MV students GEAR UP for future

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September 10, 2010 - 12:00 AM

MORAN — Ryan Moran encouraged Marmaton Valley students to be members of his POSSE Thursday.
Moran, 28, a motivational speaker from Indianapolis, spoke about his POSSE theme in an hour-long presentation that shared a number of tips to make the students’ upcoming school year more enjoyable and productive.
He was invited as part of Marmaton Valley’s GEAR UP program, a federally funded program designed to increase the number of students prepared to enter and succeed in life after high school.
The session included an impromptu rap song with the students providing the verses for Moran’s a cappella melody.
Moran’s POSSE requires its members to be:
— “Positive;”
— “Open;”
— “Sincere;”
— Having “Spirit;”
— Not being “Exclusive.”
“How positive you are can affect everything about your day,” Moran said. A student who dreads going to class, considering a never-ending, no-paying job, likely will be miserable.
Those who are positive, however, can create a more cheerful environment, and in turn, make their classmates more positive as well.
The students also should remain open to new ideas and thoughts.
Being inquisitive and not exclusionary will serve the students well in class.
Likewise, being honest and sincere 100 percent of the time builds trust among others, he continued.
Maintaining spirit and not excluding others tied together Moran’s lesson.
“Students have their talents and their gifts,” he said. “Including others makes it a better experience for everyone.”
Students often don’t realize the influence they have on their peers, he concluded. And the students have the ability to react to all sorts of situations in a positive manner. By encouraging the talent and spirit in others, great things can happen.
That Moran was in Moran for his day was not lost on the guest speaker.
“This is so cool. I’m looking for sort of a souvenir,” he joked. “I wonder if I can find me a sign.”

SPONSORING Moran’s visit — an unofficial kickoff for their senior year — was the Marmaton Valley High School senior class, through GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs).
For the past five years — when the current seniors were in the seventh grade — the students in that class have partaken in a number of field trips, workshops and other activities as part of the GEAR UP program, explained Brenda Armstrong, GEAR UP director.
Armstrong oversees GEAR UP activities for the 12th-graders at Marmaton Valley, Fort Scott and Altoona-Midway high schools, the three schools that qualified for the federal grant starting in 2005. She works out of Neosho County Community College, which administers the program regionally for the United States Department of Education.
In other instances, GEAR UP is dedicated to qualifying students who might otherwise be at risk of ending their education upon high school graduation, Armstrong said. Students who would be first-generation college students in their families, or those who qualify for free or reduced-price lunches are given the highest priority.
“That’s the way it works in metropolitan areas,” Armstrong said.
But in Marmaton Valley, with its senior class of 35 students, the entire class is small enough “that we don’t have to single out anybody. We include everyone,” Armstrong said.
Students have attended leadership conferences — a trip to Illinois introduced the students to Moran’s motivational speeches, thus prompting Thursday’s invitation — and participated in other activities, such as job shadowing or mentoring programs, Armstrong said.
“It got me interested in college,” senior Michelle Heskett said of GEAR UP. “We’ve gotten a lot of information.”
Likewise, Heskett’s classmates Eve Jefferis and Halie Luken touted activities geared toward particular careers.
Heskett and Luken credited GEAR UP in part for sparking their interest in teaching careers.
GEAR UP will take interested students on campus visits to a number of area colleges throughout the Midwest, something they otherwise may not be able to do, Armstrong said.
“Campus visits will be our main theme this year,” Armstrong said. “We’re encouraging students to take their parents along as well.”
GEAR UP also works with students on their college application process, including finding financial aid sources and scholarships.

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