San Bernardino students prepare for college and take on its challenges with the help of GEAR UP at CSUSB. The program’s Director, Summer Steele, provides an insight into the program, students, plans and future of the program.
GEAR UP at CSUSB is a federal grant program awarded by the Department of Education. The six-year program provides exclusive services for college preparedness and postsecondary education success to students of San Bernardino Unified School District (SBUSD), specifically the class of 2020.
Summer Steele, Director of GEAR UP, has been at CSUSB for 16 years serving in various roles on campus and helped establish GEAR UP. Her passion dives into access programs and outreach, which motivated her to help with the grant proposal and ultimately led to her being appointed as Director.
What kind of programs does GEAR UP host during the summer?
During the summer, it really is an extension of what we do throughout the academic year. So each summer we’ve put together a different summer program that speaks to the needs of the cohort. Our programs started this year in June and there were multiple strands of our summer program.
One strand was here at Cal State San Bernardino of about 230 students who came to Cal State San Bernardino and took classes in ELA and math as well as a college and career readiness course where they received credit for credit recovery. So if they failed in a math or English course during the academic year, they could come here.
They got the curriculum through the Princeton Review – Early Edge, which is intended to help students catch up to grade level with their English and math so it’s to increase their fluency skills. During that time, there were two different weeks where we broke it up so students could stay in the dorms on campus.
When they were here, they participated in SEEDS Leadership training, which is a nationally renowned leadership training program. Consultants came in and did character development, leadership, making wise choices, and this whole series of things they did with the students.
The second strand also had students living in the dorms but was doing enrollment credit to participate in our summer program.These students didn’t have any classes they needed to make up so we partnered with the College of Arts and Letters and offered a theater and art class to students who wanted to take dual credit.
A little over 50 students received college credit this summer. The third strand had a group of 96 students who traveled to all 23 CSU’s over a 15-day period. The purpose was for them was to create a documentary or video and a lookbook that featured all 23 campuses through the eyes of a high school student.
View this post on Instagram
Happy Monday! It’s an exciting week here — EXPLORE 23 officially kicked off yesterday, bringing 98 high school students on a two-week tour to all 23 CSU campuses! Also, today is the first day of GEAR UP University at CSUSB. Looking forward to a great summer with our students! ☀️ . . . #csusb #csusbgearup #gearup #explore23 #summerprograms #studentsuccess #classof2020
What do your students think about your summer program?
For the most part, they all had really positive things to say. They were excited that they got the opportunity to make up college credit, that living in the dorms gave them an idea of what it’s like to be a college student. A lot of times it’s like you have this vision of what it’s going to be like and think to yourself, “is this for me?” So it’s an opportunity for them to really experience it at low stakes before they start planning and applying to colleges. Our explore students said this was the best opportunity of their life.
How does your staff feel about serving the students of San Bernardino?
Every single one of them had nothing but great things to say. They felt inspired by the students. I think they felt reinvigorated to go back into the next school year and do even more. We’re always challenging ourselves to do more. We think to ourselves about how can we do it bigger and better and impact more students next summer and throughout the school year.
Does GEAR UP have any new plans for the upcoming year?
Some of the things we’re doing this year, like next summer, we’re still working out the details but we do have some ideas of what we want to do but until they’re fully established, we haven’t really shared those details yet but it will be another great summer program.
We will be focusing on a senior boot camp-type program. In addition to what we have planned, we’ll be spending some time doing personal statements, FAFSA pins, all of those sorts of pieces they’re going to need during their senior year.
This year we will be doing a lot of SAT/ACT prep. Since they are 11th graders, we’re offering the SAT School Day in March. It’s the first time they’ve done it here in San Bernardino and the SAT will be offered at their school sites on a school day for free. It’s an opportunity to provide access to those high stakes testing for students.
What is something important that you would like the community to know about your program?
We are here to support future college students, we are here to support the community, we are here to grow our youth. That way when they graduate from high school, that they are ready to join society, be productive and be good people. It is really about the whole student, not just about us checking A-G’s and graduation requirements.