LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - 2017 Lufkin High School Gear Up graduate Isaac Montilla didn’t have a plan for life after high school until he was introduced to the Gear Up program in middle school.
"And they kind of rounded up a bunch of us that kind of didn’t have a real plan or future after high school and was just like hey you guys have potential,” said Montilla.
The Gear Up program goal is to help prepare low-income students for college while learning valuable skill-sets. "Be on time, I know that’s so basic but it’s just like hey be on time, dress professional, get a suit, get a tie and many times writing an essay,” said Montilla.
Destine Denning and Ernesto Alvarado are also 2017 graduates from the Gear Up program and shared their experience with Senator John Cornyn.
"I learned about the different scholarships that I didn’t realize were right in front of my face,” said Denning.
"Beforehand all I had seen were just regular not minimum wage jobs, but local jobs around town. Gear Up really focused me to a point to where I wanted to go to college, I wanted to receive a better pay,” said Alvarado.
Senator Cornyn introduced the Gear Up for Success Act in January in efforts to improve the gaining early awareness and readiness for the program.
Senator Cornyn said after hearing the success stories from students and school officials shows that the Gear Up program is beneficial for students.
"I think one of the things I’ve noticed about the Gear Up program for the students is that they have a lot of confidence. I think they have a lot more confidence than I had at that age because they have a better idea of what they need to do,” said Cornyn.
Most importantly, the students said with the help of their Gear Up coordinators, teachers, and state officials preparing them for education beyond high school has allowed them to encourage others.
"Take advantage of what you got in front you, second chances don’t come around too often, so make the best of what you got now,” said Alvarado.
Over the past 20 years, nearly 3,000 Lufkin students have benefited from more than $10 million in federal gear up grants.