For Central Michigan University student Anjanette Haggard, GEAR UP has been a journey — one that led her to CMU and, now, to Washington, D.C. This summer, Haggard represented CMU as the only delegate from Michigan at the national GEAR UP Alumni Leadership Academy — a training that kicks off her yearlong post as an ambassador for the program and active member of the community.
Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs, commonly referred to as GEAR UP, is an initiative that prepares students by teaching them college is achievable, accessible and affordable.
"My GEAR UP experience has come full circle. It played a huge role in me being here at Central," said Haggard, a senior from Flint who began her involvement with GEAR UP at one of CMU's partner schools when she was in seventh grade. "Having the opportunity to represent my school and state in Washington was incredible."
Approximately 30 students are chosen annually to attend the academy and serve as representatives of the federally funded program each year. The rigorous selection process includes recommendations from local GEAR UP staff, like CMU GEAR UP Director Mary Henley, who talked with Haggard about applying to the program as the next step in her leadership development.
"GEAR UP has been a staple in my life," said Haggard. "I wouldn't be where I am without it."
During her weeklong training in Washington, D.C., Haggard learned more about federal funding and the policymaking process, participated in leadership development and honed her public speaking skills. She also attended meetings on Capitol Hill to educate members of Congress — including CMU alumnus and Congressman Dan Kildee — on the positive impact of the GEAR UP program.
Each student returned home after training concluded with a commitment to serve the campus community, engage in peer mentorship, advocate for programming and educate others on the difference GEAR UP can make in a student's life. For Haggard, her first order of business was bringing what she learned back to students from Flint and Harrison schools attending GEAR UP Summer Adventure — a summer leadership training and college exploration program for CMU's partner schools.
"You never know where a program like GEAR UP is going to land you. I'm excited to share what I've learned and experienced with others," Haggard said.