Produced by the Department of Media Relations & Publications

Students from First GEAR UP Group Graduate from College

May 28, 2010

Students from the Bronx Institute's first GEAR UP group are celebrating their graduation from dozens of public and private colleges and universities.

The GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) Class of 2006 was the first in the Bronx to complete this college-readiness program for middle and high school students. Students are now earning their degrees from CUNY (Lehman, Hunter, and John Jay Colleges), SUNY (Albany, Binghamton, Buffalo, Delhi, Old Westbury, Oswego, and Stony Brook), Boston College, Fordham University, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Macalester College, Manhattanville College, MIT, Morgan State University, College of Mount Saint Vincent, Nyack College, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Syracuse University, the University of Vermont, and other institutions.

"We are very proud of these graduates," said Dr. Herminio Martinez (Middle and High School Education), executive director of the Institute. "Their success serves as an example for current students, who are inspired to emulate their academic achievements." The Institute's current GEAR UP program serves more than 8,000 students in three grade levels (eighth, ninth, and eleventh) in scores of Bronx public middle and high schools.

Among the GEAR UP graduates receiving their degrees are:

Daniel Morales-Armstrong, earning a B.A. in criminal justice and psychology from SUNY Albany, was admitted to Harvard University's Graduate School of Education, where he will study for an M.A. in risk and prevention. "Harvard will teach me to identify risk factors in communities that impact education, and to create an action plan to mitigate these risks," he said. After Harvard, he hopes to work for a community-based organization and eventually establish one himself. "GEAR UP gave me a framework for improving the lives of the next generation. I learned that life skills—self-evaluation, self-improvement, and leadership—are just as important as academic skills," he said.

Stacy Vargas, graduating from Lehman College with a B.A. in mathematics education, plans to teach in middle school. "In high school I began to think seriously about teaching," she says. "I was always good at math, but GEAR UP helped me to improve in other subjects and that made a difference when I applied to the CUNY Teacher Academy, a competitive program."

With a B.S. in industrial management and engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), Andrea Cabrera has set a goal of becoming a product manager for a Fortune 500 company. This summer, however, she will work in community outreach for the Fresh Air Fund. "I would not have gone to RPI had I not been in GEAR UP," she says. "GEAR UP gave me the confidence to go to a school far from home. It helped me prepare for standardized tests, apply to college, and get recommendations. It was like a family and a support system."

Graduating from SUNY Buffalo with a B.A. in communications, Jorge Martinez looks forward to a career not in journalism but in human resources management consulting. "A communications major is often thought of as preparation for a career in journalism, television, or radio," he says. "It is a broader study, however, of how people interact. I would like to help companies design their businesses to make the most of their employees' talents." Like the other GEAR UP students, he looks back on the program as a positive experience. "When I was fourteen, GEAR UP helped me find a summer job that instilled the work ethic in me. That year, I was one of thirty students selected to attend the National GEAR UP Conference, where I gave a presentation to 2,000 people. That experience was so transforming that I went to the annual conference three years in a row."