The Magazine for Alumni and Friends of the University of Wyoming
University of Wyoming
1000 East University Ave.
Laramie, WY 82071-2000
By Micaela Myers
“We have many low-income students in the state with very little access to college resources,” explains Judy Trujillo, GEAR UP Wyoming grant manager. Several programs aim to change that.
Funded through the U.S. Department of Education and administratively based out of the University of Wyoming, GEAR UP stands for Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs. With sites at all seven community colleges, it serves low-income students throughout the state in seventh through 12th grades, as well as first-year college students.
“Low-income students have historically not gone to college in Wyoming,” Trujillo says. “We are working to change fundamental belief systems about college education for low-income students to increase the likelihood that they will attend. In 2011, about 23 percent of low-income students went to college, but 72 percent of GEAR UP students went to college.”
GEAR UP provides services to more than 2,000 students a year, including tutoring, college visits, workshops, parent education and resources, and summer leadership camps, as well as a mentoring program once students enter college. (Read a current success story here.)
Low-income and first-generation students in Wyoming can receive support from federally funded TRIO Programs, including Upward Bound and Upward Bound Math-Science. Administratively based out of UW, the Upward Bound programs serve eligible high school students in seven counties by offering academic support, enrichment activities, and financial aid and college application assistance.
“It all culminates each year in a six-week summer program that Upward Bound has here on campus,” explains Michael Wade, associate director of UW Student Educational Opportunity. Each summer, 50 Wyoming Upward Bound students are chosen to live on campus and take courses so that they can become immersed in the college experience. (Read a success story here.)
The federally funded College Access Challenge Grant Program provides resources for low-income students, including a college advising corps that serves 19 high schools statewide. “The idea is for the advisers to be embedded in the high schools and provide college awareness and resources,” Wade says. “Last year, advisers assisted more than 1,000 students in submitting college applications, met with more than 2,800 students one-on-one, planned college visits for more than 400 students and aided almost 800 students in visiting with college admissions representatives.”
Many of the pipeline programs also have scholarship components. Their goal isn’t just to get kids into college, but to provide them with proper preparation and resources so that they finish their degrees.
“If you didn’t have a family member who went to college, they’re kind of like that substitute,” says Ann Gibbons of Cheyenne, Wyo., about the support she received from Upward Bound and GEAR UP. Gibbons is now a junior engineering major at UW.
“There’s a vast pool of untapped talent out there,” Wade says. “If students have the resources, the knowledge and the understanding, they can get into and through college and can really benefit our society.”