2015 GEAR UP National Conference: TIPS


 July 19-22, 2015 San Francisco, California

The 2015 NCCEP/GEAR UP Annual Conference will take place July 19–22, 2015 at the Hilton San Francisco Union Square in San Francisco, California.  The Annual Conference features five plenary sessions, approximately 135 concurrent sessions, and a variety of pre- and post-conference events.

Access the 2015 Annual Conference schedule-at-a-glance.

Access the 2015 Annual Conference Preliminary Conference Program (Upated 6-26-15; Subject to Change)

Go the the home page of the conference registration web site.

Access conference materials (PowerPoints, handouts, etc. if/as available).

Learn about the theme and highlights of the 2015 Annual Conference.

Learn more about pre- and post-conference workshops and special conference programs.

To register now, click here.

Hotel registration is also open.  To make reservations with the Hilton San Francisco Union Squareclick here.  Group Code is “GEA.”

If you have any questions about the registration, please contact Suzan Shimko.

If you have any questions about the Annual Conference program, please contact John Donaldson.

If you are interested in exhibiting or sponsoring, take a look at the Sponsor, Exhibitor, and Advertiser Prospectus or contact Betty Paugh-Ortiz.

Get the most out of the conference!













A Dream Realized: Stories From the National Conference

NCCEP 2014

This year marked the 15th anniversary of GEAR UP and the annual conference was held in Washington DC July 20-23, 2014.  The purpose of this conference is to highlight the importance of education/community partnerships and the accomplishments of the Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP). This conference also serves to facilitate the forging of new alliances among faculty, to help attendees learn about other federal and foundation-sponsored college awareness efforts, to learn about other academic and student support programs, and to find new ways to engage local communities, businesses and professional associations in the work of GEAR UP partnerships. The conference is especially relevant to education practitioners, business leaders and policymakers who wish to learn more about creating and sustaining education collaboratives that can help improve public education and promote student academic achievement.

It was a great opportunity to network and connect with GEAR UP programs/projects around the county. I really appreciated the big picture scope of the work and mission of NCCEP. -Bernadette Ramirez, California GEAR UP

Attendees addended breakout session based on their areas of work and interest. California GEAR UP presented at four different sessions and was excited to share the success across California.

The daily speakers were amazing and reminded us of our purpose and the necessity of all of our contributions.  I left centered and reminded that there people all across the nation working with students to create pathways that provide equal access to higher education. -Crystal Robinson, California GEAR UP.


The GEAR UP Alumni Leadership Academy (GUALA) is a new initiative launched by the National Council for Community and Education Partnerships with support from the national GEAR UP community and funding from The Kresge Foundation.  The GUALA is a 12-month program designed to train and engage GEAR UP alumni in advocacy and leadership, and work toward creating positive change in education policy for their younger peers. The GUALA will select 30 GEAR UP Alumni Leaders annually from across the country and grow the program to one per state over time. Stephani Ruiz, GUALA class 2014 shared her conference experience with us:

“The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet” -Aristotle. That is exactly what I saw at the national Gear Up conference. I saw many speakers, students, and presenters who all said the same thing. Education is hard, but if you keep at it, you can achieve! I tell my students that quote every time they feel discouraged and I tell myself that every single time I feel like quitting. I am a first generation student and for me my education journey was very challenging, but so worth it! I am near the end of my undergraduate journey and there have been times that I have wanted to quit, but my mentors have encouraged me to keep fighting. I am so thankful that GUALA has given me the same opportunity to encourage and help future leaders that are struggling to that they are worth it. I love what Gear Up has done to my community. Gear Up has been a huge part of my life and I am just so thankful that the roots may be bitter, but the fruit, is just so much more sweeter!

Fattah Google

U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah (D., Pa.) touted the progress of a college preparation program he helped bring into being 15 years ago, and announced that the annual GEAR UP convention would come to Philadelphia next year. And he did it while recording his own remarks through Google Glass. (If you want to see what it’s like to deliver a speech to a conference, see the video ). Fattah, of Philadelphia, sponsored the creation of GEAR UP during the Clinton administration, helping found a program that prepares low-income students for college. In his speech at the program’s annual convention last week, Fattah said it had now aided 13 million young people. Quoting former President Clinton’s comments at the 1998 bill signing, Fattah said, “we want our young people to have every opportunity to live and achieve their dreams.”

One aspect of the conference many attendees were excited about was visiting with their local members of congress as part of ‘Hill Visits’. GEAR UP practitioners spent weeks leading up to their capitol trip scheduling appointments with not only members of congress but also their education staff to share the accomplishments of GEAR UP in their districts. California GEAR UP staff met with Congressman Adam Schiff (D., CA) and invited him to visit our local GEAR UP schools in his district.
Did you attend this year? What what your experience?


