SANTA FE — Thousands of middle and high school students across New Mexico will have the chance to learn more about their college and career options this week as the state celebrates National GEAR UP Week.
Led by the Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) college readiness division at the New Mexico Higher Education Department (NMHED), 15 partner schools will host activities throughout the week and into the end of the month designed to help students learn more about helpful resources, explore college options, learn about scholarships, and more.
“It is never to early to start thinking about college and students need to know what options are available here in New Mexico. I look forward to joining students at their schools during the week to learn more about what questions they have about going to college and how we as a state can better help them get there, such as free college initiatives,” Higher Education Secretary Stephanie Rodriguez said. “GEAR UP has helped thousands of New Mexico students and their families to explore and access higher education and career pathways.”
The New Mexico Higher Education Department was awarded $31.4 million in 2020 for the seven-year program from the U.S. Department of Education. GEAR UP supports college readiness staff, programs, and activities at eight public school districts across New Mexico that serve primarily low-income, rural, Hispanic, and Native American students. More than 6,800 students statewide can participate in college visits, tutoring, mentoring, academic advising and financial aid counseling, ACT preparation, credit recovery, STEM activities, and more, free of cost thanks to the program.
“College readiness is important because if you don’t go in with a plan, you will be all over the place,” Socorro High School freshman Isaiah Ocampo said. “GEAR UP Week activities help get students aware of what they should be thinking about.”
Partner schools will host a series of events to help students help students get excited about pursuing higher education, including college information fairs, virtual college tours, and a college-themed “flash mob.”
“I had so much fun looking into colleges and careers, it is so important to plan ahead,” Mountainair High School student Zoey Brazil said.
“GEAR UP Week is an essential opportunity for students to get oriented to not only all of the amazing opportunities GEAR UP provides, but also gain a strong foundation to achieve their personal goals in whatever college or career opportunity our Sundevils want to pursue post-secondary,” Española Valley High School Principal Jeffrey Sagor said.
GEAR UP serves students and families in Albuquerque, Bernalillo, Española, Mountainair, Santa Fe, Socorro, and Taos. Between 2012 and 2019, the program helped increase graduation rates from 63 to 76 percent and increase the number of high school graduates enrolling in college from 42 percent to 63 percent.