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A group of Old Dominion University students has been chosen to take part in a 10-week state program providing low-income students with greater access to a college education.

The State Council of Higher Education for Virginia's Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Program (GEAR UP) is a partnership providing services and programs focused on increasing high school graduation and college-attendance rates of low-income students, improving the academic performance of low-income students, and educating students and their families about the real costs and financial resources available to make college affordable for every child.

The ODU students and their academic programs are:
- Natasha Billie, Windsor, Conn. -- M.S., education, higher education emphasis;
- Tiffany Blue, Chesterfield, Va. -- B.A., English;
- Koren Goodman, Suffolk, Va. -- M.S., education, higher education emphasis;
- Jennifer Schantz, Hampton, Va. -- M.A., education;
- Christy Walker, Virginia Beach, Va. -- M.S., education, higher education emphasis;
- Quinton Walker, Manassas, Va. -- B.A., history;
- Xingming Yu, Norfolk, Va. -- M.S., education.

They will be paired with students at Maury and Granby high schools in Norfolk and will mentor them on college opportunities.

"I chose to apply to be a mentor for the GEAR UP program because I am an education major and I wanted to gain some career experience and also to help other students like myself," Blue said. "It was not too long ago that I was in high school so I remember what teens have to go through and I wanted to help."

"If I've gone the distance in helping all, and only succeeded in helping one, at least I've made an accomplishment," said Goodman. "Lakeland High School in Suffolk was the foundation of my success as a student at ODU. It is now more important to me that I intervene at the ground level of these students to reassure them that they matter and what they do matters."

"I applied to the GEAR UP program because I have a strong desire to mentor students," Billie said. "As I reflect back to my high school years to the present, I am grateful for the support from family, friends and mentors who encourage, motivate and believe that I can make it and accomplish goals that I have set for myself. I want to be that positive influence on my students in the GEAR UP program. I want to support them and challenge them to believe in themselves so that they can 'reach for the stars' and achieve all they set out to do."

This article was posted on: March 17, 2004

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Old Dominion University is an equal opportunity, affirmative action institution.