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ASCC GEAR-UP awards scholarships to high school grads

Although its six-year cycle of activity will conclude by the end of this year, the GEAR UP program hosted by the American Samoa Community College (ASCC) has nevertheless continued to find innovative means of supporting the students it serves. GEAR UP Director Tupua Roy Fua will be awarding 20 spring 2012 high school graduates affiliated with GEAR UP scholarships of $1,000 each for their participation and hard work in achieving academic excellence.

Tupua and the GEAR UP staff have so far announced several recipients of the GEAR UP scholarships, and will continue to do so throughout the current graduation period. Recipients were chosen based on their grade point averages, SAT scores and other criteria, and include students from the majority of Tutuila’s public and private high schools. One of the key requirements is that the student must have been an active participant in the GEAR UP program since the 7th grade.

The 2012 graduates represent the cohort that has been with GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) since its inception in American Samoa. The federally funded program seeks to increase the representation in higher education of students from low-income backgrounds by providing them with intensive academic and personal support services.

“The GEAR UP Partnership Grant application required that we select three community partners to work together with us in nurturing our students through social, emotional, behavioral, health and of course academic enrichment,” explained Tupua.  U.S. Department of Education placed an emphasis on establishing sustainable partnerships between higher education, schools, public agencies and community-based organizations to create a collaborative network that supports the holistic needs of students as they prepare to enter college.

 “We selected the Department of Education (ASDOE), the Department of Human & Social Services (DHSS), and the Department of Health (DOH), who have worked with us for the past six years,” Tupua said. “Each year the GEAR UP American Samoa (GUAS) partnership grant works with our partners to provide a wide range of activities such as physical fitness and sports programs, behavioral health counseling, literacy programs, dental screening, teen pregnancy prevention, resiliency skill-building, child abuse prevention, alcohol and drugs education, internships with a number of public agencies and private businesses and more.”

While the GUAS program will not continue in the fall 2012 semester, Tupua is optimistic that many of the activities it initiated will continue at the school level, such as before and after homework sessions, agencies and local business program partnership, a closer collaboration with ASCC as well as summer academic program activities offered during the summer months.

Tupua says ASDOE played a vital role in the success throughout the GUAS program. “Each year GUAS has worked with 30 to 50 ASDOE and private school teachers, librarians and principals who helped to provide the GUAS before and after school homework sessions”, he explained. These homework sessions, the primary academic assistance activity, have helped our students tremendously. Over the past six years, GUAS assisted 400 to 500 students attending the homework sessions regularly from the total cohort group of just less than 1000 students.”

After six years of program implementation and rigorous evaluation, GUAS has developed a framework for increasing college and career readiness of local students. Its successful partnerships with schools, key agencies in health, education and social services and particularly with community-based organizations such as the TAITAITAMA Prevent Underage Drinking Initiative and the Boys & Girls Clubs of American Samoa ensures the sustainability of programs to better prepare young people for the future. GUAS will also conduct its free summer academy in July and August, offering an intensive six week college math and English prep class for GUAS students who need extra help preparing for the ASCC placement exam.

Spring 2012 GEAR UP Scholarship winners are Lorelei Teofilo, Talimeli Taufetee, Jermaine Tuiasosopo and Justin Ioane from Tafuna High School; Shon Satele from Nuuuli Voc Tech High School; Glorisa Blanco, Arielle Regis, and Ariel Niedo from Faasao Marist High School; Ioasa Tu’u, Annie Amosa, Keith Metali and Ana Imelda Afoa from Samoana High School; Jasmine Muasau, Naphtaliah Reed, and Miranda Galo from Iakina Adventist Academy; Faanofo Alesana, Angeline Maeli, and Ching Ho Hunkin from Manumalo Baptist High School; Mary Ipiniu from Leone High School; and Destinee Afalava from Kanana Fou High School.  

Eleven of the recipients will enter ASCC, while the remaining nine have been accepted to colleges and universities off island.  All have SAT scores ranging from 1100 to 1840, as well as a wide range of career aspirations including teachers, engineers, lawyers, health care professionals, business entrepreneurs, government public servants, members of the U.S. Military and more.   “Limited funding for scholarships meant we couldn’t assist more students”, said Tupua, “but there are several hundreds from the Class of 2012 who are just as deserving.”



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