will focus on core values topics ranging from discipline, self control, citizenship, kindness, respect, courtesy, and perseverance all while being taught and promoting a healthy, and physical lifestyle.

Family Engagement- Inform and engage families on the college preparation process, particularly in terms of courses in which students should enroll in at high school, and support efforts to encourage families to engage actively in preparing students for success. Activities included: college workshops, Parent Universities, regional events, individual family meetings, at risk family meetings, and individual learning plans for students.

Leadership Skills Initiative Ladies-Focuses on youth empowerment and personal advocacy in young ladies.  Promoting social and character skills development, academic mentoring, coaching, healthy lifestyle practices, and community enrichment.

College and Career Readiness Workshops- Workshops are grade specific to enhance students’ understanding of the steps needed to acquire academic success to meet both high school graduation and college admission requirements.  Information and activities include; developing effective study skills, establishing academic goals, developing academic plans, and career exploration.

Education Trust Awards- The scholarship component of the program requires the state to establish and maintain a financial assistance program for students to attend institutions of higher education. 25 Students at Jackman Middle School received awards of $2000 made available when they enroll in a qualifying institute of higher education. The selection process included an essay component, qualifying GPA, letter of recommendation, and completed application.

Whole School Academic Support-activities included regional articulation in writing, supporting a professional learning environment for adults through professional development, and College Making it Happen materials for all students.

Articulation Support- Valley High School in conjunction with the GEAR family center hosted freshman selection night, in which the incoming 8th grade students visited campus to hear about various programs, clubs, and activities the students have to look forward to the following year. With 300 people in attendance the students and their families walked away with a better understanding of student life at Valley High School.

Transition– including ‘Live the Dream College Night”, financial aid planning activities, and CaliforniaColleges.edu profile support.

As part of research and evaluation of the Bridge Project, focus groups of students and teachers were convened to assess the impact of GEAR UP at Jackman. Here are some student responses from the group:

“GU is doing a good job of getting us prepared and building a path to college (all students said they plan to attend college). It is the only program available to help get us prepared for college. GU provides information about A-G requirements, financial aids, and grants.” – student

“GEAR UP gave me the tools to decide that I wanted to go to college.” – student

“I wish GEAR UP activities were every single day, not just every week!” – student

“Before GEAR UP came to campus we didn’t have the slogan “go to Jackman, go to Valley, go to college”.  I feel like we’ve had a major culture-shift among the students since GEAR UP came to campus.” – teacher

“It seems like times have changed since GEAR UP came to campus.  AVID was the primary provider of most of the college and career readiness materials on campus, but they only serve a select segment of the students. We were pushing kids toward college, but not in the capacity that GEAR UP is able to.” – teacher

“Before GEAR UP came the lower performing kids weren’t thinking about college.  Now they think they can go to college.” – teacher


“The GEAR UP provides our team the opportunity to further solidify our college going culture here at Samuel Jackman Middle School. GEAR UP and the resources the program provides has been a tremendous asset to our school community.”  

-Principal Paul Burke, Jackman Middle School

The culmination of the Bridge Project at Jackman is a testament to the success of building strong community partnerships to change a school community culture to support college dreams. California GEAR UP and the Bridge Team is excited to move on to Valley High School next year.

Pictures of the many great Bridge Model activities can be found on our Facebook page. You can continue to follow Bridge Project Success on our blog and website, please let us know if you have any questions.


EGUSD selected to participate in Linked Learning Pilot Program

January 9, 2013

The Elk Grove Unified School District (EGUSD), a California GEAR UP Partner and Bridge Project school district has been selected as one of 20 participants in a new state pilot program designed to help students graduate from high school prepared to succeed in college and careers.  EGUSD will implement the four-and-a-half year pilot program in its 16 “Linked Learning” California Partnership Academies as well through other district-wide programs.

The state-facilitated Linked Learning Pilot Program was established in 2011 through the passage of AB 790 by former Assembly Member Warren Furutani.  “Linked Learning” programs use coursework, technical training, work-based learning and other related support mechanisms to create connections between high school and college and career.  Both statewide and in EGUSD, students in Linked Learning programs graduate at higher rates and with skills and knowledge needed in the California workforce.  This pilot will be used to assess how Linked Learning can be expanded to other schools in California.

“The district has brought to fruition many career academies and pathways that offer rigorous and relevant educational experiences for our students,” said EGUSD Superintendent Steven M. Ladd, Ed.D. “Through these programs, our students leave high school well prepared to be successful in college or careers in the 21st century.”

At Elk Grove Unified, the district’s 16 California Partnership Academies and their success in connecting academics to workforce development will be the focus of the program’s implementation.  Through Linked Learning, the district will enhance district-wide systems of support to increase access to career pathways for every student in EGUSD.  The Elk Grove Unified School District also plans on serving as a model for other districts throughout California that are interested in starting or retooling their pathway programs.

