Valley High School to Receive Statewide Civic Learning Award

For Immediate Release:                                                                                                                                                                                      

April 30, 2013

Valley High School selected to receive statewide civic learning award

Valley High School will receive the California Department of Education’s Civic Learning Awards Program Award of Merit from the Honorable Stacy Boulware Eurie, Sacramento County Superior Court Judge, in a special awards ceremony at 10 a.m. on Friday, May 3.  This program celebrates successful efforts to engage California public high school students in civic learning and spotlights replicable models for other schools to follow.

The awards ceremony will also feature remarks from Elk Grove Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Steven M. Ladd and EGUSD Board President Chet Madison Sr., as well as presentations from Valley’s Associated Student Body (ASB), Health TECH Academy and Social Sciences Department.

 “Civic learning is at the cornerstone of our society – one in which our students here at Valley are proud to serve,” said Chelsea Bowler-Shelton, principal at Valley.  “The Civic Learning Award shines a light on the students and teachers of Valley’s Health TECH Academy, Associated Student Body and Social Science Department who believe that giving back to their communities prepares students for civic engagement, college and career opportunities.”

To be considered for the award, schools must describe their civic learning practices and programs, with an emphasis on those that incorporate research-based proven practices in civic education.  A panel of experts assesses the applications according to both depth and breadth.

Valley was selected for the Award of Merit for their work with their ASB program, Regional Summer Academy for the Arts and Sciences, Health TECH Academy and Social Sciences Department.  ASB students are involved in numerous civic-minded activities, including School Site Council, Superintendent’s Student Advisory Committee, blood drives and homeless outreach.  The Valley Regional Summer Academy of the Arts and Sciences is a week-long summer program planned and run by ASB students for fifth and sixth grade students.  The Health TECH Academy prepares students for careers in the health field and has forged a partnership with Kaiser Permanente to create the Cultural Awareness and Community Health Education Project (CACHE).  The Health TECH Academy also holds an annual Health and Fitness Expo on campus.  This event draws 50-60 outside vendors to the Valley campus to inform students, staff and community members about the importance of staying healthy and fit.

The Social Sciences Department, in particular, has posted impressive gains.  Through creative ways to bring history to life for students – such as a living history museum and debating as Roman senators while wearing togas – Valley students have made significant improvements in their social science test scores.  Over the past eight years, the number of students scoring proficient and advanced on the U.S. History CST has increased by 47 percent and World History CST scores have nearly tripled.

Click here for more information about the Civic Learning Awards Program.

WHO:              The Honorable Stacy Boulware Eurie – Sacramento County Superior Court Judge; EGUSD Superintendent Dr. Steven M. Ladd; EGUSD Board President Chet Madison, Sr.; Valley High School students, staff and administrators

WHAT:            An awards ceremony honoring Valley High School for receiving the Award of Merit from the California Department of Education’s Civic Learning Awards Program

WHEN:              May 3, 2013

10 a.m. to 11 a.m

WHERE:          Valley High School

6300 Ehrhardt Avenue

Sacramento, CA 95823



About the Elk Grove Unified School District

Since unification in 1959, the Elk Grove Unified School District has provided a learning community that challenges all students to realize their greatest potential.  With more than 61,000 students, Elk Grove Unified is the largest school district in Northern California and the fifth largest in California.  Elk Grove Unified covers 320 square miles and serves students in the cities of Sacramento, Elk Grove, Rancho Cordova, as well unincorporated areas of Sacramento County.  From elementary school to high school, the emphasis is on preparing students to be successful in college and their chosen careers.  Teachers and staff focus on rigorous academic skills and lessons that prepare students for the 21st century workforce and global economy.  Elk Grove Unified has been recognized both statewide and nationally for innovation in professional development as well as career technical education.  For more information about the Elk Grove Unified School District, please visit and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

About California GEAR UP and Elk Grove

Elk Grove Unified School District has been a California GEAR UP Partner since 2006 and is currently part of our Bridge Project, a model project that is characterized by collaboration, student progress tracking, and data sharing among a family of schools across educational levels in Elk Grove for the purpose of preparing all students in the cohort for college.

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

Keep checking for updates, we will keep you apprised of Rosie’s continued success. Look for another Student Ambassador Story coming soon!

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

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.

