Enhancing a Family’s College Readiness
Antuan Jones, Jr. is a 9th grader at Wyandotte High School in Kansas City Kansas Public School (KCKPS) and is taking the transition to high school in stride. Starting the school year strong, he is looking forward to playing football and digging into his history courses. Though Antuan knows some of his classes will be difficult, he knows that the time management and study skills he developed as a participant in the University of Kansas GEAR UP Diploma+ program will serve him well. KU GEAR UP provides a wide array of academic, personal, and financial supports to prepare students and their families in the KCKPS classes of 2023 and 2024 for postsecondary education opportunities.
Antuan positively describes his experience with KU GEAR UP, and warmly reflects on several of his favorite memories, such as the KU GEAR UP Saturday Academy that hosted a computer science and video game day, celebrating Black History Month with a series of cultural events that included workshops on African dance and improvisation. In addition to the STEM activities and cultural experiences, Antuan said he also completed an ACT Prep course through the program.
As a second-year KU GEAR UP participant, Antuan is already beginning to think about what he’ll do after high school graduation. Through KU GEAR UP, Antuan has already visited college campuses including Harris-Stowe State University and Kansas State University. Though he doesn’t quite see himself attending Kansas State (he’s a Jayhawk, after all!), Antuan was excited to learn about careers and scholarship opportunities in engineering and construction on his visit.
“At the GEAR UP college visit to Kansas State, the classes that they take there sounded fun because they get to build things and learn how to use the tools in that field.” Specifically, he was thrilled to visit a college engineering class where students were constructing and testing bridge strength. During KU GEAR UP’s summer camp with CoolSpeak, students participated in hands-on STEM activities including a similar bridge building competition. And I can find a social media post to link to.
Antuan isn’t the only KU GEAR UP participant in his family: his mother Matthia has attended parent meetings, college visits, and she hopes to attend the 2019 KU GEAR UP Parent University as well. At this early juncture, Matthia is already seeing the positive impact KU GEAR UP staff are having on Antuan. She recalls KU GEAR UP visiting a football team meeting when Antuan was in 8th grade and encouraged him to be involved with KU GEAR UP. That outreach made a profound impact on Matthia since Antuan was still transitioning to the mainstream environment at Northwest Middle School. Up until then, Antuan attended Bridges/Wyandot Academy, an alternative school for students with documented educational disabilities that focuses on specialized small group instruction. With KU GEAR UP, Antuan was able to make friends and identify people he could talk to if he was anxious or needed help. As a result, Antuan’s mainstream transition went smoothly and he is now flourishing.
With KU GEAR UP’s help, Matthia is excited about Antuan’s educational journey. KU GEAR UP has helped familiarize her with many postsecondary options available to Antuan, including college, the military, and trade school. “GEAR UP showed him his future… He can do more than just finish high school. Before, he felt like that was it for him. But now, he wants to be an engineer and go to school.” Whatever he chooses, Antuan knows that enrolling in postsecondary education after he graduates high school will make his family — his mother and three sisters — very proud. And though Matthia confesses it will be hard when Antuan graduates high school and leaves home, she sees a bright future for Antuan because of the preparation he’s receiving in KU GEAR UP. “When he graduates high school, I want him to do what he likes, be financially stable, and change his community.”