LA GEAR UP conference aims to train students for college - KSLA News 12 Shreveport, Louisiana News Weather & Sports

LA GEAR UP conference aims to train students for college

Around 250 students from across the state gathered at the Shreveport Convention Center for the LA GEAR Up conference on college prep. (Source: Nick Lawton/KSLA News 12) Around 250 students from across the state gathered at the Shreveport Convention Center for the LA GEAR Up conference on college prep. (Source: Nick Lawton/KSLA News 12)
SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) -

Around 250 Louisiana students converged in the Shreveport Convention Center on Friday to talk and learn about their futures.   

The LA GEAR UP Conference, funded through the U.S. Department of Education and the Louisiana Office of Student Financial Assistance, aims to prepare students elementary, middle and high school students for post-secondary education, including college.

"Number One: We want to make sure that they make good grades because good grades is what gets scholarships so we brought them here so we could tell them how important it is now," said Mary Cobb-Marshall, LOSFA Regional Coordinator for East Baton Rouge Parish.

State budget shortfalls have brought slashes to higher education. At the end of 2016, it was cut by $18 million, a grim fact Governor John Bel Edwards admitted while speaking at LSU's graduation ceremonies on Friday.

"But you stayed," Edwards told the graduated. "You believed in Louisiana and for that, I'm grateful because I believe in Louisiana too."

LA GEAR UP is short for Louisiana Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs. It is financially supported by the U.S. Department of Education, which awards grants at high-need middle and high schools.

Back in 2016, Louisiana was awarded a $24.5 million GEAR UP grant. It has to be matched dollar-for-dollar with state or private funds or in-kind contributions. 

According to GEAR UP, their grants have three objectives:

  1. Increase the academic performance and preparation for post-secondary education.
  2. Increase the rate of high school graduation and enrollment in post-secondary education.
  3. Increase GEAR UP students' and their families' knowledge of post-secondary education options, preparation and financing.

Cobb-Marshall told KSLA their three-day conference is equipping local students with the tools they need to get to their options for higher education with enough funds and knowledge to succeed.

"We've brought in people from college boards that talked about the rigor, AP, ACT, how to improve their test-taking skills," she said.

GEAR UP students were quick to tell KSLA about the lessons they were taking away from the conference so far.

"They've been telling us about loans, grants, TOPS scholarships that you have to keep academic grades up," said Imani Matthews, a student at Scotlandville Magnet School in the Baton Rouge area.

Several Shreveport area students also told KSLA they felt more ready for higher education with the lessons from the conference.

"How to just smoothly go into college without freaking out," Converse's Isabell Rachall said. "It just makes me feel good and confident about going out of school and going right into the basics of tomorrow."

The last day of the GEAR UP conference will be Saturday morning inside the Hilton Shreveport Convention Center.

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