GEAR UP Students Support Speaker Perez at Press Conference

California GEAR UP Students and staff, University of California President Mark Yudof and California Community Colleges Chancellor Jack Scott joined Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez and Assembly Higher Education Committee Chair Marty Block at a State Capitol press conference on June 3 to voice their support for higher education provisions in the Assembly Democrats’ California Jobs Budget. Speaker Perez spoke about how important higher education programs are to the state in addressing economic and employment woes.

“Educational opportunity is central to creating the kind of quality, high-paying jobs that will lead California back to a strong and lasting economic recovery,” Pérez said. “This is a budget plan that reflects the values of California by protecting education and preserving the pathway to higher education.”

Students from Valley High School, a California GEAR UP school, were there to support the speaker and the higher education provisions in the California Jobs Budget.

Also in attendance was Ben Quillian, Executive, Vice Chancellor and Chief Financial Officer of the California State University; Roberto Torres, Vice President of the California State Students Association; Reid Milburn, President of the Student Senate of the California Community Colleges; Victor Sanchez, President of the University of California Students Association; Diana Fuentes-Michel, Executive Director of the California Student Aid Commission; Karen Humphrey, Executive Director of the California Postsecondary Education Commission; Jonathan Brown, President of the Association of Independent California Colleges & Universities; Erica Romero, Western States Director for the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities; Michele Siqueiros, Executive Director of the Campaign for College Opportunity.

Special thanks to Max Espinoza from the Speakers office and Michele Siqueiros and Jessie Ryan from the Campaign for College Opportunity for taking time to speak with Valley GEAR UP students after the press conference.

To see video or read the transcript from the press conference, please visit Speaker Perez’ site here.

Valley High School is Number 1 in California Similar Schools

Click on the image above to view the video!

As many of you who follow this blog know, California GEAR UP works with Valley High School in Sacramento, CA in a unique collaboration that provides the school with innovative resources and support services for students, families, teachers, counselors and administrators to create a community-wide college-going culture.

This year Valley High was excited to announce the remarkable achievement on the statewide API. The API reports include a “similar schools rank.” This information shows where a school ranks on a scale of 1–10, compared with 100 other schools with similar demographic characteristics. California public schools serve students with many different backgrounds and needs. As a result, schools face different educational challenges. The similar schools ranks for 2010 allow schools to look at their academic performance compared to other schools with some of the same opportunities and challenges.

Here are some of Valley’s newsworthy accomplishments:

  • 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 VHS increases are very impressive even compared to the new schools (Monterey Trails, Pleasant Grove and Franklin) which includes more affluent students who moved to these schools from the Valley area. Valley is one of the oldest schools in EGUSD and it compares very well indeed! GEAR UP has much to be proud of in providing academic support.

–Josephine Blick, Valley GEAR UP academic advisor

These accomplishments come along with more great Valley news: a 24 point increase in API since last year!

Special thanks to principal Keven MacDonald and the Valley High School staff for making these achievements possible. Thanks to Chris Wong for the video production!

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).

Valley GEAR UP Recognized for Support of Injured Student

Valley GEAR UP Staff (pictured above with award) received recognition for fund raising and support. Will Barker was a recipient of a California GEAR UP Education Trust Award.

On October 23, 2009 during a football game between Davis and Valley high schools, Valley student Will Barker was attempting to make a tackle and was seriously injured.

Davis doctors administered emergency care and Valley coach Preston Jackson accompanied Will in the ambulance to U.C. Davis Medical Center. Will’s family, the Valley coaching staff, players and Athletic Director Stephanie Haas kept vigil while Will underwent six hours of surgery. Will suffered a broken vertebra in his neck. After six difficult weeks at U.C. Davis Medical Center, Will was transferred to Shriner’s Hospital for Children. He has made some gains in the movement of his arms and legs.  He continues to work hard at his therapy. Will often states to visitors, “I am going to walk again.”

During his recovery, a tremendous outpouring of support has come from the Davis and Valley high school communities as well as several other schools, California GEAR UP, other organizations, teams and businesses.

Present at the recognition ceremony were Principal Keven McDonald and Will Barker’s mother, Dorothy Barker, Debi Flory, Davis Booster Club, Stephanie Haas, Valley High School Athletic Director, Ron Riebeek, Valley GEAR UP Coordinator, and many others.

If you would like to support Will and his family, please contact Stephanie Hass, Athletic Director at Valley High School by calling (916) 689-6500. You can also support Will by making a donation to the address below:

William Barker Donation Fund

Attn: Stephanie Hass

300 Ehrhardt Avenue

Sacramento, CA 95823-5699