2014 NCCEP/GEAR UP Annual Conference in Washington, DC

Register Now!

2014 NCCEP/GEAR UP Annual Conference July 20–23, 2014 Washington Hilton, Washington, DC On behalf of the U.S. Department of Education and NCCEP, we are pleased to invite you to attend the 2014 NCCEP/GEAR UP Annual Conference, celebrating GEAR UP’s 15th Anniversary!  The theme of this year’s conference is “A Dream Realized.”  To access the online registration, click the Register Now button below.


You may want to spend some time reflecting on your professional goals before attending a conference. Conferences can be highly effective at helping you advance a wide range of professional objectives. For example, they can help you build and extend professional contacts, find a mentor or collaborator, gain experience presenting original work, advance your subject matter expertise, extend your knowledge of resources, introduce you to new theory, methods or tools, gain ideas for new programs and workshops, develop new skills or simply refresh your interest in and enthusiasm for managing programs and working directly with students. Whatever the goal, be intentional in the way you seek to advance your professional identity, contacts and knowledge.  Don’t passively attend the conference use it to advance your career objectives!


There are normally a variety of session formats to select from including pre-conference workshops, panel discussions, team delivered presentations and of course single presenter presentations. Each offers a special experience and learning opportunity. Branch out a bit and see if you can sample a range of presentation approaches and styles.


It is easy to be overwhelmed by the range of activities happening during a conference. Spend some time before you go reading through the program to get a sense of what seems most interesting and relevant. Large conferences may also offer a common reading for thought and reflection and if these are accessed in advance they may add much to your overall conference experience. Taking the time to prepare in advance will help you feel more relaxed and organized once the conference begins. Conferences offer so much – it can be helpful to review, reflect and strategize in advance.


Conferences can be packed with interesting sessions and it can be hard to choose between interesting concurrent sessions. Although it may be tempting to attend individual sessions with trusted coworkers, consider asking your friends and workmates to spread out over the conference and attend different concurrent sessions. This strategy will ensure maximum exposure to what the conference has to offer.  Set some time aside to debrief and share materials and handouts with these workmates during breaks. This will help you gain access to much more of the conference than you could as a single attendee.


Raise your hand, offer a comment, tell a story, frame a challenge, suggest a solution, give an example, reflect, engage and engage others! Be an active rather than passive participate. Much of the learning that takes place at a conference happens through peer-to-peer sharing and interaction. You may also wish to consider volunteering at a conference. This can be a great way to gain professional experience and engage more fully in the conference as it is happening.


Choose to attend at least one conference presentation in an area that you are not familiar with. This might help you discover a new passion, resource or opportunity. Focus not only on extending existing knowledge and expertise, focus on growth.


Conferences are great ways to engage with your familiar and trusted workmates but make it a point to expand your professional contacts by introducing yourself to at least three new people. If you feel awkward approaching others, network with an extroverted friend who can help with introductions. You are likely to meet some amazing people.


Write down a few key takeaways from each session you attend. Consider how you might use what you learned in your professional practice. Be determined to take away at least one idea, tool, concept or bit of information that can be applied to your daily practice. Hang on to your handouts for future reference.


Attend the scheduled social events! These are actually a lot of fun and really help to extend the excitement, enthusiasm and energy of a conference. If you are shy, take a friend with you. Don’t be afraid to relax and mingle.


If you are one of only a few people in your immediate working group who is able to attend a conference you may want to focus on what you can take back to others who are not able to attend. Consider yourself an emissary for your entire working group and be committed to sharing what you learned with others. Bring conference highlights home by presenting to your department, host a brown bag debrief and share key takeaways with colleagues.


Use the business cards you collect at a conference in the future. Reach out to others and look for ways to share and collaborate on new projects. This is a great way to form and strengthen professional networks over time. The call for proposals closed on April 1, 2014.

Click here to access the 2014 NCCEP/GEAR UP Annual Conference schedule-at-a-glance.
Click here to access the 2014 NCCEP/GEAR UP Annual Conference program book.
Click here to access the Sponsor, Exhibitor, and Advertiser Prospectus.

