Over the summer, 75 rising 11th-grade GEAR UP scholars across seven Alliance schools participated in a virtual writing boot camp in partnership with the Plus ME Project, an organization that helps scholars craft their individual stories for college and career advancement. According to GEAR UP College Success Manager Agustin Vasquez-Lopez, “creating enrichment opportunities like this is vital as our scholars often lack enrichment opportunities during the summer. In this program, we created a virtual platform that allowed them to create a community where they can build SEL (social-emotional learning) skills together.”
Participating scholars completed five 75-minute writing sessions, which helped scholars identify important people, places, and events in their lives, articulate their thoughts and feelings about these subjects, and receive the tools needed to piece their stories together. Each scholar finished the program with a rough draft of their personal narrative, preparing them for the college application process. Katheryn Frausto, a scholar at Alliance Cindy & Bill Simon Technology Academy High School, shared that the program helped her see “what I needed to do in order to really impress the college I want to attend to, which is a UC.”
The program ended with a culmination ceremony in which Plus ME partners and GEAR UP coaches provided certificates of completion and words of encouragement to all participants. Steven Gonzalez-Chavez, GEAR UP Coach at Alliance Renee & Meyer Luskin Academy High School, reminded his scholars to be “persistent, proactive, passionate, and unafraid to make mistakes,” before thanking them for being so hungry for their future. Kasandra Carranza, GEAR UP Coach at Alliance Gertz-Ressler High School, expressed to scholars that “there is no story like yours. It is up to you to do the best to put that story out there and continue to be true to yourself.” And Janet Garcia, GEAR UP Coach at Alliance Patti & Peter Neuwirth Leadership Academy, ensured scholars that they “have the power and ability to inspire others” through their words.
Scholars had an opportunity to share a brief writing exercise with the group wherein they described a person––or in some instances a pet––who inspires them.