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GEAR UP Students Visit University of Pittsburgh
Nov. 19, 2021 -- GEAR UP 2 New Heights students visited the University of Pittsburgh (Pitt) to continue their exposure to accomplished, public colleges close to home. GEAR UP’s goal is to encourage students in the exploration of who they are, schools they can build connections to, and the programs of study available to them. The information students gained will serve as a foundation upon which they can base their future college searches. 
During the visit to the University of Pittsburgh, students received insight into the school’s history, colleges, resources, affordability, colleges, and programs. Students were eager to share with admissions counselors their desires to succeed beyond high school in careers such as trauma surgeons, engineers, lawyers, artists, pediatric nurses, environmentalists, public health workers, and more. This information allowed for the tours to be catered specifically towards those expressed desires, allowing students to truly see themselves as future Pitt Panther.
Dr. Kenyon Bonner ‘90, Heights Hall of Fame 2021 Inductee and Vice Provost for Student Affairs, was the guest presenter who welcomed Heights students to the University. Dr. Bonner praised Cleveland Heights-University Heights School District for being very instrumental in preparing him for college as a first-generation college student.
As an incoming Heights freshman, he did not automatically know if he could go to college due to finances and the absence of graduates in the home. With this in mind, Dr. Bonner encouraged students to persevere towards their aspiration of college even if they are first in their families to do so. He went on to motivate students by sharing four useful tips they can always go back to as they prepare for and enter into college. The tips were:
1. Reach out to peers, family, and faculty for help. He advised students, "Do not be afraid to ask for help...don't suffer in silence, there are people who want to help."
2. Learn the power of being yourself. Dr. Bonner expressed how the diversity in Heights allowed him to be happy and satisfied with himself. He shared, "The folk who are true to themselves are more confident and in the end, more successful."
3. Be sure to take care of yourself. “Students who are in tune with their emotions and understand the benefits of rest and fun will go far."
4. Perhaps the most significant word of advice Dr. Bonner left students with was to "...lift as you climb. I'm here because of other people who did that for me. Take all you have learned and benefited from, and use it to lift someone else up and keep the cycle going.."
The day was full of information that prompted students to ask brilliant questions demonstrating curiosity and interest in the University of Pittsburgh. They were eager to hear from current Pitt students who spoke on topics such as how COVID affected their learning, fraternities and sororities, support for the LGBTQ+ and students of color communities, and the challenges of on-campus versus off-campus living.
At the end of the visit, more students said they could see themselves at the University of Pittsburgh, 80% of which will be first-generation college students.