The Texas Education Agency and Texas GEAR UP has recently selected the Las Platicas Academy program at The University of Texas-Pan American GEAR UP Project as a Texas GEAR UP Promising Practice.
The Promising Practice award is given to a program that has successfully enhanced the experience of underserved students in Texas as they prepare to excel in college and beyond. Las Platicas Academy will be featured as part of "Mentors, Mindsets and Role Models," a new multimedia materials kit available on the Texas GEAR UP Web site http://www.texasgearup.com.
This model is designed to assist school districts and community groups in their efforts to expand or create mentoring opportunities. The kit also includes an original video highlighting the program's goals and implementation strategies and support materials which can be used by other projects that are interested in initiating a similar program.
Kristen Reynolds, state project director of Texas GEAR UP, congratulated UTPA for having such an innovative program.
"It is a shining example of how GEAR UP programs in Texas can lead the way to making college the dream that succeeds into a reality," she said.
UTPA GEAR UP's community outreach coordinator Elizabeth Valdez-Garza said she was proud of the recognition by the state.
"UTPA GEAR UP has been setting the standard in parental involvement initiatives and we are honored to be leading the way," she said.
Las Platicas Academy promotes education and outreach through parent volunteers known as "platicadoras," who are trained on college preparation, advocacy and leadership. According to Dr. Martha Cantu, UTPA GEAR UP director, the role of platicadoras is to successfully inform and motivate other GEAR UP parents on the importance of the GEAR UP Project and its services available to students.
"We empower parents with relevant and useful knowledge about the college-going process and in turn they become intrinsically driven to share this knowledge with other parents. They hold meetings at their schools, community centers, and even open up their own homes all in an effort to build a knowledgeable and empowered parent population," she said.
The UTPA GEAR UP Project, the second largest GEAR UP project in the nation, serves 8,950 students in 22 high schools in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas. Its mission is to significantly increase the number of students who are prepared to enter and succeed in post-secondary education.
For more information on Las Platicas, go to the UTPA GEAR UP Web site at http://gearup.panam.edu/.