Saving For College Early is Essential to Planning for Success

Saving for college is more important than ever. With the cost of college tuition on the rise, ScholarShare  and California GEAR UP are working together closely to provide families, parents, and young adults with resources and tools to help them prepare for higher education.

ScholarShare, California’s 529 college savings plan, has long been a partner of the California GEAR UP Education Trust Awards. GEAR UP has awarded 5,370 middle school students with Education Trust Awards, opened in individual ScholarShare accounts established in the student’s name in the amount of $2,000 each, for a total of $10,740,000. The awards are available to students within one year of high school graduation and upon college enrollment.

ScholarShare is a way for parents to share in their child’s road to a higher education.  There are a number of benefits offered by ScholarShare.

  • Any adult or U.S. legal resident with a social security number or federal taxpayer identification number can open an account.
  • Grandparents, friends, aunts, and uncles can open an account or contribute to an existing one.
  • Earnings are tax free when withdrawals are used for qualified higher education expenses.
  • Accounts can be opened with as little as $25.
  • Funds can be used at eligible schools nationwide and many international schools.
  • Funds can be used for a variety of qualified higher education expenses.
  • A variety of low cost investment options are offered.

College remains important to California parents.  According to the California College Saving Survey in September 2012, 84 percent of parents strongly believe in the importance of a higher education as an objective in its own right, and as a way to open doors to other dreams and aspirations.  Even during challenging economic times, parents are still putting a priority on saving for a higher education while making sacrifices in other areas. Many California parents are willing to cut back on family vacations or eating out, even more striking delaying their retirement.

While California parents consider a college education crucial, most are worried about being able to afford it.  Here are some helpful tips on how families can save for college.

  • Be supportive:  Children will aspire and be prepared for college if they are surrounded by adults who foster a positive educational environment not only in school but at home.
  • Set realistic goals:  You may not be able to save enough for all four years of tuition, room and board, and other expenses, but you could save enough to help put your child’s education within reach.
  • Reach out to friends and family:  Instead of birthday and holiday gifts for your child, let your friends and family make contributions. Of those that know about 529 plans, few know that people other than the child’s parents can contribute, such as grandparent’s aunts, uncles, and even the students themselves.
  • Let your child know you’re saving for their higher education:  You may be surprised at how much pride and appreciation they demonstrate, knowing that college is in their future.
  • Start saving as earlier as you can:  The key to saving for college is to start early and save regularly. By saving a set amount regularly, your money can grow as your child does. And before you know it, you’ll be just as ready for college as they are.

ScholarShare offers a way for families to save for college and to help make college become affordable. When it comes to college savings, it is never too late for families to share in their child’s future.

For more information about ScholarShare, visit www.ScholarShare.com, call toll-free 1-800-544-5248, or visit the ScholarShare Facebook [link to www.facebook.com/scholarshare529] and Twitter [link to www.twitter.com/scholarshare529] pages.

####

Consider the investment objectives, risks, charges and expenses before investing in the ScholarShare College Savings Plan. Visit ScholarShare.com, or call the Plan, for a Disclosure Booklet containing this and other information.  Read it carefully. Before investing in a 529 plan, consider whether the state where you or your Beneficiary resides has a 529 plan that offers favorable state tax benefits that are 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. Investments in the Plan are neither insured nor guaranteed except for TIAA-CREF Life Insurance Company’s guarantee to the ScholarShare College Savings Plan under the Funding Agreement for the Principal Plus Interest Portfolio, and there is a risk of investment loss. Account values will fluctuate based on a number of factors, including general market conditions. TIAA-CREF Tuition Financing, Inc., Program Manager

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 Gear-Up@csac.ca.gov.

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: sean.brennan@ucop.edu

#####

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 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!

Education Trust Awards Season is Here

Pictured: Ambassadors Program: The California GEAR UP Educational Trust Award is unique in that it is given during the middle grades, as early motivation for students and their families. This $2,000 award is tangible evidence of our belief that with support and encouragement, college is not only possible, but attainable for all students. The Ambassador program was created so that Trust Award recipients now in college can share their experiences with middle school students, middle school staff, and other organizations.

The California GEAR UP model provides school-based services to ensure that students and their families have multiple college and career choices after high school.  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.

Since 1999, 5,065 California GEAR UP students have received Education Trust Awards from the program.  Of that number, 2,016 graduated from high school in 2008 and claimed their awards.  Education Trust Awards provide $2,000 (plus interest) in resources to defray the costs of college attendance.  Award recipients are selected by school personnel at California GEAR UP middle schools.  The awards are available to students within one year of high school graduation and upon college enrollment.

For mor information, including downloadable forms, frequently asked questions, please visit our website.

If you have an Education Trust Award story to share, please email us at: Gear-Up@csac.ca.gov

Mesa Intermediate is Proud of Their Awardees

2010 Education Trust Award Recipients

As part of the California GEAR UP cohort of schools, Mesa Intermediate in Palmdale, CA has worked hard the past two years to create a college-going culture on campus.

The principal and members of the school GEAR UP team lead the effort to realize their school vision of academic excellence and college access. The team includes A GEAR UP staff person provides on-site guidance and support to schools and serves as liaison with GEAR UP partners, such as AVID, PIQE, and College Board. The Regional Coordinator helps to clarify expectations and monitor school progress.

In addition, schools receive a number of Education Trust Awards to give to students based on a team selected criteria. Each award is worth $2000 and is put in a Scholarshare account to accrue interest until the students enter college or other qualifying education institution.