“Participation in Linked Learning extends EGUSD’s ongoing commitment to career technical education and multiple pathways to student success in college and career,” said Kathy Hamilton, director of career technical, charter and adult education for the district.  “Through participation, EGUSD will be better positioned to receive state and federal funding for CTE-related programs as it becomes available over the next several years.”

Click here for more information about Linked Learning.


Valley High-GEAR UP Graduates 94 Percent of Seniors

Valley High School in Elk Grove, CA, a California GEAR UP school, celebrated last night as 94% of their senior class (the GEAR UP cohort) walked across the stage and received their diplomas. The atmosphere in the room was electric, as the seniors, their families, and school staff enjoyed a near perfect graduation rate.

The California GEAR UP-Valley High School model focuses on a cohort of low-income students who began in Grade 7 at Jackman Middle School in 2005-2006 and who matriculated to Valley High School in 2007-2008. For 2009-10, services for the cohort of 11th graders expanded to include support for AVID classes, College Fairs,  College and Career Technical school visits, College Awareness classes and Leadership Skills Initiative curriculum specific to the African-American male students in the cohort.  With a continued focus on developing the college-going culture throughout the school community, GEAR UP has been able to reach the entire school, not just the students within the cohort.

Additional results:

  • Valley is the Number 1 (non charter) in Similar Schools and demographics in California.
  • Of 100 Similar Schools in California, Valley scored a perfect 10. They are the only non-charter to do so!
  • Valley had the highest API score of any non-charter school and had the 8th highest API overall.

The effects of GEAR UP at Valley could not be more clear. A recent survey of seniors at valley indicated more than 36% were planning to attend 4 year colleges, while 60% planned to attend two year schools. With 89% of students responding, the whopping 96% of seniors planning to continue their education after high school is powerful evidence that GEAR UP works.

Share in the excitement by checking out the Valley High School Graduation photo album on our Facebook page.

GEAR UP Partner Interview: Ruthie Bolton

We are proud to be partnered with Olympic gold medalist and former Sacramento Monarch Ruthie Bolton, who works with GEAR UP students at Valley High School in Sacramento. Ms. Bolton has been working with the team as they work through the AIM (Attitude In Motion) series and California GEAR UP Leadership Skills Initiative, both programs highlights character traits and works directly with students on motivation, anger management, discipline, perseverance, self-value, respect and accountability.

Ruthie was kind enough to sit down with us for an interview. Excerpts included below:

CGU: What inspires you?

RB: To see people happy and to help people discover their dreams and fulfill them.  To be able to help uplift others.  Then to get letters from people that I have inspired in turn inspires me.

CGU: What are some words of wisdom in achieving your dreams?

RB: Whatever dreams you have, go for them, pursue them and seek them out.  Don’t let people discourage you based on their perception of you.  It is what you think of yourself.  Sometimes what is on the outside is not all there is to a person.  It is what is on the inside what counts.  This is the message I give to students.  My mentor was my father and he was instrumental in me continuing in basketball even though the odds were stacked against me.  Empowerment and support from those around her encouraged her to continue.

CGU: What are some life experiences that have shaped who you are?

RB: The challenge of not being recruited out of High School.  I had to call Aubern University to ask if I could play for them.  Once I got there for try-outs, they thought I wouldn’t play until my Junior year.  I felt rejected and angry that they didn’t want me and I had to determine if it was worth it to continue to pursue my dream.  I chose to go to AU and ended up starting my Freshmen year.  This experience was the main one that changed me.  It told me about myself and the levels of courage and perseverance that I have.

CGU: How do you use these experiences in your role at Valley High School?

RB: It was my character, attitude, and work ethic.  I share this with kids through my AIM HIGH Program and the LSI Ladies at Valley.  Not always about the skills people have, but their attitude and persistence.  I want to be apart of their journey especially when they are at that crossroad.

CGU: Your involvement with GEAR UP at Valley working with the LSI ladies is inspiring.  Can you tell me what you enjoy the most about your work?

RB: Learning and becoming friends with the young ladies as well as being a mentor and a role model to them.  Some athletes feel pressured to be a role model, but it is rewarding to have them come to me and being able to share my experiences.

CGU: Why do you think it is important for students to start thinking about college as early as middle school?

RB: The earlier they get in their head the better.  They need lots of reinforcement.  One day the light will come on that college is important.  Their minds are like sponges and they need positive thoughts, especially when they get enough negative ones already.

CGU: Why is college important?

RB: When people see a degree, people know they know about responsibility, accountability, and discipline.  College teaches you about yourself and molds you.  The rewards of going to college are endless.

CGU: What are some tips for students struggling in high school?

RB: Surround yourself with people who can help you.  Ask your teachers for help, a classmate that is doing well in that class.  Ask questions, reach out, and utilize your resources at the school and on the internet.

