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GEAR UP program helps first generation low-income youth prepare for college

Flint and Harrison high school students learn about college affordability and accessibility at CMU

​​Last week, a cohort of students from three Flint-area schools experienced college life at Central Michigan University through GEAR UP. This week, a cohort from Harrison High School will do the same.

“‘GEAR UP’ means ‘Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs,’” said Director Mary Henley. “It is for first generation, low income at-risk students and has been a part of the Central Michigan University community since 2000.”

The program, which is housed within the Institutional Diversity office, prepares students by teaching them that college is achievable, accessible and affordable, Henley said.

“They come to campus, live in the residence halls, and are chaperoned and mentored by our College Positive volunteers,” Henley said.


CMU senior Anjanette Haggard joined GEAR UP in sixth grade. She served as a College Positive volunteer for the program and now is an AmeriCorps VISTA Summer Associate for GEAR UP.

“By the time I got to CMU, the next thing for me to do was to be a mentor because this program did so much for me,” Haggard said. “Now I’m helping other people get that same experience.”

The cohorts of middle and high school students each come to campus for a week during the summer.

Alvin Love, a high school junior from Flint, just completed his fourth year participating in GEAR UP.

“I first started coming to GEAR UP when I was in seventh grade, and they gave me so much hope,” he said. “It gives me a lot of joy to come to a college and have a lot of people who really care about me and want me to succeed. I didn’t really want to go to college the first year. Now I’m thinking about going to college.”

Mya McCloud said GEAR UP changed her perspective about higher education.

“I feel like I need something to prepare me for what college is going to be like, and I feel like this program is a good way to do that,” McCloud, a high school junior from Flint, said. “I feel like if I didn’t come here and didn’t get prepared for college, then I’d be lost.”

GEAR UP is administered and funded by the U.S. Department of Education and the King Chavez Parks Initiative.

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