Austin Carter and Jazarae Kelsey, two members of Wichita State University’s Kansas Kids @ GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) will visit first lady Michelle Obama at the White House on Thursday, July 23, in recognition of their perseverance and commitment to pursuing higher education.
Kansas Kids @ GEAR UP is a federally funded college readiness program administered through Wichita State University.
The Washington visit is part of the first lady’s Beating the Odds Summit, which brings together college-bound high school graduates from the class of 2015 from across the country to the White House for a celebratory event.
The summit includes 150 students who will “engage in resource-rich panels and discussions related to better preparation for their academic journeys,” according to Eric Waldo, executive director of Reach Higher, the umbrella initiative for the Beating the Odds Summit. Topics will include how to get academic support in college, how to form strong networks at school and how to prepare for future opportunities.
“The Beating the Odds Summit will celebrate students, while introducing them to some basic tools they will need to succeed at the next level,” said Waldo. “We also hope that students will make new friends and contacts with whom they will network beyond the event itself.”
Carter and Kelsey are recent graduates of Washington High School in Kansas City, Kan. They have been participants in the Washington High School chapter of GEAR UP, which serves as headquarters for Kansas Region 2 of the statewide GEAR UP organization. Region 2 serves more than 400 students in Wyandotte, Leavenworth, Douglas, Johnson, Franklin and Miami counties, placing a priority on students in the foster care system.
GEAR UP Region 2 coordinator Cathy Crist said the students have worked hard to overcome obstacles and are on the right path toward the life-enriching experience of higher education.
“Both Austin and Jazarae have faced many hardships in their lives, but both have risen to the challenges they have encountered and graduated with honors from high school,” said Crist. “They will both be first-generation college students at K-State this fall and will be exploring all of the academic and personal enrichment opportunities that come with the college experience.”