Weber State University hosted a GEAR UP retreat on June 29 at their Davis campus — but not for students. Parents involved in the GEAR UP program attended a day with sessions on how to help their students become college ready.

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Keith Osai teaches a workshop at the Gear Up Parent retreat. Photo credit: Leah Higginbotham

GEAR UP is an organization that helps underrepresented adolescents become college ready across the nation.

According to GEAR UP director Brandon Kaleo Flores, the program is a federally-funded grant program aimed at helping students get to college and succeed there.

“The purpose is to serve students who come from under-served, under-represented or underprivileged backgrounds,” Flores said. “The goal is to help these students continue to succeed in school and to learn how to navigate the system of higher education.”

The June 29 retreat included workshops taught in both English and Spanish by Weber State professors. The program also provided breakfast and lunch for attendees with a break where the parents had the opportunity to take a campus tour and their choice of either a massage or a painting class.

The parent retreat is one of many community events that GEAR UP puts on throughout the year. The program also helps with recruitment for colleges, puts on career fairs and organizes family nights, all with the intent to encourage teens to seek higher education.

“We work with students from junior high throughout high school and even into their first year of college,” Flores said. “I run my program on a foundation of three things: to build a college-going culture at the school, in the community and, most importantly, at home.”

The purpose of the parent retreat, he said, is to provide parents with more resources to help their kids.

“Contrary to what some people think about parents, the truth is parents do care about their kids,” Flores said.

Assistant professor of Child and Family Studies Keith V. Osai taught a workshop on adolescent development at the retreat.

“My hope is that by attending something like this it benefits parents by empowering them with knowledge,” Osai said. “To help parents to understand what their children are experiencing on different levels.”

Being a teenager in the modern era isn’t easy, according to Osai, and he hopes that helping parents gain the tools to understand their teens will empower them to help their kids succeed.

Local parent Nicole Dennis appreciates the impact GEAR UP and this retreat has on the community.

“I think it’s a great program. If you see GEAR UP signs, you know that they’re supporting the youth in our community to better themselves and to excel beyond what they might think they can do,” Dennis said.

Teens everywhere, not just in Utah, experience a lack of support. Although this chapter of GEAR UP serves Weber and Davis Counties, GEAR UP goes far beyond just Utah. By providing support for teens nationwide, GEAR UP is helping build “college-going” communities across the country.

“What we do in GEAR UP isn’t just a program, it’s a movement. GEAR UP is nationwide,” Flores said. “All over America, in almost every state, there is a movement going on where students and parents alike are coming together and saying ‘even though this system might not have been built for us, we too want to take a piece of that American dream and live it, and fulfill our potential.’”

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