State secretary of education visits Harrisonburg High School

HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) — Virginia Secretary of Education Atif Qarni visited Harrisonburg High School on Wednesday to celebrate National GEAR UP Week.

The GEAR UP program promotes college access and preparation for underrepresented students at the school, and students shared their college goals with Qarni after school.

"Their stories are powerful," Qarni said. "These young people face notable challenges. Most are the first in their families to attend colleges. Their struggles would be even greater were it not for the support of Harrisonburg's supportive GEAR UP Virginia program which aligns well with the governor's priorities."

Through GEAR UP, the 2020 students receive support and scholarship through their first year of college. They also are afforded the opportunity to visit several college campuses.

"A lot of the colleges I went to I wouldn't think of going there to see if I liked it or not," said Dami Lola, a GEAR UP student. "Them giving us an opportunity to go there gave me an opportunity to see if I want to go there, to see if it's for me, and that's nice."

GEAR UP provides access to Tutor.com, and some students travel to elementary schools to mentor younger kids.

"I'm also a mentor for Bluestone [Elementary]," Christian Kevi Arostegui said, "so I'm able to go and change a student's life, just be a role model for them."