Additional Thoughts: Life doesn’t always go the way you want it to and everyone gets to a breaking point, but don’t be so quick to say something is not for you.  Keep pushing and give your best.  Don’t live a life of resentment or regret.  Make everyday count because life is about quality.  Do something to make a difference in other’s lives.  I want to give every kid that I encounter HOPE.

Special thanks to Ruthie Bolton for taking time to speak with us for this interview. Look for Ruthie’s upcoming book ‘Ride of a Liftetime’ to be released early next year.

Valley High School Celebrates National GEAR UP Day

The Valley High School-California GEAR UP Collaborative celebrated National GEAR UP Day today with a business and community leaders breakfast. Attendees listened to testimonials from students representing various organizations across the school, including the student body president, AVID students, athletes, and Leadership Skill Initiative students who are all college bound thanks in part to California GEAR UP. Students had this to share:

“Benefits of hard work are evident and GEAR UP showed us that.”

“GEAR UP and AVID helped us to become financially literate.”

“GEAR UP Leadership Skills Initiative taught us how to go from teenagers trying to do to young adults doing.”

“Our teachers listen to us and that makes all the difference in our success.”

Principal Keven MacDonald was eager to share how GEAR UP has helped shape perceptions at Valley of college access and academic excellence for all students. His enthusiasm was in part due to the Valley-GEAR UP partnership that has contributed to recent achievements in API and school ranking.

Superintendent Dr. Steven Ladd addressed the crowd, again celebrating the many acheivements at Valley and the contribution of California GEAR UP. Here are some excerpts:

“GEAR UP Looked at our students and saw greatness.”

“The leadership of GEAR UP and Shelley Davis in this partnership has contributed to much of the success at Valley.”

Other folks gathered at the celebration included GEAR UP Partner and former WNBA star Ruthie Bolton who mentors in the Leadership Skills Initiative students, Tina Penna, Associate Superintendent of Secondary Education, Paul Burke, Jackman Middle School Principal, Penny Edgert Principal Investigator, California GEAR UP, Executive Director, California Education Roundtable, and Timoteo Rico, Director, EAOP UC Davis.

National GEAR UP Day is a celebration of transformative work of California GEAR UP and the 68 partnership projects have impacted over 1/3 of the 1200 middle schools in California, with the State grant serving over 236,000 students in 260 schools in 106 school districts in 25 counties since 1999.

National GEAR UP Day celebrates students, families and school communities across the United States and beyond. The occasion marks more than ten years of support from Congressional, State and local leaders and recognizes our collaborative efforts to close achievement and opportunity gaps for ALL students.” ~Shelley Davis, California GEAR UP Director.

For more pictures of the event and the Valley High School College Door Decorating Contest, checkout our Facebook page here.

Valley High School Ready for National GEAR UP Day

Valley High School is finishing preparations for their second annual National GEAR UP Day celebration to be held on September 30. Activities include:

  • Business and Community Leaders Breakfast starting at 8:00 am.
  • Campus tours and classroom visits
  • Lunch-time Student activities and performances
  • An opportunity to network with business and community leaders, families, and educators.

National GEAR UP Day is a celebration of transformative work of California GEAR UP – Valley High School Collaboration that includes dramatic gains in the statewide API, the opening of a Family Center, distribution of 100 Education Trust Awards, the implementation of a Leadership Skills Initiative, as well as on-going school-wide academic support.

Confirmed attendees include:

For information on this event or to attend, please contact Deisy Padilla:DPadilla@egusd.net

Continue to follow events across the state as we cover National GEAR UP Day across California.

Valley High Hosts Historically Black College Fair

On Saturday September 18 Valley High School hosted the 11th annual Historically Black College Fair.  Attending students were able to:

  • On the spot admissions and Scholarships
  • Application Fee Waived for Many Colleges
  • Face to face contact with official college admission representatives
  • Exposure to many Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCUs)
  • Assistance and information regarding SAT and ACT college admission tests

The event was sponsored by Nehemiah Corporation of America and New Faze Development, Inc, California GEAR UP, Valley High School and in partnership with United Black Student Unions of California, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, The Alpha Academy, Greater Sacramento Urban League, Sacramento Observer, KCI Media Corporation.

In the late 19th century, colleges for black students were started in box cars (Atlanta University) and church basements (Spelman College). Mary McLeod Bethune, one of the nation’s foremost black educators, opened a college in 1904 with $1.50 and 5 students. Today, there are 106 historically black colleges and universities in the United States, who can count among their graduates such luminaries as W. E. B. Du Bois (Fisk University), Thurgood Marshall (Lincoln University and Howard University), Toni Morrison (Howard University), and Martin Luther King, Jr. (Morehouse College). Read more HERE.

To view additional photos please visit our Facebook page HERE.