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Gear up for college: Expanding Black and Latino students’ postsecondary opportunities and readiness

Gear up for college: Black and Latino students

By Laura Checovich
December 3, 2020

Many pathways to higher education are available, but navigating them can be confusing and difficult. What’s more, some groups experience more barriers along the way than others. The federally funded initiative Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) is designed to assist students from low-income households in making informed choices about and preparing for postsecondary education. GEAR UP partners with states and districts to offer a range of services, including college planning assistance, tutoring, enrichment, family engagement, and school resources.

In April and June 2020, Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Midwest partnered with the Chicago GEAR UP Alliance, which works with Chicago Public Schools, to deliver two virtual training sessions for program staff. The sessions focused on effective and practical strategies for supporting Black and Latino students during their pathways to higher education.

Using documentaries to share research and lessons learned

The trainings centered on two REL Midwest documentaries that highlight effective and evidence-based practices for improving Black and Latino students’ access to higher education:

After each screening, GEAR UP staff reflected on and discussed the barriers that Black and Latino students experience as they plan and prepare for college. GEAR UP staff then worked with REL Midwest coaches to consider the strategies presented, analyze the capacity and readiness of their organization and partner schools to make those changes, and develop action plans tailored to their program.

Participants shared that the sessions expanded their knowledge of relevant evidence-based strategies and research and strengthened their ability to support Black and Latino students as they plan for and transition to postsecondary education. Lorena Gasca, a senior program manager at Chicago GEAR UP, said, “We are currently in the planning process for our upcoming virtual school year, and the information we collected in the two [training] activities is proving to be very helpful.”

Learn more about REL Midwest’s documentaries

One of the central goals of REL Midwest is to build individual and organizational capacity to understand and use research in education policy and practice. In support of this goal, we partner with public television stations and education agencies to produce documentaries and videos, among other media, designed to bring research to life. Our documentaries tell the stories of communities in the Midwest that are putting research into practice and showcase the impact of these efforts.

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Author information

Laura Checovich Staff Picture

Laura Checovich

Communications Associate | REL Midwest


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