South San ISD using GEAR UP to prepare students for future careers

By Patty Santos - Reporter

SAN ANTONIO - Sixth and seventh graders at the South San Independent School District are wrapping up the first year of a new program that will give them experiences that could help them prepare for life after graduation.

Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs, or GEAR UP, is a program funded through the U.S. Department of Education and awarded to the University of Texas at Austin.

The funds will guide 1,200 students through the next seven years through programs that will help them consider a career choice.

Cynthia Aguayo said her goal, and that of other coordinators, is to provide mentoring, tutoring, summer enrichment programs and field trips that will prepare the students.

“We want to get them college ready. That’s our ultimate goal,” she said.

But it’s not just about college. The program also exposes them to other fields, such as the military or trade schools.

“We want to help them find that a career path, so we can take those students and get them to that particular college,” Aguayo said.

GEAR UP is a national program, but it’s the first time South San ISD has been involved in it.

The program also includes help for parents to guide them through the process of college applications and financial help available. The program could help change the family conversation about life after high school.

“Now if you talk to a parent, they'll say, ‘We don’t have the money for our child to go to college,’” Aguayo said. “They don’t realize there's a lot of resources out there, and that’s something that we're going to sit down with them and show them there are many resources out there.”

The $580,000 annual grant pays for coordinators at each of the three campuses and for an administrative assistant, as well as the program itself.  The districts included in the 2018 grant are Southside ISD, South San ISD, San Marcus ISD, Lockhart ISD, Navasota ISD and Livingston ISD.

The program will support the classes of 2024 and 2025.

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