Project GEAR UP | Spotlight

Access and
Readiness for
at Cal State L.A.

Established in 1999 under the Clinton Administration, GEAR UP stands for Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs. It is funded by the U.S. Department of Education.

Cal State L.A.’s GEAR UP cohort-based program helps middle- and high-school students prepare for college. It serves students from 6th through 11th grade. It partners with Belvedere, Griffith, Hollenbeck and Stevenson Middle Schools, and Garfield and Roosevelt High Schools.

For students, parents, educators

GEAR UP students gain from an afterschool program, in-class tutoring, college visits, community service events, leadership activities and one-to-one academic counseling.

Parents are helped through monthly parent workshops and meetings, conferences, telephone academic counseling, and home visits on college preparation.

Teachers and administrators benefit through professional development opportunities and financial partnerships to support efforts that serve the GEAR UP student population.

Local teens excel via GEAR UP at CSULA

Osuna heads to UC Berkeley, Tostado garners hero award

Photo of Carlos Osuna.

Overcoming personal challenges, Carlos Osuna recently graduated from Roosevelt High School. Now, with a boost from GEAR UP, he is studying political science at UC Berkeley through a Gates Millennium Scholarship.

Osuna is one of many vignettes of success emerging from Cal State L.A.’s efforts behind Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs—the formal name of the federally funded GEAR UP, which helps teens reach college. (See sidebar for brief profile, links for details.)

“Before I was given an equal chance at life, I was already faced with having to deal with certain obstacles a normal person would never have to face,” said Osuna. He was born premature, weighing three pounds at birth, and endured multiple surgeries. Due to health conditions, he missed out in his early education, he said.

Osuna credits the CSULA program for helping him navigate the path to a four-year university. What he thought was impossible and hopeless became possible and accessible. He said, “Through GEAR UP, I was able to experience a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go to Washington, D.C., and to visit college campuses. GEAR UP was the program that trained me to become a competitive student in the area of leadership, academic and community involvement.... It inspired me as a student.”

Osuna also acknowledges GEAR UP for challenging him to go beyond his comfort zone. He said, “One thing I took from the leadership conference, aside from the public speaking skills I gained, was adapting to the cultural differences. I had mixed feelings meeting different people who have lived their life in a different social environment rather than my own familiar surroundings. This conference was an eye-opener.”

Pictured: (l-r) Mr. Tostado; Yessenia Tostado; Greg Curtin, chairman of the board, City Scholars Foundation; and Kelli Hogan, president/CEO, the City Scholars Foundation.

Another GEAR UP student from Cal State L.A., Yessenia Tostado (c), demonstrated GEAR UP’s positive impact in preparing students to achieve and reach their potential. She was recently selected out of 6,000 students to receive the Youth Hero Award in the age 13-15 category. Tostado, who currently attends Garfield High School, is planning to pursue an academic degree in psychology or child development and to give back to her community.

Sponsored by the City Scholars Foundation in Los Angeles, the Youth Hero Awards honor remarkable inner-city youth who—through academic achievement, leadership and community service—inspire others to achieve in spite of difficult odds.

Tostado shared, “Project GEAR UP has opened so many doors for me, having the opportunity to visit a variety of colleges and explore several places outside the City of Los Angeles and the State of California. Through GEAR UP, I also benefitted from participating in its afterschool program and serving as treasurer in its Student Leadership Council.”

More than 3,000 9th graders at Roosevelt and Garfield High Schools are currently tracked by GEAR UP at Cal State L.A.

The federally-funded GEAR UP grant program, designed to increase the number of low-income students who are prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education, provides six-year grants to states and partnerships to provide services at high-poverty middle and high schools. GEAR UP serves an entire cohort of students beginning no later than the seventh grade and follows the cohort through high school. GEAR UP funds are also used to provide college scholarships to low-income students.

Other related links to reference: