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Gear Up Virginia

Spring 2017 Newsletter


Welcome to the latest GUV newsletter.
Look to the right of the page for staff contacts and important dates! look to the right for additional information

CoolSpeakers Visit Virginia Schools

The verdict is in and GEAR UP Virginia students could not be more enthusiastic about their visits from the CoolSpeak team. CoolSpeak founder, Carlos Ojeda, Jr., and CoolSpeakers, Natasha Carrizosa, Derek Felton, Tim Stafford, and Zach Gowen made trips to seventeen GUV high schools over the course of eight weeks, inspiring students in their unique styles.

Each speaker used their story to demonstrate the power of education, the importance of finding one's voice, and the value of perseverance. Their stories were often humorous, sometimes serious or sad, and always thought-provoking. Presenters provided a mix of large keynote presentations, small group sessions, professional development programs for school staff, and parent workshops.  No matter the speaker, their messages were clear.

One GUV Coordinator from Lynchburg remarked on Carlos’ ability to engage students and build meaningful relationships with them.  She writes, “From the moment of his arrival at E.C. Glass to him leaving at the end of the day, he had everyone's full and undivided attention.  Students that recognized him from the camp ran up and hugged him, spoke with him, and he remembered them all.  So from the beginning he was making and enhancing his connections with the students.”

Another Coordinator expressed the enthusiasm from the whole school, writing “His keynote speech to the entire student body was a major success and Carlos added another notch to his belt of successes. Carlos was there to present his message of youth power to the students, administration and the faculty at Washington & Lee High School. He had ‘knocked it out of the park.’”

Most telling are the student reactions to the speakers:

“Honestly, it was the realest thing I had to hear to realize what I need to do in life to be someone in life to get my family what they want.”

 “Stay in school and do what you have to do to support your family and it starts with you and don’t let nobody put a title on you.”


“I learned that my voice has the power to change my life.”


“Do your very best! Don't let ANYBODY tell you you can't do something”


In the words of Carlos Ojeda, Jr, “Your voice is your power!” Over the last eight weeks, CoolSpeak certainly reminded us to find our voice and use it to make our lives and the lives of those around us better.

How Students Can Make the Most of Summer

For so many reasons, what students do OUTSIDE the classroom can be just as important as what they do INSIDE the classroom.  Introducing your students to outside-of-school classes, camps, and other extracurricular activities can expose them to a new world of opportunities.  They may experience just the thing that sparks their interest in a career, subject, or new hobby that they wouldn’t have known about otherwise.  In addition, college admissions officers are looking for students who are well balanced in both their academic and extracurricular pursuits.  What students do in their spare time tells a lot about what they care about, what they want to learn more about, and where they see themselves in the future.  By doing a little research on after-school, weekend, and summer enrichment opportunities, and then promoting these opportunities to your students, you may change the course of your students’ lives in a very positive way!

A few ideas to start your research:

Summer Academic Programs

In Virginia, most public and many private institutions offer enrichment programs for students. We have found summer programs for high schools students at ODU, Virginia Tech, UVA, VSU, VCU, William & Mary, University of Richmond, Radford, JMU, CNU and more.

Nationally, there are many residential summer programs that would greatly benefit all student attendees. Some are geared toward underrepresented student populations while others are topical. Please use this link for a working list of free or inexpensive summer enrichment programs.

Community Service

Chances are there are many community organizations eager to have committed teen volunteers. Investigate local opportunities at hospitals, emergency shelters, libraries, literacy programs, recreation centers, retirement communities, and animal shelters.

For more opportunities, students can check out The site allows you to choose the cause you’re passionate about, specify how much time you have available, and select the type of service in which you want to participate. Volunteer on your schedule at your own pace!


Internships are a great way to explore careers and possibly earn a little money. Internship availability varies widely from locality to locality. Below are some resources to help you get started with identifying opportunities in your area:

  • Internship Finder allows you to search for internships for high school students by entering “high school” in the search box.
  • lets you search by employer, field, date and location.
  • Idealist allows you to search for internships at nonprofits.
  • Pay Your Interns will help you find paid summer internships in the U.S. Senate.

GEAR UP Virginia Data Highlights

GEAR UP Virginia (GUV) has made incredible strides in reaching a broad range of students by providing educational support services that meet the unique needs of our GEAR UP students.  GUV schools have partnered with vendors that provide a variety of services from 24-hour online tutoring to motivational speakers that encourage student success and provide safe spaces for students to dialogue across lines of difference. 

GUV students are visiting more colleges, receiving more meaningful mentoring, and engaging in more college prep activities than ever before.  Our GEAR UP schools have consistently provided exciting and innovative programming, which has boosted student engagement across the state.  Approximately 89% of GUV students have participated in at least one GEAR UP activity during the 2016 – 2017 academic year thus far.  In addition to the growth in student participation, GEAR UP has reached thousands of educators through GUV sponsored professional development and learning opportunities intended to help educators improve their professional knowledge and skill. 

Overall, the GEAR UP community continues to learn and grow as a team working towards our shared goal of student achievement.  We look forward to enhancing GEAR UP programming and participation through the completion of this academic year and into the next. 

GUV Fast Facts (as of April 7, 2017):        

  • Top 3 most popular GUV services: (1) Workshops, (2) Supportive Services, and (3) College Visits
  • Number of students who attended a college visit this year: 667
  • Number of hours educators participated in GUV sponsored professional development this year: 2,689
  • Number of Sessions thus far: 2,323


Regional Highlights

Charlotte Overnight College Visit

Western Region

Randolph-Henry High School in Charlotte County, took a group of 28 freshmen on an overnight college visit to Old Dominion University and William & Mary in March. Students toured each campus, attended admissions information sessions and were even able to meet up with 5 Randolph-Henry alumni who shared their experiences with the GEAR UP students.  As an evening activity, students had the opportunity to see a Science of Glass Demonstration at the Chrysler Glass Studio.  It was an excellent trip!  

Petersburg Gala

South East Region

It was a star-studded night for Petersburg High School with special guest appearances by none other than GEAR UP families!  On February 23, GEAR UP sponsored a ‘Family Night Gala’ in the school cafeteria to share upcoming events and remind students about the scholarship.  The night was complete with a banner signing, parent contracts, and testimonials from Petersburg teachers that were students in the 2006-2012 GEAR UP Virginia cohort.

North Central Region

On February 17th, James Monroe High School hosted Dr. Vanessa Whitaker, Associate Professor of Secondary Education and School Leadership at Norfolk State University for professional development training. A consultant with the Urban Learning and Leadership Center (ULLC) in Hampton, VA, Dr. Whitaker worked with the James Monroe faculty on the “S.A.M.E Pathway” model in support of JM's efforts addressing the GEAR UP cohort. The S.A.M.E Pathway model emphasizes the role of stakeholders for educating students in the social, academic, and moral environments, respectively. The training focused on modeling appropriate behavior, the importance of accountability, as well as the belief system necessary for student success.



Find time sensitive information about Professional Development, Grants, Scholarships, Opportunities for Students, and Resources available in this section. 

Professional Development

2017 NCCEP/GEARUP ANNUAL CONFERENCE:Held each year in the third week of July, the NCCEP/GEAR UP Annual Conference is the premier professional development event for state and partnership GEAR UP grantees and other college and career readiness professionals nationwide. The conference will be at the Hilton San Francisco Union Square on July 16-19, 2017. Conference Registration will open on April 28th. Hotel rooms re available to book NOW!

IT’S TIME TO ENGAGE! On May 5-7, CoolSpeak is proud to present the ENGAGE: Youth Engagement Seminar & SHOWCASE, a training and professional development seminar that will focus on student engagement best practices and researched techniques. Register before the price increases! SAVE $150 with DISCOUNT CODE: GEARUP. Ask about our group discounts.


Classroom and College-going Resources

Free College Planning Tool: TGR EDU is a free college planning tool from the Tiger Woods Foundation.

Shine Motivational Messages: Shine is a free motivational text messaging service that makes feeling your best easier. We all need a little help to feel our best every day – especially as busy school counselors juggling a lot of responsibility. Shine can help you focus on the task at hand: supporting students' academic and emotional development. The daily Shine texts will be your #MotivationMonday, every day. 

Secrets to Actually Succeeding in College to Create Career Success webinar: Helping High School students choose the right fit for a college has a lot to do with understanding what career they actually want to get into. Watch this 100% content based, fun, and interactive webinar about helping your students get ready for choosing the right college.

International Bullying Prevention Association Resources: The International Bullying Prevention Association provides bullying prevention webinars, articles and more. 

GEAR UP College & Career Clubs Webinar: Career & College Clubs (“CCC”) is a peer-to-peer intervention that provides students with the knowledge, tools, support, and confidence they need to plan for and assume responsibility for their futures. Through the 2015-2016 academic year, the program had been adopted by more than 300 schools and nonprofit organizations, reaching 50,000+ students. Through a new partnership with NCCEP, CCC will provide comprehensive curriculum, implementation recommendations, staff training, and ongoing support to ensure students maximize their potential to partner GEAR UP schools. Learn more by listening to Career & College Clubs: An Introduction for GEAR UP webinar.

College Signing Day Toolkit- Hosted by schools, organizations, community leaders, and influencers, College Signing Day is a chance to rally around local students, show them your support, and celebrate their choice in making a commitment to higher education. Better Make Room will be celebrating College Signing Day on May 5, and encourages you to celebrate the week of May 1.


GEAR UP Partnership Grant Application OPEN NOW:  GEAR UP Partnership grants are competitive six-year or seven-year matching grants that must support an early intervention component and may support a scholarship component designed to increase college attendance and success and raise the expectations of low-income students. Deadline: April 19th, 2017.

College for Every Student CCR Program: College For Every Student (CFES) is launching a nationwide search for additional rural and urban schools to participate in their high-impact college- and career-readiness program. CFES will select one rural school and one urban school to receive a full program grant for three years. Additional schools will be selected to receive a partial program grant covering half of the program costs ($15,000 per year for three years). Deadline: April 21, 2017. 

Voya Unsung Heroes Awards Program:  Each year, 100 educators are selected to receive $2,000 to help fund their innovative class projects. Three of those are chosen to receive the top awards of an additional $5,000, $10,000 and $25,000. Deadline: April 30, 2017

College Signing Day Mini Grants- Thanks to Donors Choose and the College Football Playoffs Foundation Better Make Room has the ability to give 200 lucky event hosts a $500 grant towards your College Signing Day event! The money can be used to buy supplies from a list of over 20 vendors. Deadline: April 30, 2017

Ocean Guardian School Grants and Awards: The Ocean Guardian School program funds projects focused on a current issue(s) affecting local watersheds and/or the ocean while promoting best environmental practices. Through a school- or community-based project, schools work to make a difference in the health and protection of their local watersheds, ocean and/or special ocean areas like national marine sanctuaries. Deadline: May 1, 2017

The P Buckley Moss Foundation Grant: The P. Buckley Moss Foundation announced their Teacher Art Grant. The grant aims to support educators in integrating visual arts into classroom curriculum. Grants of up to $1,000 will be awarded for projects at K-12 schools that integrate arts into educational programs to support students who learn differently.  Deadline: September 30, 2017.



E-waste Scholarship: Open to high school students and current or entering college or graduate students at any level. Applicant must answer in 140-characters or less “the most important reason to care about e-waste is…” Amount: $1,000; Deadline: April 30, 2017

Give a spit about cancer guide: 70% of people who need a bone marrow transplant rely on a complete stranger for a donation. Beyond that, black people and other people of color have a much harder time finding a donor match. Share a digital guide about the importance of joining the bone marrow registry with three friends for your chance at the scholarship. Amount: $3,000; Deadline: April 30, 2017

Rinse, Recycle, Repeat: Create a Recycling Bin to Reduce Waste: Nearly half of Americans don’t regularly recycle their beauty and personal care products. That’s a major reason these items account for a significant amount of landfill waste. Create a fun bathroom recycling bin that encourages people to recycle their empty beauty and personal care products. Use the tips provided to make an eye-catching bin and place it in a bathroom near you for a chance to win the scholarship. Amount: $5,000; Deadline: April 30, 2017

My Political Hero Student Essay Scholarship Contest:  Open to any high school students who are residents of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Applicant must submit an essay on a hero that is a living Virginian (they must have been born in Virginia, currently reside in Virginia, or have given significant public service to the Commonwealth of Virginia). Amount: Up to $2,000; Deadline: May 1, 2017

Paradigm Challenge: Open to students aged 4 to 18 years of age (as of May 1, 2017). Applicants may work in a team or alone in creating an original and creative way to generate new ideas to reduce waste in homes, schools, communities, and around the world. Amount: Up to $100,000; Deadline: May 1, 2017

Visionary Scholarship Program: Scholarship is open to high school freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors who are United States citizens or eligible non-citizens. Applicant must submit an essay on why college is important to them. Amount: Up to $5,000; Deadline: May 1, 2017

Youth Forward Scholarship: Scholarship is open to current full-time high school and college students. Applicant must submit an essay on a topic related to volunteerism. Amount: $1,000; Deadline: May 1, 2017

America the Great?! Scholarship Slam: Scholarship is open to students 25 years of age or younger who are current or former high school students who will attend or is attending college within the U.S. or it’s territories. Applicant must submit a poem on their personal relationship with the country. Amount: $1,000; Deadline: May 10, 2017

AdmitSee Scholarhip: Open to current high school and college students in the United States who are at least 13 years of age. Applicant must share what they feel is the most frustrating thing about applying to college. Amount: $5,000; Deadline: June 15, 2017

10 Words or Less Scholarship: Open to anyone between the ages of 14-25 years of age who will be attending school in the Fall of 2017. Applicant must visit the Facebook page and share their 10 words or less on why they deserve the scholarship. Amount: $500; Deadline: June 30, 2017

GEAR UP VA Divisions and Partners

Important Dates

May 1:  

4th Reimbursement and In-Kind Packet Due for Western Region

May 15:  
4th Reimbursement and In-Kind Packet Due for Southeastern and North Central Regions

June 1:
Deadline for budget modifications for 2016-2017

June 21:
GUV State Partner Meeting

June 25-28:

July 14: 
5th Reimbursement and In-Kind Packet Due for ALL GUV programs

July 9-12:

July 16-19:
NCCEP/GEAR UP Annual Conference

July Date TBD:
1st Draft of Implementation Plan Due

July 24-27:
JMU Summer Program

Staff Contact

Erin McGrath
GUV Senior Coordinator

Tierney Jackson
GUV Scholarship Administrator

Stacey Garnett
GUV Fiscal and Administrative Specialist

Amy Wiggington
GUV Data Specialist

Linda Staylor
Regional Manager- West

Melissa Benavidez
Regional Manager- North Central

Reshaud Rich
Regional Manager- Southeast

Paula Robinson
Assistant Director, College Access and PK-12 Outreach

SCHEV values honesty, quality, diversity, inclusion, growth-orientation, personal well-being, equity, transparency and accountability.
Through these values, we create a welcoming work environment that represents the best of who we are as an agency and as individuals.

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