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2017 Summer News

» News
» Regional Highlights
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Turning Students into Scientists with BLAST!

UVA girls close upUVA blast group close upODU pic

This year, GEAR UP Virginia (GUV) partnered with Building Leaders for Advancing Science and Technology (BLAST) to offer an exciting new camp to GUV students. The camp gave 130 GUV students from across the Commonwealth an opportunity to explore science and experience its real world application at Old Dominion University (ODU) and the University of Virginia (UVA).

At ODU, students spent three intensive days exploring how best to understand and address climate change and sea level rise resilience. Topics of study included the impact of light on the earth's temperatures and the consequences of water runoff. Students also conducted experiments in ocean warming and gathered data on risks posed by flooding and sea level rise. Upon leaving the camp, one student from Westmoreland County remarked, “This camp has changed how I view math and science.”

At UVA, students learned about a variety of STEM topics through four different “Challenge Sessions.” They worked as a team to use DNA forensic techniques to determine the origin of bacteria in an “epidemic;” designed and built vehicles made from trash to run an obstacle course; designed and constructed a remotely operated robot to explore “Mars;” and conducted experiments to discover the “poison” put in the Kool-Aid.

In addition to increasing their knowledge and understanding of a variety of scientific topics, students at both camps enjoyed a comprehensive mini college experience. They slept in residence halls for three nights, experienced having a random roommate, sat in classes taught by university professors, worked in labs, and ate in the dining hall.

To continue learning with the Virginia Space Grant Consortium, motivated GUV future-scientists should apply to the Virginia Space Coast Scholars (VSCS) program. With a focus on scientific exploration, students will be introduced to the science, engineering, and technology concepts that are integral to earth and space-based missions launched or conducted from Virginia's Space Coast on the Eastern Shore. Students who successfully complete the online course may be invited to attend a seven-day, residential summer academy at the Wallops Flight Facility. The application is only open to rising high school sophomores, will open in early August, and close in November. Visit the Virginia Space Coast Academy website.

The BLAST camps were a collaboration between the Virginia Space Consortium, GEAR UP Virginia (GUV), Old Dominion University (ODU), and the University of Virginia (UVA). BLAST’s goal is to increase students’ curiosity in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

For more photos from the camps, visit the camp Facebook pages:

ODU BLAST Facebook
UVA BLAST Facebook

GUV Partnership with Virginia College Advising Corps.

As the GEAR UP Virginia Class of 2020 gets closer to their graduation year, GUV is excited to announce our developing partnership with the Virginia College Advising Corps.(VCAC) during GEAR UP students’ junior and senior years.  Simply put, VCAC places recent college graduates into high schools to mentor students towards post-secondary matriculation.

  • VCAC is a "near-peer" mentoring model, recruiting recent college graduates who are near in age and have similar backgrounds to our GEAR UP students.
  • VCAC College Advisers attend a comprehensive summer training program before working with students.
  • VCAC College Advisers serve the whole school in order to foster a school-wide college-going culture, so while they will spend much of their time working with GEAR UP students, they aren’t limited to only working with GEAR UP students.
  • VCAC focuses on best-fit and best-match colleges.
  • VCAC participates in a national, external evaluation to quantitatively measure outcomes and qualitative results.

Currently, VCAC already serves 3 GUV high schools.  When recently polled, 12 more GUV high schools expressed interest in partnering.  We can’t wait to make it happen!  For more information on VCAC, please visit or contact your Regional Manager.

Fun Fact - Two of the GUV Regional Managers, Rebeccah and Reshaud, began their professional careers as VCAC College Advisers!

Big Honor for a GUV Coordinator

Robert Mompoint, a School Counselor and GEAR UP Program Coordinator at Denbigh High School, was named the 2017-2018 Newport News High School Teacher of the Year. Mompoint has 17 years of experience in education. He believes that school counselors have a duty to "ensure students are prepared to become productive, independent citizens who can be successful in the world of work, or at institutions of higher learning."

A BIG congratulations to Mr. Mompoint on his accomplishment! Thank you for all you do for GUV and the students at Denbigh High School.


Western Region

Western Regional highlight

A GEAR UP Freshman Celebration Ceremony was held on May 31, 2017, at E. C. Glass High School in Lynchburg, Virginia.  GUV students nominated and voted for their classmates with teachers also providing feedback on the nominated students.  The awards ranged from best subject matter students to the Socrates Awards for asking questions, to the Little Mermaid Award for a student finding their confidence and voice in class.  In total 100 students received awards.


NC Highlight

Washington & Lee High School ended their GEAR UP academic year with a recognition night for GEAR UP students and families. The event included guest speakers, Ms. Carla Dickerson, "The Scholarship Lady," Mrs. Sue Straughan, GRASP & SOAR Advisor, and Dr. Michael Perry, Superintendent of Schools. Students learned about the SOAR program, which they are eligible for starting in 10th grade, the importance of starting the scholarship search early, and tips for making themselves unique and competitive candidates for scholarships. "The Scholarship Lady" ended the night by providing students with resources to help them get started on their scholarship search. She plans to return to do a workshop with parents and students in the fall.


SE Highlight

Dinwiddie High School showcased their STEM clubs at their "Parent Night" on May 10th. The evening included sessions by motivational speakers, Mr. and Mrs. Farley, and giveaways from Wal-Mart. The Cooking Club and Girls who Code were just two of the showcased clubs that evening.


