Media Contact: Kristi Allison
Oklahoma GEAR UP students Averie Hinchey of Guymon and Viktoria Smith of Ardmore have been selected to attend first lady Michelle Obama’s Beating the Odds Summit at the White House on July 23.
As part of her Reach Higher initiative, Obama will welcome more than 130 college-bound students from across the country. The event will focus on sharing tools and strategies students can use to successfully transition to college and the resources they will need to persist and complete the next level of their education.
“The State Regents commend Averie and Viktoria for being selected to attend the Beating the Odds Summit,” said Chancellor Glen D. Johnson. “We recognize their hard work and commitment to overcome obstacles, persist through high school and go on to college. We are proud these excellent students will represent Oklahoma at the White House.”
This daylong event will include a panel, moderated by E! News host Terrence Jenkins, featuring Obama, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, musical artist Wale, and Manuel Contreras, a rising senior at Brown University and co-founder of 1vyG. Wale will also perform a concert for the students.
Additionally, Hinchey and Smith will participate in workshops and panels led by the U.S. Department of Education, Google’s Jaime Casap and other leaders in K-12 and postsecondary education. They will also have an opportunity to visit with members of Oklahoma’s congressional delegation.
Hinchey was honored as Guymon High School’s 2015 valedictorian and will attend Oklahoma State University with plans to major in communication sciences disorders. With 24 dialects in use throughout her high school, she worked tirelessly to overcome language barriers by planning events that engaged all students. She also coordinated a freshman transition camp for incoming freshmen and their parents. She serves on the state Oklahoma GEAR UP Advisory Committee and was selected to speak at GEAR UP’s state conference.
Smith is a first-generation college student. She held down several full-time jobs and cared for her ailing grandmother while achieving academic success at Ardmore High School. As an Oklahoma’s Promise recipient, Smith has taken challenging classes and earned good grades to qualify for the scholarship program. She plans to attend Murray State College and pursue a nursing degree, a career inspired by caring for her grandmother.
Administered by the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, GEAR UP – Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs – is a federal grant program through the U.S. Department of Education that provides opportunities for middle and high school students to acquire academic skills, planning information, financial assistance and support they need to succeed in college. Oklahoma was awarded its third consecutive, multiyear GEAR UP state grant totaling $34.9 million in 2011. The mission of the state grant is to help increase the college-bound population in communities by providing services, initiatives, and information to strengthen classroom learning and student achievement, empower educators and community leaders and educate students and families.
For more information, visit okgearup.org, call 800.858.1840 or find us on Facebook under okgearup.
SPECIAL NOTE: The U.S. Department of Education awarded Oklahoma state GEAR UP grants totaling $20.5 million in August 1999, $20.6 million in August 2005 and $34.9 million in September 2011. The grants have been matched by more than $48 million from state and partner resources. From 1999 to 2011, GEAR UP received more than $45.6 million in federal funds. With the addition of the 2011 grant, Oklahoma’s GEAR UP program will ultimately receive more than $80.6 million in federal funds by 2018.