Rio Grande Valley high school superintendents, principals, teachers and other partners of The University of Texas-Pan American GEAR UP program gathered at its final Executive Alliance meeting May 10 to review and celebrate the year's college readiness efforts and successes.

Close to 9,000 students comprise the UTPA GEAR UP cohort, 99 percent of whom have been provided GEAR UP services, such as tutoring or taking class to visit college campuses, during their senior year. A year-end survey by UTPA GEAR UP staff indicates 97 percent of the students in the program said they want to obtain a two-year or four-year degree from an institution of higher learning. To date, 89 percent of GEAR UP students have applied to a college or university with UTPA, South Texas College (STC) and The University of Texas at Brownsville being the top three choices, respectively.

Special guests addressing the alliance included Dr. Robert S. Nelsen, UPTA president; Dr. Shirley Reed, STC president; and Dr. Juliet Garcia, UTB president, who expressed their gratitude to the educators for their commitment to student success as well as the institutions' commitment to continuing their efforts toward providing a quality education.

Local math and science educators were also honored at the meeting for their dedication and passion for their subject area as well as their innovative use of instructional equipment in the classroom. Math and Science Teachers of the Year were Alicia Alfonso, Palmview High School (Agilemind); James Ulatowski, Economedes High School (Texas Instruments); Ida Montes, Los Fresnos High School (Texas Instruments); and Mary Gregory, Weslaco High School (Vernier).

During the event, each UTPA GEAR UP high school was also recognized with a plaque for their project participation and dedication to the program's mission of significantly increasing the number of students who are prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education.