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

Professional Development

6th Youth-Nex Conference: “Youth Act: Social Justice, Civic and Political Engagement

The invitation-only conference will be held Thursday & Friday, October 26 & 27, 2017 at The University of Virginia’s Alumni Hall. The conference will provide a forum for educators, policy-makers, and practitioners across the country to focus on critical questions about a range of issues around youth civics activism and political engagement.  Please register as early as you can, as space is limited. Once slots are filled, registration will close.


Moving Families Initiative: Do you have students who'll be moving this summer? The Moving Families Initiative helps reduce the stress of moving by providing families with tools and resources that ease the physical and emotional challenges children face when moving.

Competency Based- Education Toolkit: Digital Promise, a national nonprofit organization authorized by Congress, released several free resources that are designed to help districts through competency-based education (CBE) implementation. Read the articles or jump straight to the CBE Toolkit:

Education and Mental Health Awareness: Are you already planning your program for next year? Download the 2017–2018 education and mental health awareness dates calendar to align your program with events throughout the year.

Share Advice for First-Gen Students: What should first-generation college students know before they head to campus? A new social media campaign organized by Better Make Room is encouraging college counselors and others to share their wisdom on Twitter. Contribute your own tips by using #AdviceForFirstGen and #BetterMakeRoom in your tweets.

National Association for College Admissions Counseling Member Blogs: Check out these blogs for great resources on how to connect with students and families navigating the college search and selection process and on the college admission profession and related news and trends.

Federal Student Aid Webinars: Understanding Loan Repayment, July 19, 2017, 2:00 PM -3:00 PM; How to Manually Input Tax Information, July 27, 2017, 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM; Financial Aid 101, August 3, 2017, 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM; Public Service Loan Forgiveness, August 15, 2017, 4:00 PM – 5:00 PM; 2018-2019 FAFSA Updates, August 22, 2017, 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM


Prize for Teaching Excellence: The Harbor Freight Tools for Schools program offers awards ranging from $10,000-$100,000 in recognition of outstanding public high school teachers within skilled trades programs. Every teacher who applies for the award will gain free access to powerful ideas and practices, shared through a series of expert-led learning modules available online. Deadline: July 24, 2017

Thank America's Teachers Grant Program: Framers Insurance, through the Thank America's Teachers Grant Program, seeks to provide grant awards to K-12 teachers who received a thank you note through the "Thank America's Teacher Program." Grant awards in the amount of $2,500 will be distributed to approximately 18- teachers nationwide throughout the school year. Deadline: August 1, 2017

Educator Seed Money Grant: With education funding cutbacks, many teachers resort to spending their personal finances to secure materials, resources, and tools for their students and classrooms. To combat this barrier, Minecraft PE HQ sponsors the Educator Seed Money Grant, offering K-12 school teachers grant awards of $500 to purchase educational supplies.  Deadline: July 31, 2017.

Music Education Grants: The Mockingbird Foundation Inc., an all-volunteer nonprofit organization, seeks to provide grant awards ranging between $100 - $10,000 to support K-12 schools and nonprofit organizations that effect improvements in music education for children. Mockingbird is particularly interested in projects that encourage creative expression in any musical form, such as composition, instrumentation, vocalization, or improvisation. Funds may be used for instruments, texts, office materials, and the support of learning spaces, to include instruction, practice, and performance spaces.Deadline: August 1, 2017.

Lowe's Toolbox for Education Grant Program:  The Toolbox for Education Grant Program, offered by Lowe’s Charitable and Educational Foundation, provides grants of up to $5,000 to public K-12 schools, as well as school parent-teacher groups associated with public schools, throughout the United States that develop projects to encourage parent involvement and build stronger community spirit. The Fall 2017 grant cycle will open on August 7.

Target Field Trip Grant: It's become increasingly difficult for schools to fund learning opportunities outside the classroom. Target stores award Target Field Trip grants to K-12 schools nationwide. Each grant is valued up to $700. The application opens on August 1, 2017. Deadline: October 1, 2017.


Harlequin Floors Scholarship Contest : The World Dances is sponsoring a $250 scholarship open to residents of the 50 United States and Canada. There is no restriction to enter the contest. Applicant must submit a dance video. Deadline: July 28, 2017

Summer College Scholarship: The Lamber & Goodnow Injury Law Team is sponsoring a $1,000 scholarship open to students enrolled at an accredited high school, college, or university with a 2.8 GPA or higher. Applicant must submit an essay on how they are driven to innovate. Deadline: July 31, 2017

Flavor of the Month Scholarship: This Scholarship, sponsored by Unigo, is open to U.S. citizens who are at least 13 years old and will be enrolled in an accredited post-secondary institution by the fall of 2023. To win the $1,500 scholarship, applicants submit a response of 250 words or less about which ice cream flavor they'd be and why.Deadline: July 31, 2017

Signal Grace Scholarship Contest: T.M. Yates is sponsoring a $1,000 scholarship open to high school and college students in the United States. Applicant must read the memoir Signal Grace and create an entry in response to one of three given prompts. Deadline: August 10, 2017

Camera runner Photography 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: August 31, 2017

Scholarship Detective Scholarship: Scholarship Detective is sponsoring a $1,000 scholarship open to high school and college students who are permanent residents of the United States. Interested students must fill out a short online application and share in 140 characters or less how they will use the scholarship. Deadline: August 31, 2017.

GEAR UP VA Divisions and Partners

Important Dates

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

July 15: 
1st Draft of Implementation Plan Due

July 16-19:

NCCEP/GEAR UP Annual Conference

July 24-27: 
GUV College Prep Camp at JMU

August 15: 
Final 2017-2018 Implementation Plan Due

August 31: 
End of 2016-2017 Program Year 

September 1:
Start of 2017-2018 Program Year

September 17-23: 
National GEAR UP0 Week

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

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