A member of the MNPS GEAR UP Nashville team and former MNPS high school counselor who works to help Maplewood High School students get ready for and succeed in college was honored by a national organization for her work last week.
April Gung, a GEAR UP coordinator who has worked in the district for 10 years, won the NCCEP/GEAR UP Professional of the Year Award from the National Council for Community and Education Partnerships at a conference in Washington, D.C. GEAR UP stands for Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs, a federally funded initiative designed to increase the number of low-income students who are prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education.
“April represents what is best about GEAR UP,” said John-Paul Gray, who leads the work for MNPS and worked with several colleagues and partner organizations to nominate Gung for the award.
Working in seven MNPS high schools, the GEAR UP team serves a cohort of students beginning no later than their seventh-grade year and follows them through graduation, focusing on the classes of 2024 and 2025.
Gung, who was a first-generation high school and college graduate herself, used social-emotional learning resources to help students get reacclimated to in-person learning after being away from Maplewood for a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She introduced yoga in P.E. classes to help students self-regulate their emotions through meditation and exercise.
Gung also spearheaded or helped coordinate more than 90 activities to engage students and families during the 2021-22 school year, including college visits, academic counseling, student workshops, career guest speakers, standardized test prep, educational field trips, professional development, job shadowing, job site visits, and parent/family events.
“As a former first-generation high school and college graduate, I know first-hand a number of the opportunity gaps and structural inequities our students face as they prepare for life beyond high school. The GEAR UP grant is truly a transformative tool in increasing access and equity in the lives of MNPS students,” Gung said.
“Whether it be a 4- or 2-year college, trade school, apprenticeship, military, or straight to work with an industry certification already in hand, I LOVE walking alongside Maplewood High School students in their journey toward envisioning and achieving life success. Thanks to the GEAR UP Nashville and Maplewood High School students and staff who support me in thinking BIG about this work. This award would mean nothing if it wasn’t for them and the myriad number of Nashville community and business partners that make it all possible!”