Shelley Davis Speaks at Capitol Hill GEAR UP Briefing

On Tuesday July 24, members of the GEAR UP community held a briefing on capitol hill entitled: GEAR UP: The College Access Program that Drives Education and Economic Success in Your Community. The briefing, hosted by NCCEP, was convened to share success stories and to learn why GEAR UP is widely viewed as the most effective solution for increasing academic achievement, high school graduation rates, college enrollment rates, and economic development in high poverty communities.


Congressman Chaka Fattah (PA‐2)

Congressman Ruben Hinojosa (TX‐15)

Lisa Brady Gill, Texas Instruments (invited)

Shelley Davis, Director, California GEAR UP

Hector Garza, Alumnus from Texas Region One ESC GEAR UP

Joshua Sparks, Alumnus from GEAR UP Kentucky

Nathan R. Monell, Executive Director, NCCEP (Moderator)

As one of the featured speakers, California GEAR UP Director Shelley Davis shared the success of GEAR UP in California and also how GEAR UP is addressing the state’s education challenges. Here is an excerpt:

In our state, the challenges for achieving educational equity are unprecedented. Funding for K-12 public schools remains a critical challenge while tuition and fees for postsecondary education continues to rise. The nearly four million students who are Latino or African-American have a 1 in 20 chance of graduating from a California public university. Clearly, our prosperity is dependent on us changing these odds. With an increasingly diverse student population and an ever widening achievement gap, the GEAR UP mandate to serve low-income students in high poverty communities – most of whom are African-American and Latino –positions us to address this challenge 24 hours a day every day.

In California, GEAR UP funds have supported the State grant and over 50 partnership projects since 1999. The California State grant was funded for its third six-year cycle on October 1, 2011. Working in partnership with other college access programs and initiatives, our program goal is: 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 — counselors, faculty, school leaders and families —who influence middle school students.

We believe that with enhanced organizational capacity, schools will be able to educate all students to the high levels of mastery required for college admission and graduation as well as for the increasingly technological world where the contributions of graduates are needed for both individual and societal benefit.

The briefing included testimony from student alumnus and representatives Fattah and Hinojosa, all sharing the power and impact GEAR UP has and continues to have across the country in creating a college-going culture.

For more information on GEAR UP success stories, check out the GEAR UP Works! blog prepared by NCCEP.

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.

Congressman Chaka Fattah to speak at NCAN Conference

National College Access Network (NCAN) announced Congressman Fattah as the featured speaker for the Awards of Excellence Luncheon on Monday, October 11, 2010.

Congressman Fattah, Representative for the 2nd District of Pennsylvania, is completing his 16th year in the U. S. House of Representatives.  He also serves as chair of the Congressional Urban Caucus and member of the House Appropriations Committee addressing the unique challenges of America’s urban communities and setting spending priorities of federal discretionary funds.

An early advocate for college access, Congressman Fattah is the architect for GEAR UP.  In the last ten years, GEAR UP distributed more than $3 billion to nearly 12 million students across the country.  He was also a chief sponsor of the American Opportunity Tax Credit Act, which provides tax credits for college expenses for students and their parents.  On a state level, he is the creator of the College Opportunity Resources for Education (CORE) initiative and founder of the Graduate Opportunity Initiative.

Before his election to United States Congress in 1994, Congressman Fattah served six years as a Representative in the Pennsylvania State House followed by six years as a Pennsylvania State Senator.  He is the recipient of numerous honors and awards including 10 honorary doctorates and the University of Pennsylvania’s Fel’s Center of Government Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award.  Time Magazine named him one of the 50 most promising leaders in the country.

You may also remember our post about Congressman Fattah during the GEAR UP National Conference this year. If you don’t, check out the video of the Congressman talking to our director Shelley Davis HERE.

For more information on the conference and to register, please visit the NCAN website.