Special thanks to the leadership team at Mesa Intermediate for all their hard work this year in supporting their students and the goals of GEAR UP.

Education Trust Awards are a Hit at Porter Middle School

As Principal Robert Marks announced the California GEAR UP Education Trust Awards last night, excitement could be heard throughout the the large crowd gathered at Porter Middle School during the 2010 8th Grade Award’s Night. It was the first year Porter was to hand out ten $2,000 Education Trust Awards and the many hundreds present, including families, teachers, and students, were all impressed with this years Education Trust Awards recipients. The ETA awards were just a few of the many awards students received throughout the night.

This is historic. I have never witness so many scholarships of this amount given out in one year. Our students are already talking about them for next year.

-Porter Middle School Teacher

This year California GEAR UP gave 288 Trust Awards to middle grades students across California and 50 awards at Valley High School in Sacramento with the expectation that offering a monetary incentive to students will stimulate the entire family and school community to support his or her preparation for college.

How are you creating a college-going culture in your community??

Families Celebrate Education Trust Awards at Henry MS

Click on pictures above for full size image.

On June 10 Patrick Henry Middle School honored families of awardees and alternates of the California GEAR UP Education Trust awards. GEAR UP Coordinator Peter Lee and Principal Michael Bennett hosted families with dinner and a well attended awards ceremony.

This award is the first step in your pathway to college. It is your responsibility as students to make a plan to achieve your dreams and execute that plan no matter how difficult the task, no matter how far away they might seem. Your family, teachers, and GEAR UP believe in you, now you need to believe in yourself enough to become the student you know you can be. The challenge starts here.

-Sean Brennan, GEAR UP Communications Director

My family is so proud of my son right now. We never heard of a college award in middle school before now. We are so excited to start planning for his future!

-Mother of ETA recipient

Special thanks to the GEAR UP Leadership Team at Henry!

Butler School Celebrates Ed Trust Students with Luncheon

Special thanks to Lori Flores, GEAR UP Program Facilitator at the Mary Bulter School for sharing with us:

Butler Middle School’s CA GEAR UP Team honored their two outstanding Ed Trust Award winners at a school-wide assembly in March and then hosted a luncheon for the honorees and their families.  At the luncheon, both students read aloud the inspiring essays they wrote as part of the award selection process.  Family members and teachers alike were deeply touched by the students’ personal reflections and college-going aspirations.

We are excited to share with you all of our schools honoring their ETA students, as well as working towards the goal of creating a college-going culture at their school. If you would like to submit photos or an article, please email us.

GEAR UP Partner Spotlight: Scholarshare

May and June is Education Trust Awards season for California GEAR UP schools, so we thought we would share some information on our partner, ScholarShare. ScholarShare is California’s official 529 College Savings Plan. 529 plans are tax advantaged savings vehicles named for the section of Internal Revenue Code under which they were created. Earnings on 529 investments grow tax-deferred, and disbursements, when used for qualified higher education expenses, are federal and state tax-free.

ScholarShare is a great way to start saving for college for the following reasons:

  • Accounts may be opened online with as little as $50, or $15 with automatic monthly contributions
  • No annual account maintenance fee
  • No income limit

ScholarShare is the investment partner for the California GEAR UP Education Trust Awards. Award recipients are selected by school personnel at California GEAR UP middle schools.  The awards are available to students within one year of high school graduation and upon college enrollment. California ETA awards are in the amount of $2,000 and can reach up to $2,500 by the time students attend college.

For more information on ScholarShare, visit their site or take a look at the comprehensive information on CaliforniaColleges.edu.

The ScholarShare College Savings Plan is administered by the ScholarShare Investment Board, an agency of the State of California. Neither the principal deposited nor the investment return is guaranteed by the State of California, ScholarShare Investment Board, Fidelity Investments or any affiliate thereof, or the federal government or any agency thereof. Units of the Portfolios are municipal securities and may be subject to market volatility and fluctuation.

Santa Ana GEAR UP Partnership Celebrates Trust Awards

The GEAR UP Santa Ana College GEAR UP Partnership is proud of the two intermediate school students, participants in Santa Ana College’s very successful Talent Search/TRIO program, who recently received State GEAR UP Educational Trust Awards. Santa Ana College recognized our two local recipients, Manuel Velasquez from Willard Intermediate, and Ricardo Franco from McFadden Intermediate, at their annual Santa Ana 2000 High School Scholarship Awards Ceremony on June 2nd.

“Although these students are not yet in high school, including them in this ceremony with high school graduates and at the college, communicates to them and their families that these youngsters are scholars who are on track to go to college,” said Dr. Lilia Tanakeyowma, Director of GEAR UP Santa Ana.

Mr. Velasquez said “I am proud of my son and know he will go to college and be a successful man.” Their intermediate school principals joined the high school principals for the first time at this ceremony at the college and pledged to see more of their students have these opportunities and join all efforts available to prepare them for college.

“The Santa Ana Unified School District, after the impact GEAR UP has shown in their early college preparation work at the middle schools, has now instituted a district wide college and career planning curriculum starting in the 6th grade. This recognition of middle school students at this scholarship event is confirmation of our collaborative commitment to early college preparation,” expressed Dr. Tanakeyowma.

~Special thanks to everyone at Santa Ana GEAR UP who made the celebration possible, and thanks to Dr.Tanakeyowma for sharing their success with us for our blog.

What is your GEAR UP program doing to celebrate the Education Trust Award recipients?