Tech gears up for annual summer camp

For more than a decade, Louisiana Tech University’s Science and Technology Education Center (SciTEC) in the College of Education, has hosted thousands of Louisiana students in GEAR UP camps, academic learning experiences focused on post-secondary education and career planning.

In 2019, Louisiana Tech has been chosen to host six events that will bring 720 high school students to week-long camps in Ruston.

“GEAR UP helps connect middle and high school students with the opportunities and resources they need to be successful when it’s time for the next step in their educational journey,” said Dr. Les Guice, President of Louisiana Tech. “I am pleased that our faculty are providing a balance between support and challenge for these students, and we are able to help them become better scholars and citizens through the program.” 

GEAR UP relies on corporate and school partners to ensure that the learning experience benefits students from throughout the state. GEAR UP industry partners include NICERC at the Cyber Innovation Center, Louisiana Delta Community College (LDCC), the Monroe Chamber of Commerce, CenturyLink, and IBM.

“Giving students hands-on experience is integral to preparing students for careers in STEM industries,” said Evelyn Maguire, JAVA/J2EE Applications Development Specialist with Global Business Services at IBM Client Innovation Center in Monroe. “Having completed similar programs myself, I know how being able to see the types of jobs available in computing fields sparked a lifelong interest in technology.”

Grants from the U.S. Department of Education help fund the Louisiana GEAR UP program, and funds are administered through the Louisiana Office of Student Financial Assistance (LOFSA). The state program held at Louisiana Tech includes partners in 16 school districts, including Monroe City Schools, Morehouse Parish Schools, Madison Parish Schools, and East Baton Rouge Schools.

“The partnership provides excellent opportunities for our students and teachers,” said Maria Yabut, GEAR UP coordinator in Morehouse Parish. “Our students are excited and looking forward to participating again this summer!”

Program goals include increasing the numbers of students who are prepared to continue their education and pursue careers following graduation.

“The GEAR UP program allow us to equip students with skills necessary to achieve and accomplish personal and professional goals,” said Dr. Lindsey Keith Vincent, SciTEC Director and Project Director for Louisiana Tech GEAR UP. “In Louisiana, we have some of the best and brightest young people in the nation. We need to ensure we give them opportunities to see what is possible, learn what it takes to achieve their goals, and give back to others once successful. 

Many students have directly pursued post- secondary goals, in part, because of the unique learning opportunities they experienced as youth through this program. GEAR UP counselor Janay Williams was once a camp participant, and the current Fashion Merchandising and Retail Studies major attributes her desire to attend college, and specifically Louisiana Tech, to the summer program.

“The weeks I spent on this campus during the summer were truly life changing, it made me realize that the world is much bigger than what I was seeing,” Williams said. “It helped me figure out what I truly wanted to do in life and where I wanted to attend school. I was 14 when I first attended a camp, and on that first week I was already saying that I would be attending Louisiana Tech University when I graduated from high school.”

LOSFA’s Field Outreach Director and LA GEAR UP Director, Dr. Tireka Cobb said her team is excited to assist with the camp again in 2019.

“This camp will provide experiential-learning opportunities for GEAR UP students to discover their interests and talents, and explore innovative hands-on activities in the science, technology, engineering and math industries to help guide their academic career,” Cobb said. “Our goal is to improve equitable outcomes for Louisiana students by providing access for college success.”

Students attending the camp will also have the opportunity to learn about two-year higher education options including those with partner Delta Community College.

“Today’s students have tremendous career opportunities with strong earnings available at community and technical colleges as well as from four-year and graduate institutions,” said LDCC president Dr. Dennis Epps. “The sky is the limit, and we are excited to partner with all of our area institutions in making dreams come true.”

Putting the camp together is a collective effort with faculty and staff from throughout the Louisiana Tech campus, said Dr. Don Schillinger, Dean of the College of Education.

“These efforts provide the advantage of opportunity for participating high school students,” Schillinger said. “It is a privilege to play a role in initiatives such as GEAR UP that make a positive difference in the lives of students and the educational and workforce development needs of Louisiana.”

To learn more about projects and programs like this one, email scitec@latech.edu.