Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Program Introduces Students to College; Raines 10th-Graders Gain Skills and Lessons to Prepare for College

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Program Introduces Students to College; Raines 10th-Graders Gain Skills and Lessons to Prepare for College

Article excerpt

Byline: TOPHER SANDERS

Raines High sophomore Tierra McGhee walked through a barrier Tuesday she initially thought wasn't possible to break.

Tierra and about 40 other Raines students in Duval County's Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs, known as GEAR UP, received a lesson in perseverance and problem solving from local motivational speaker and educator Steve Piscitelli.

Piscitelli asked the students if they could walk through an ordinary piece of paper, to which many students answered "no" because of its size.

Then, while talking with the students about choices and ways to handle crisis, he cut the paper in such a way that it unfolded into a body-length frame just large enough for a student.

Tierra walked through the barrier and grasped the lesson.

"If there is an obstacle that I think I can't face," said the 15-year-old, "I can still go around it or go through it."

GEAR UP is a federal program to help students who would be the first in their families to go to college to learn what it takes to get there. An additional federal grant provides GEAR UP services at several Duval middle schools.

Raines' program services the school's 10th graders. Those students first benefited from the grant when they were seventh graders at either Northwestern or Eugene Butler middle schools.

The students meet weekly for sessions with student counselors from the University of North Florida and receive career and academic counseling. The program also pays for one of the school's 10th grade teachers, ACT preparation and college visits.

The program helps students understand that they too can go to college and over time prepares them, said Latosha Bowens, coordinator of Raines' GEAR UP program. …

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