Scholarships, laptops and calculators are on many students' wish lists. The University of Texas-Pan American has recently made those wishes come true for 16 Rio Grande Valley high school GEAR UP students.
On Dec. 1, the Region One GEAR UP: Bridges to the Future Partnership hosted a GEAR UP conference for 800 parents and students at the McAllen Convention Center. The conference, which had a theme of, "Lights...Camera...College!," presented to participants information on a variety of colleges and resources available to students.
"By providing students with these resources it gives them a step up in knowing that they have what they need for college," said Alyssa Reyna, UTPA junior and university engagement program coordinator. "It feels good knowing that we gave the students something they otherwise might have never been able to get."
According to Reyna, UTPA is passionate about helping GEAR UP students because they are the future and it is important to show them what UTPA has to offer. In addition, through events such as the conference, parents also gain knowledge on the importance of a higher education.
"Everything we do impacts students as well as parents," Reyna said. "Our goal is to teach them how a college education is important and how it can make a difference in their child's lives and also their own."
Garcia said UTPA partners with GEAR UP to achieve the common goal of increasing the number of students that continue with higher education. However, she said, financing a college education is one of the biggest obstacles families face.
"The scholarships we provided will help these students as an additional resource to help pay for college expenses," Garcia said. "We hope that these scholarships we offer will help them and their families to make the choice of continuing with their college education and know that there are sources of aid available."
Reyna and Garcia both hope that parents will begin to push their children into higher education.
As a GEAR UP alumna and now a college student, Reyna feels she is giving back to her community through her work with UTPA and GEAR UP.
"I was given so much as a student, so now, along with UTPA, I am trying to make a difference in other young student's lives," she said. "I want them to be aware that college is a possibility for anyone."