GEAR UP/NCCEP 2013 National Conference

NCCEP 2013 students

The 2013 GEAR UP National Conference was held in San Francisco this year, and we were excited to participate and have a prominent roll. This national convening of GEAR UP professionals, parents, students, policymakers, and community partners is coordinated by the National Council for Community and Education Partnerships(NCCEP) and planned in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Education. The purpose of this conference is to highlight the importance of education/community partnerships and the accomplishments of the Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP). This conference also serves to facilitate the forging of new alliances among faculty, to help attendees learn about other federal and foundation-sponsored college awareness efforts, to learn about other academic and student support programs, and to find new ways to engage local communities, businesses and professional associations in the work of GEAR UP partnerships. The conference is especially relevant to education practitioners, business leaders and policymakers who wish to learn more about creating and sustaining education collaboratives that can help improve public education and promote student academic achievement.



California GEAR UP director, Shelley Davis, welcomed the attendees on Monday morning with inspiring remarks.

WELCOME to California, your host for the 2013 National GEAR UP Conference. 

WELCOME to the State in which there is an increasing gap between the performance of groups of students at every educational level.  That gap is especially significant because this is the state in which students of color are the majority in our public school classrooms;

WELCOME to California whose voters just increased their own taxes by between $7 and 9 Biliion dollars primarily to fund public schools and higher education;

WELCOME to the State that just enacted a funding formula for its public schools that recognizes that low-income, English Language Learners, and foster youth need additional resources to be successful;

WELCOME to California in which ALL students who have attended California high schools for 3 three years can now receive State financial aid to pursue their higher educational dreams;

WELCOME to the State where our Governor has been the youngest state Chief Executive in the country and now serves as the oldest;

WELCOME to California, the 13th State in the union, where any two people who love each other can choose to marry; and,

WELCOME to San Francisco – the host city of the International America’s Cup and Home of the World Series Baseball Champions for two of the last three years. 

As we begin the 2013 Annual Conference, we are cautiously optimistic and will all need to be thoughtful in order to address the persistent challenges facing the GEAR UP community.  We must be vigilant in advocating for ALL STUDENTS in this state and in every state.  With the leadership of Congressman Chaka Fattah, James Davis of the United States Department of Education, and Nathan Monell and the NCCEP team, we are up to the challenge. 


Roll Call of the GEAR UP States

The Roll Call of the GEAR UP States is a much-anticipated tradition at the Conference. Each state is called, celebrated, and cheered by the audience as a way to welcome all participants to an exciting few days of learning and sharing. Congressman Chaka Fattah spoke during the highly anticipated Roll Call of the GEAR UP States.  Speaking directly to the students in attendance he encouraged them not to let anyone deter them from their dream of a college education. “There will be people who will tell you that you don’t have what it takes to succeed.  Don’t listen to them,” he said. “GEAR UP was created and designed to make sure that any student who wants to succeed in school will have all the tools necessary to help them do just that. GEAR UP will help you reach higher to be more, to be that person you want and know you can be.”




Concurrent Sessions

The conference program includes concurrent sessions focused on impacting middle school and high school students, their families, faculty and administrators, student services and college access professionals, program evaluators, parent involvement coordinators, business and community partners, and education policymakers. California GEAR UP was proud to share Everett Middle School’s accomplishments in using the School Self Assessment Rubric in their San Francisco Middle School. Everett presented with California GEAR UP Whole School Services Coach Michele Molitor.

fattah google

Plenary Sessions

Plenary sessions serve as the core of the conference curriculum and are designed to provide the context for concurrent session dialogues. Plenary sessions will feature nationally recognized individuals in the field of education and workforce development, as well as educational policymakers, political appointees, congressional staff, business leaders, and others who champion the cause of improving public education and making postsecondary education more accessible to underrepresented communities.


2013 NCCEP/GEAR UP Youth Congress

NCCEP’s Youth Congress is a youth leadership program that implements a student-focused curriculum, blending leadership development with life skills and strategies for increased learning. GEAR UP  youth who participate in the Youth Congress had the opportunity to experience a professional conference while interacting and learning with other students from around the country. The students will learn strategies for increasing learning capacity, as well as relationship and communication skill-building. They will also experience leadership skill development, while strengthening their confidence to effectively tell their story.

2013 California GEAR UP Partnership Meeting

At each national conference California GEAR UP hosts a discussion with the other GEAR UP programs across the state. This year the conversation focused on Common Core State Standards implementation and was attended by GEAR UP professionals from across the state.

We were once again honored to host the National Conference in California this year. If you attended please let us know what you thought of the conference in the comments section of this blog.

For pictures from the National Conference, check out our Facebook page.



