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Bridging the Gap: Mentors Connect HS to College

Jeannine Huenemann

03/15/2019

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Kyle Lund, Taylor White, and Taylee Anderson, USU STARS! GEAR UP Student Liaisons, work with college students across Utah.
Kyle Lund, Taylor White, and Taylee Anderson, USU STARS! GEAR UP Student Liaisons, work with college students across Utah.

USU STARS! GEAR UP student liaisons Kyle Lund, Taylor White, and Taylee Anderson have spent a lot of time this year connecting with our grant one college students. They have discovered that struggling students need detailed, comprehensive, and individual help when it comes to preparing for college. Additionally, our student liaisons have learned that many students feel that after the first semester in college, they either lack the funds to continue in school or feel that they are “wasting” credits because their school doesn’t fit their interests.

While USU STARS! GEAR UP provides exceptional help for middle and high school students, our first-year college students have found it difficult to connect high school to GEAR UP in college. This is one reason why the USU STARS! program is creating the new college mentor position in hopes of bridging the gap between high school and college GEAR UP efforts. This new role would provide high school students with individualized, full-scale college preparation across all participating schools.

“Many of our GEAR UP students and families could benefit from additional guidance as they are preparing for college,” says White. “We’re here to help give that personal support, focusing on the individuals that might need a little extra help. As college mentors, we want to ensure that each student creates a college pathway plan that caters to their specific college needs and career hopes.”

The college mentors will work to meet the specific needs of each participating school by working with current high school students. Examples of the services available include support in running school events, and/or individual meetings for students to create college pathway plans. While many school events will involve face-to-face interaction, some schools may benefit from organized virtual meetings and seminars between students and college mentors. Each schools’ needs will be addressed individually to ensure a more comprehensive approach to college preparation.

Part of the inspiration for the USU STARS! GEAR UP college mentor role came from development of the College Access Advisor Initiative by Utah System of Higher Education (USHE). USHE plans to have an access advisor in every school in Utah by 2022. Our college mentors are working with USHE’s college access advisors to discuss how we can both help at-risk students succeed in creating a college and career plan.

Without having a solid connection to GEAR UP in college, many students simply do not benefit from the many resources that are available. The college mentor role was developed to help site coordinators and guidance counselors in our schools. College mentors aim to make the college preparation process gradual and personal, instead of rushed and general. Rather than changing current workplans, college mentors will lend support to schools, implement individual meetings, and initiate lasting connections with students in order to help smooth the transition from high school to college. USU STARS! GEAR UP’s goal is to continue Making College A Reality for Utah students.