May 13, 2009
Yvette Morgan’s passion for student literacy
and education is reflected in her ambitious undertaking as
Co-Director of St. John’s University’s GEAR UP
program. This passion was clearly evident recently at the
U.S. Department of Education where
as an invited guest speaker she presented “Examples of Success: How
GEAR UP Programs Boost College Readiness,” at an Education Policy
Commended by the U.S. Department of Education for her leadership
skills, commitment to student and teacher training, promotion of
parental involvement and building meaningful community
partnerships, Director Morgan was chosen from more than 300 GEAR UP
project directors to share data on St. John’s GEAR UP project goals
and demonstrate a successful platform to increase college readiness
in urban districts.
GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate
Programs) is a federally-funded program established by the U.S.
Department of Education to increase the number of low-income,
disadvantaged students that graduate from high school and enroll at
a postsecondary institution.
“I was asked to present based on my participation as a panelist
during a New Director’s Meeting last October,” Morgan says. “The
GEAR UP program has existed for over 10 years and this is the first
time the program has been spotlighted by the Department.”
St. John’s GEAR UP program works with students at Oliver Wendell
Holmes Middle School (I.S. 204) and Albert Shanker School (I.S.
126), both in Long Island City, following them from middle school
through high school while providing tutoring, mentoring, exposure
to college activities, academic and social counseling, financial
aid seminars, residential summer camps, parent workshops and
professional development for teachers.
When asked about the goal of GEAR UP, Morgan replies: “No child
rises to low expectations. I believe in having high expectations
for every single one of our students. Our goal is to
encourage them to explore the many options available to them and
emphasize that college is attainable and affordable.”
Her devotion to the program, a dedicated staff, and University and
community support have enabled the GEAR UP Co- Director to
transform St. John’s program into one of the premier, respected
programs in the nation.
A Longtime GEAR UP Provider
St. John’s has been a GEAR UP provider since 1999. In 2005, the
program graduated 68 percent of its high school students on time
compared to New York City which graduated 51 percent. Furthermore,
over 70 percent of the GEAR UP graduates enrolled in college that
With the responsibility for providing services to 800 middle school
students and 650 high school students (attending over 44 high
schools), tracking students’ progress and securing resources to
ensure they are college-ready is hard work but the GEAR UP staff
are equipped for the challenges.
Felicia Harper, Assistant Director of St. John’s GEAR Up program,
coordinates the after-school programs, designs tutoring curriculum,
schedules college tours, and recruits staff.
“This program has not only taught me the necessary skills to assist
students in need, but has also inspired me to continue contributing
to the community,” she notes.
“I have a great creative staff of young people here,” adds the
Program Co-Director. “Our staff is formerly trained and serves as
role models for students by establishing meaningful relationships
and positive support system.”
In an effort to fulfill the program’s goal to acquaint students
with an array of resources and a valuable education, she has
partnered with numerous community and state-based agencies
including New York State Higher Education Services Corporation, the
Consultation Center at Yale University, Goodwill Industries and
Department of Youth and Community Development.
“I can honestly say this program has truly been a blessing to me
and at the end of the day it’s about creating a systemic change in