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:

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.

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!

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

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.

‘Save Me A Spot In College’ Winners Move The Crowd

Winners were announced for the annual ‘Save Me A Spot In College‘ contest sponsored by The Campaign for College Opportunity. 6th to 12th grade contestants can enter videos, essays, or posters in response to the following prompts:

(1) Tell California leaders why you and your peers are One in a Million, and (2) Why should California leaders save you and your peers a spot in college?

This year, California GEAR UP Director Shelley Davis was a  judge in the contest, and shared one of the essay entries that was particularly moving. Shelley believes all students deserve access to an excellent education to give students a chance at a college education. “This powerful student voice renewed my resolve to ensure opportunity for ALL students”.

Written by 9th grader Rachel Johnson at Castro Valley High School who was nominated for the grand prize:

Have you ever heard the echo of a gunshot? Did you ever see a warm body hit the cold ground, life pouring out red on the pavement? Were you ever scared to walk your city streets because you’re blue or red?  Do the sirens act as your lullaby, singing you to sleep as you cry? How could we escape this never-ending nightmare; will we ever be given the chance?

Most of my peers would say no; we won’t have the chance or the choice. They always look for someone to blame; believing we don’t have a voice. Either be blue, red, or dead. It’s no longer a black and white world with just shades of gray.  It is a world of colors, and colors can kill.  Wear the wrong color and a passing car might put you on the sidewalk forever.  I want you to help me show my peers that the paths of blue and red aren’t our only options. There is the path of life and knowledge that is obtainable only through college.

Through college we can gain knowledge and wisdom. We can be the movers of mountains and sustainers of mankind. And if we find the mountain unmovable, then maybe with an education we can learn to tunnel through the mountain to the other side where colors are a thing to be admired and cherished for their differences, and not the cause for hate and blood-shed.  Maybe through college, we can learn and then teach that we are not just red or blue, or black or white.  Color should not define us; color should heighten our appreciation for each other. College can be the canvas that helps define us. Maybe red can shape industry and yellow can revitalize the economy; blue can feed the hungry and green can find clean fuel sources.  But in reality, all this can only happen when all our colors work together. And college is the place where this rainbow of colors can rise from the mist and coalesce into the color of purpose.

We can do these things because we are the world’s future, but only if we are blessed with a college education.  What we become depends not only on us, but on your commitment to us.  Will you save us a spot?

To view the other contest winners and their entries, please visit the contest site here.

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.

Valley-GEAR UP Collaboration Celebrates 50 Student Awards

On Monday, May 17 the California GEAR UP-Valley High School Collaborative celebrated it’s annual Education Trust Awards with a ceremony and dinner. 50 student awards were handed out, each with a value of $2,000 which will be held in trust in a Scholarshare account until the students enroll in college.

The California GEAR UP Program’s expectation is that offering a monetary incentive to students would stimulate the entire family and school community to support his or her preparation for college. College savings accounts are established in the name of each of the selected students that will accrue interest until students enroll in college. Students can access these funds to pay for college expenses once they enroll in a college or university.

Here are some quotes from those in attendance:
The energy in the room was like Christmas Day! Excitement was everywhere. -GEAR UP Staff
GEAR UP provides a remarkable service to these students, as they are handed a direct link to their future. -Parent
The Valley – GEAR UP collaboration is a model of success. -Valley High teacher

California GEAR UP is excited to provide  288 awards to students across the state during May and June at Education Trust Award celebrations organized by Leadership Teams at participating schools. We will be sharing these events with you on our blog, so be sure to check in with us daily!

Special thanks to Chris Wong for the pictures and video (coming soon).