Back to Education

GEAR UP prepares JBLM kids for college

Students learn to reject bullies, embrace academics at JBLM workshop

Email Article Print Article Share on Facebook Share on Reddit Share on StumbleUpon

GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs), in partnership with Joint Base Lewis McChord (JBLM) and the Clover Park School District, hosted a "Keys to Success!" workshop Feb. 25 at the Evergreen Elementary School on JBLM.

The GEAR UP project encourages students to "aim high, stay in school, study hard, and develop the skills needed to go to college."

The program has evolved since its inception more than a decade ago. In 2008, Evergreen State College was awarded a six-year GEAR UP grant by the U.S. Department of Education to partner with schools and community organizations within the Clover Park and Oakville School Districts. It works with students from 6th grade through high-school graduation.

"We want to prepare every child and give them choices when considering college," said Gary Wilson, assistant superintendent of schools - secondary, Clover Park School District. "That means not allowing them to fail math and algebra, taking advance placement classes, and eliminating any factors that get in their way."  Those factors include bullying, unhealthy relationships and managing the emotional cycle of deployments, he said.

Additional sessions at the workshop included teen dating, learning strategies and time management. It focused on ninth and tenth graders, but other grade levels also attended.

"I'm here to learn stuff before I need it," said Jada Daniels, 9. Her twin sister Lauryn agreed. "All of the workshops look so interesting."

Best friends Jenise Jackson and Amber Hill, both 14, have witnessed and been victims of bullying at school. "I came to learn how to stand up for myself and be successful in school," said Amber, who has a 3.75 GPA. Jenise, who wants to be a chemist and attend Yale, hoped the workshop would give her tools to succeed, "so I can help others do better, too," she said.

GEAR UP plans on offering free ACT tests as part of the school day to help students like these, said Wilson.

"Embrace who you are," said Jeretha Mulberry, instructor of the "Why Am I So Different?" workshop. "Don't compare yourself to others, and don't believe you aren't capable. Let your genius shine."

Theo Montgomery, 16, absorbed every word. "I was a mean kid and did some pretty bad stuff until I was introduced to GEAR UP in the 7th grade," he said. "I guess I was mad about my parents' divorce or something." Montgomery went from failing classes to being an A student; he plans on going to medical school to be a heart surgeon.

"Take something (from these workshops)," said Sophia Curl, JBLM Child, Youth and School Services, (CYSS) chief, "and shape what you want your future to look like. Committee to yourself and your greatness - you are the future now and have so much to offer."

This was a message Lakes High School student Karla Woodward heard clearly - she wants to attend Gonzaga University and play volleyball for the school team while studying to become a veterinarian.

"We have disadvantaged kids and students from diverse backgrounds realizing they can get to the next level," said Wilson. "Roughly 70 percent of them are now prepared for college based on this program."

For more information, contact GEAR UP interim Director, Ada Daniels at (253) 310-2850 and visit

comments powered by Disqus