GEAR UP for excellence: Cabrini University’s educational partnership

By Colin Tomczak
October 29, 2023

Gabriela Chauca, GEAR UP program coordinator. Photo by Colin Tomczak.
Gabriela Chauca, GEAR UP program coordinator. Photo by Colin Tomczak.

With the last year of Cabrini underway, getting involved with on-campus clubs and organizations is a great way to maintain the Cabrini Spirit. But there are also opportunities to get involved off-campus, many of which are offered by the Wolfington Center. However, one of the programs offered is different from the others, and that’s GEAR UP.

What is GEAR UP?

GEAR UP stands for “Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs.” It’s a federally funded program in the United States that was established to aid low-income students to succeed in their educational careers after high school.

Bar graph that shows the amount of GEAR UP students who pursued higher education. The graph shows the years 2011 to 2014. Each year the the bar graph goes up a little, showing higher enrollment rates.
The amount of GEAR UP students who pursued higher education. Infographic by Colin Tomczak.

The GEAR UP program provides funding to states and partnerships of colleges and schools to offer a range of services and support to students, starting in middle school and continuing through high school and into their early years of college. Some of the services offered include tutoring grants, scholarships, and college advising. GEAR UP intends to pave the way for students to meet the requirements of colleges early on. 

GEAR UP aims to address barriers that may prevent students from pursuing higher education, especially financial barriers. A student involved with GEAR UP is able to qualify for scholarships specific to them. They provide support to schools through providing financial assistance and help to increase academic performance and graduation rates among disadvantaged students. It also serves these students by providing them with college and career planning. A student involved with GEAR UP is able to qualify for scholarships specific to them. They provide support to schools, through providing financial assistance.

GEAR UP was started in 1998 and has helped close to 600,000 students enrolled in nearly 3,000 different schools across 43 states.  For a school to be eligible to partner with GEAR UP, a minimum of 50% of enrolled students must receive benefits from the federal Free and Reduced-price Lunch program.

How did Cabrini’s GEAR UP get started?

Cabrini has been in contact with Norristown Area School District since before Dr. Raymond Ward, director of the Wolfington Center, arrived at Cabrini in 2015. Cynthia Halpern and Raquel Green, full-time faculty in the Language department, who retired around 2016, were in charge of a mentorship program that was heavily involved with NASD. 

In 2020, NASD received a GEAR UP federal grant. Having worked with Cabrini before, NASD reached out to Cabrini as a collegiate partner for their GEAR UP program. Unfortunately, the pandemic hit soon after and the program start was delayed. 

The following year, AmeriCorps member Andres Burgo set up virtual tutoring with seventh and eighth graders from NASD through GEAR UP. Since then, the tutoring services transitioned to in-person sessions, and the students involved are now juniors and seniors in high school. 

GEAR UP and Cabrini’s final year

Cabrini is still partnered with NASD and still offers the same services through GEAR UP. Currently, Gabriela Chauca, a graduate student at Cabrini, is the GEAR UP program coordinator. Chauca’s job is to recruit Cabrini students to the program. 

Chauca said, “Some of the activities we do through GEAR UP include: informational panels, chaperoning students from Norristown High School on their trips, and a new event for this year will be Saturday community services opportunity open to Norristown High School students, current Cabrini students, and alumni.” 

 Shows A QR code.The QR code can be scanned on a phone, to find the GEAR UP application code.
QR Code to apply to GEAR UP. Photo by Colin Tomczak.

Although any student who is interested can apply, GEAR UP is currently looking for Spanish speakers since the primary communities Cabrini’s GEAR UP program works with include many Hispanic students.

There are a few different ways for students to get involved. Students can email Chauca directly at, or stop by the Wolfington Center, on the third floor of Founders Hall, to learn more information and get involved in different programming. There are also flyers scattered around campus with a QR code that will provide the application.  

There are a few concerns regarding GEAR UP at Cabrini. “My concern is Norristown doesn’t have the dedicated partnerships other places in the city have. NASD is one of Cabrini’s institutional partnerships, alongside the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart and Catholic Relief Services,” Ward said.

Colin Tomczak

You May Also Like

Scroll to Top
Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap