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College Readiness at Wendover High School

Jeannine Huenemann


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STARS! GEAR UP students at Wendover High School in Tooele UT
STARS! GEAR UP students at Wendover High School in Tooele UT

STARS! GEAR UP students at Wendover High School in Tooele UT

The USU STARS! GEAR UP program at Wendover High School is changing lives in big and small ways. Site Coordinator Alan Rowley shared some successes and stories. Last spring, 13 of 24 GEAR UP students enrolled in colleges and universities. Wendover is a very close community, and the influence of these 13 students has gone way beyond expectations. Students know these college students and the excitement in the hallways is palpable.

According to Principal Heather Castagno, all of the seniors at Wendover High School are expected to graduate this year. This fall, 100% of the seniors, 25% of juniors, and 38% of sophomores, and their parents attended a FAFSA Prep Night. Rowley takes the job of supporting students in college very seriously. This fall, he visited seven of his students that are at Snow College. He asked these students "A year ago, did you think you would be here?" With one exception, each of those students said "no," and, in fact, one said "Heck, six weeks ago I didn't think I'd be here."

This year, six seniors are set to compete for Sterling Scholar awards, and six juniors are strong candidates for the Governor's Honors Academy at Southern Utah University. The USU STARS! program will sponsor two students to attend the Hugh O'Brian Leadership program, and will financially assist all the sophomores taking concurrent enrollment courses next year. This means that it is now possible for these students to earn a significant number of college credits prior to their high school graduation.

Recently, community member Melvin Stewart fell ill and was sent home to recuperate after a visit to the hospital. Rowley was asked by the assistant principal to take some of his GEAR UP students over to Stewart’s home to help with yard work. During their visit, the students were taken in small groups to meet the recovering veteran. They all shook his hand and spoke to him. He, in turn, thanked them and told Rowley how much he appreciated their help. This visit was good for both Stewart and the students. The students got to do a community project as a team and be appreciated for their hard work, and a community member had his day brightened and the visit may have had an important impact on his recovery. The students learned the value of service.

Rowley has an active schedule planned for the USU STARS! GEAR UP program in the coming year. Students will have the opportunity to visit university and technical colleges, and Utah businesses. Last year’s senior class earned almost $100,000 in scholarships, but Rowley thinks that this year’s seniors can beat that amount and that the juniors and sophomores will do even better. Principal Castagno indicates that “GEAR UP is an integral part of a cohesive plan whose goal is to make a difference in student lives.”