GEAR UP National Conference 2012

Greetings from Washington, DC where we are attending the 2012 GEAR UP National Conference. This year the conference is packed with exciting sessions and will feature GEAR UP programs visiting with their local elected representatives on Tuesday afternoon.
At the conference, GEAR UP practitioners will have the opportunity to learn from the U.S. Department of Education, NCCEP staff, foundation and corporate partners, and each other. The majority of concurrent sessions are led directly by GEAR UP professionals sharing their strongest programs, most successful partnerships, and best institutional practices. The event also serves as an important gathering for all college access professional – sparticularly those who coordinate their efforts with GEAR UP programs; and local, state, and federal policy makers who want to learn more about creating and sustaining K–16 education/community collaboratives designed to improve public education and promote student success.
Another highlight of the conference will be a capitol hill briefing on Tuesday, July 24 entitled:  GEAR UP: The College Access Program that Drives Education and Economic Success in Your Community. The briefing is hosted by Rep. Chaka Fattah (PA-2) and Rep. Rubén Hinojosa (TX‐15) and will feature our very own California GEAR UP Director, Shelley Davis as one of the invited speakers.
GEAR UP was honored to have U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan speak at the Monday afternoon Plenary Session where he recognized GEAR UP students, thanked the GEAR UP community for their important work and answered questions from the audience.  Secretary Duncan confirmed the critical role of GEAR UP in ensuring low income, minority and first generation students have access to higher education.
With the generous support of Texas Instruments, NCCEP partnered with the well-respected team at GEAR UP for Excellence to lead and deliver this year’s inaugural Youth Congress. Nearly 100 students participated in 3 days of a student-focused curriculum that blended leadership development with life skills and strategies for increased learning.  The Youth Congress culminated with a presentation by the group on Wednesday morning, July 25 to a packed ballroom. Their personal stories were powerful displays of how they are overcoming their day-to-day challenges.
Here are some ideas on how to get the most out of the conference this year:
  • Help make the conference dynamic: participate and ask questions during sessions and share your successes.
  • Attend panels and workshops you wouldn’t normally attend, you will be surprised how this sparks new thinking.
  • Connect and converse: get to know fellow GEAR UP community members and learn about their program.
  • Take pictures and post on your GEAR UP Facebook page. Tweet about what you are learning!
  • Take notes and collect resources like business cards and sponsor materials.
  • Follow up-to-the-minute conference news and information on Twitter by following us @cagearup and #hashtags: #GEARUPworks #NCCEP2012 #GEARUP
  • Have fun and see the city!
Let us know if you are attending the conference or have additions to how to better enjoy the conference.
For a slideshow of pictures from the conference, check this out.

Preparing for National GEAR UP Week 2012: Sept 10-14

September 10-14, 2012  is  National GEAR UP Week, an event highlighting the positive impact that GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs), has had on students, families, schools, and communities since Congress authorized the program thirteen years ago. GEAR UP provides six-year grants to states and partnerships to increase the number of low-income students who are prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education.

GEAR UP programs, schools, families, and partners across the country will celebrate throughout the week of September 10-14.

How to Celebrate National GEAR UP Day:

1)  Create a “GEAR UP Dreams Wall” by covering the wall of a classroom, hallway, or gym with butcher paper, place a large GEAR UP logo in the center with “Our GEAR UP Dreams” underneath, and have students write their academic, professional, and personal goals on the wall. Take a picture of the students by their dreams and send a few to your legislators, school officials, local newspaper and the California GEAR UP blog to be posted.

2) Host a lunchtime celebration at your school and invite families, your local school district representatives, Members of Congress, and GEAR UP personnel.

3)  Start a letter writing campaign to your U.S. Senators and U.S. Representative. Have your students thank the elected officials for supporting GEAR UP. Encourage parents and teachers to discuss the importance of GEAR UP and how it has helped students.

4)    Create a never-ending “College Access Chain” featuring the names of students from your site who have graduated from or are currently enrolled in a college program ! Take pictures of this huge chain created from paper links as it wraps around your school and send those pictures to all GEAR UP partners as a thank you for their support.

5)   Host a “Community Success Stories Breakfast” with a local service club or Chamber of Commerce. Invite your GEAR UP students, parents and partners to share the success stories of GEAR UP students.

6)  Create an over-sized thank you card to send to your U.S. and California Senators and Representatives. With the California GEAR UP logo in the middle, have students, staff, and parents sign the card with their thanks, take a picture, and deliver to your elected official’s or school District Office.

7)   Have all the teachers and staff wear college apparel on National GEAR UP Day and have a discussion in class about goal setting, college opportunity, and career dreams.

We will be announcing events and celebrations across the state as they are announced. Contact us if you would like to participate or will be hosting your own National GEAR UP Week celebration.