Superintendent Lynn Torres

As superintendent of schools for Lufkin ISD, it is important to me that students are prepared for success when they leave the halls of Lufkin High School.

With that in mind, I am proud that Lufkin ISD is implementing the Linking Education to Success (LETS) Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) grant that was received in 2018. The LETS GEAR UP grant is funded by the U.S. Department of Education and is a seven-year program serving more than 1,100 students in eighth and ninth grade.

This is the fourth time Lufkin ISD received a GEAR UP grant, which has supported nearly 3,000 Lufkin ISD students with more than $10 million in federal grant funds over the years.

The LETS GEAR UP program creates activities, such as a series of educational summer camps, to promote awareness of post-secondary education opportunities. The program aims to increase cohort students’ academic performance, enrollment in advanced placement courses, graduation rates, and matriculation to and success in post-secondary education.

Even with COVID restrictions, program director Vickie Evans and coordinators Elizabeth Lopez and Monique Nunn put together some outstanding virtual camps, held in July, for incoming freshmen and eighth graders. All these camps were funded by the GEAR UP grant.

■ Robotics Summer Camp, involved 21 students led by LHS Career and Technology teachers and upper class LHS robotics students. Campers utilized the EV3 Lego Mindstorms kits to build various EV3 robots and learned how to program the robots by using the Lego Mindstorms EV3 Programming software. This hands-on camp proved to be highly engaging for students.

■ Empower Camp, led by high school teachers and counselors, prepared girls going into high school on how to create a positive sense of self, practice self-control and learn decision-making skills and pro-social connectedness.

■ Escape to Ninth Grade was a bridge camp to help students learn how to become successful high school students. The coordinators created a virtual escape room where students worked in groups to complete assignments. More than 200 students participated in the camps learning activities from how to use Google Classroom to creating a dream board to develop and acknowledge their potential dreams. Data shows that students who participated in this camp have higher grades and greater success with virtual learning

■ Algebra I Boot Camp resulted in 70 students learning algebra concepts that would jumpstart them into the first six weeks of Algebra I instruction. This camp was taught through fun, interactive videos and puzzle-solving activities.

Now that school is back in session, GEAR UP is busy encouraging students to take challenging classes and educating parents about post-secondary options for their child. They offer after-school academic support and mentoring for students transitioning to and from middle school.

The GEAR UP coordinators encourage students to think about careers and college choices. GEAR UP is conducting barrier surveys to find out what the grant can be used for to ensure that all students do not have barriers to higher education.

Be looking for upcoming information on these surveys on the Lufkin ISD social media platforms so that you can participate.

To be presented this grant once is an honor, but to receive it a fourth time is beyond what I could have hoped. This grant has allowed us to leverage more resources to ensure that all Lufkin ISD students will be college and career ready when they graduate from high school.

I am so proud that Lufkin ISD was one of the recipients of the GEAR UP grant because there were only two independent school districts in the state of Texas —Lufkin and DeSoto — who received the honor.

This grant will help to ensure students are ready for the next step after high school. It’s just another reason why I’m Lufkin Proud!