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Gearing up for college

Camp supports students from rural, low-income backgrounds who hope to further their educations


SUBMITTED PHOTO: BOB KERNS - Students MacKenzie Davis of South Umpqua High School in Myrtle Creek, left, and Lovetie Musick from Taft High School in Lincoln City enjoy an activity at Warner Pacific College during GEAR UP camp.Half of the 14 students from rural, low-income backgrounds who attended GEAR UP camp last week will be the first person from their family to attend college, if they decide to go.

The inaugural camp was hosted by Lewis & Clark College from Aug. 2-7, and designed to support students by exposing them to the possibility not only of attending college, but of attending a private college. The camp took place during Oregon’s second-annual Private College Week, when 11 private schools in the state conduct tours and provide information about their institutions for the public.

Participants were kept busy for the duration of their time at camp.

“The students are staying at Lewis & Clark, but they’re doing tours of seven of the campuses and information sessions in the evening,” says Brent Wilder, vice president of the Oregon Alliance of Independent Colleges and Universities (or OAICU), which helped to organize the camp.

Wilder says topics addressed during information sessions included resumes, writing samples and financial aid. Campers also spent time working on the Common Application, which most private colleges and universities accept. Many students left the camp having already completed significant portions of the application.SUBMITTED PHOTO: BOB KERNS - Fourteen students attended the inaugural GEAR UP camp at Lewis & Clark College from Aug. 2-7.

“We also had some fun,” says Adrienne Enriquez, program manager for Oregon Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (or Oregon GEAR UP). As a representative of Oregon GEAR UP, Enriquez helped design the camp and was involved in its day-to-day operations, visiting schools and attending information sessions along with students.

“We had a scavenger hunt in downtown Portland, went swimming in the pool and played some sports,” Enriquez says. “In some ways it was your typical camp experience, but with an emphasis on school visits and the application process.”

The main goal of the camp, she says was to open doors and open minds.

“This week is to help students see things beyond community colleges and large public schools so that when they go to work on applications, they have these schools in mind,” Enriquez adds.

A major goal for her was to ensure students are finding schools that are a good fit for students. Wilder says he hoped to help students realize a private college is a realistic objective.

“Ninety-two percent of our campuses provide financial aid to our full-time freshmen,” Wilder says. “The average aid amount is $18,000. Students realize that college is a lot more accessible than they think.”

The GEAR UP camp grew from a partnership between Oregon GEAR UP, a federally funded program designed to inspire more students to attend college, and OAICU, a nonprofit organization that advocates on behalf of Oregon’s private institutions of higher learning. Each of the 14 students who came to the camp attends one of Oregon GEAR UP’s 31 rural member schools, and was nominated by his or her school as a probable good fit for the program.

In addition, campers had to fill out an intensive application that mimics the college application process. Those chosen attended free of charge, as the GEAR UP program funded the camp.

SUBMITTED PHOTO: BOB KERNS - Terin Trachtenberg, a rising senior at Taft High School in Lincoln City, reflects on a recent tour of Lewis & Clark College during the GEAR UP camp.Terin Trachtenberg, a rising senior at Taft High School in Lincoln City heard about the camp from his guidance counselor.

“The first thing that caught my eye was that we would be staying in Lewis & Clark’s residence halls,” Trachtenberg says. “Another big thing was help with the Common Application. ... The Common App process kind of intimidated me at first.”

Trachtenberg says he appreciated the in-depth feedback on elements of the application afforded by the camp and the care given to campers during their visits to schools, which differed from prior experiences he’d had.

“In other (settings), you get really quick tours and information sessions,” he says. “Sometimes I haven’t even gotten information sessions. In this camp, we’ve gotten really long information sessions where we could ask whatever we want.”

Trachtenberg says he was also pleased with the schools he visited and plans to apply to several of them.

“I do think it’s a really good opportunity, especially for students in really rural areas,” he says.

Enriquez says she, too, was pleased with the way the camp had gone.

“One of the things I’ve found particularly rewarding is that I’ve heard from students multiple times that they’ve walked on a campus and seen things that have surprised them or excited them,” Enriquez says. “It’s done a good job helping (students) see themselves in places they never did before. It’s definitely an opportunity that is meeting objectives.”

Contact Jake Bartman at 503-636-1281 ext. 113 or jbartman@pamplinmedia.com.

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