Day 1: LiveBlog 2010 National GEAR UP Conference *UPDATE*

Today kicked off the first day of one of the largest conferences of college access and education professionals in the entire country.  Among many highlights of the opening session, Congressman Chaka Fattah, the author of the original GEAR UP legislation, spoke about the importance of “Investing in smart kids, not just smart bombs.” See the video interview of the congressman on our Twitter feed:

The Honorable Martha Kanter, Under Secretary, US Department of Education added further support for GEAR UP and similar innovative programs across the country. Highlights of her speech include:

“GEAR UP supports the President’s vision of having the worlds most educated workforce by 2020…the work of GEAR UP has never mattered more.”

“Education is the premier civil rights issue of our time.”

“GEAR UP along with other complementary programs and key collaborations…a whole community comes to the table in support of Secretary Duncan’s ‘Cradle to Career’ agenda.”

Dr. Kanter bolstered the crowd with her words and further supported GEAR UP’s mission.

Dr. Kanter shared the importance of institutionalizing what we know that is working with GEAR UP.  Their efforts are guided by the goal of President Obama for America: to have the best educated workforce in the world by 2020. Dr. Kanter is personally motivated by the acknowledgment of our President that “education is the civil rights issue of our time.”

Shelley Davis Director, CA GEAR UP

Other speakers include NCCEP International President Hector Garza, Laura Rendon, Weiya Liang, and California’s own Shelley Davis.

The “Father of GEAR UP” Congressman Chaka Fattah, continues his reign as our champion in the House and now Chair of House Appropriations Committee. He shared encouraging news from President Obama as he continues to extol our program success. The Congressman graciously acknowledged the presence of the delegation from Mexico, including comments celebrating GEAR UP expansion in the international community under Dr. Garza’s leadership. Words of wisdom: “Ignorance is far more costly than education”.

Shelley Davis Director, CA GEAR UP

Follow us on Twitter for up to the minute happenings and to see the great video of Congressman Fattah talk about California GEAR UP.

The lunch plenary was punctuated with an award for Congressmen Ruben Hinojosa for his outstanding support for GEAR UP. He was unable to make it due to flooding in his home district, but his staff accepted on his behalf presented by Roberto Rodriguez of the President’s Domestic Policy Council.


Many of the morning and afternoon breakout sessions on the first day have included:

  • Customizable online education communities with EduGuide.
  • Vermont Student Assistance Corp: career and college planning resources for middle and high school students, as well as adults. Includes scholarships and grants.
  • Oregon GEAR UP Principal Leadership Program in conjunction with Education Partnerships Inc. shares leadership strategies for principals in 12 clusters with systematic, school-wide, and local site planning to create a sustainable school culture.
  • The awesome staff at Wooster High School in Reno, NV shared how they engaged families and parents throughout the community through detailed engagement plans, resources such as EdLine, Connect Ed, and Infinite Campus, use of bilingual community reps, mentoring programs, and engaging community parters as key collaborators.
  • 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens presented by Franklin-Covey. The training attended by mostly students talked much about taking control of teens lives, improving relationships, finding balance, and long term planning.
  • SAISD GEAR UP advanced mathematics coursework to prepare students for college. Concepts from Agile Mind.


We also had a chance to meet with many of the gallery presenters such as:

Check back soon as we continue to update. Let us know what you think!

‘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.

Agenda for National GEAR UP Day Sacramento Announced


September 18, 2009 



A Collaborative Commitment to Close the Achievement Gap

8:00-8:10am   Morning Announcement: National GEAR UP Day

8:10-8:45am   Press Conference with Superintendent O’Connell

  • Opening Welcome: Principal McDonald
  • Recognize Special Guests
  • Remarks: Superintendent Steven Ladd
  • Remarks: Shelley Davis
  • The Valley-GEAR UP Collaborative
  • Presentation to Superintendent O’Connell
  • Family Speaker:  A School Community in Action
  • Student Speakers:  Beating the Odds at Valley

8:45-9:20 am  Campus Tour

  • Valley/GEAR UP Family Center
  • Valley Classroom Visitations

9:20-10:00am     Principal MacDonald

  • Refreshments
  • Student Achievement Gap Panel