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Two Taft High Students Chosen to Represent Oregon in Washington, D.C.

BillyAnn Stempel and Alexa Taunton headed to National Youth Conference


Vicky Roller, Taft HS Counselor (Vicky.Roller@lincoln.k12.or.us / 503-510-6593)

Stephanie Carnahan, GEAR UP Project Director (stephanie_carnahan@ous.edu / 541-346-5761)

LINCOLN CITY, OR – May 18, 2012:  Two Taft High School students in Lincoln City, BillyAnn Stempel and Alexa Taunton, have been selected to represent Oregon at the upcoming National Youth Congress in Washington, D.C.  Both students are participants in Oregon’s GEAR UP program (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) which works to increase the number of low-income students who are prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education, either at a community college or a 4-year college or university.

Oregon has been a recipient of the federal GEAR UP grant since 2008. Lincoln City is one of 22 communities across the state receiving funding and support to implement community-specific plans to create a college-going culture, starting in the 7th grade and continuing through high school graduation, which focuses on academic and other types of preparation for college.

The National Council for Community and Education Partnerships organizes the national GEAR UP conference every summer, and with generous support from Texas Instruments this year, they have added the Youth Congress. The Congress is a youth leadership program that implements a student-focused curriculum, blending leadership development with life skills and strategies for increased learning. GEAR UP youth who participate in the Congress will gain new experiences participating in a professional conference, and will interact and learn with other students from around the country. The students will also learn to be advocates for their schools and communities and will participate with their GEAR UP Program in visits with their U.S. Representatives on Capitol Hill.

“BillyAnn and Alexa are bright and shining examples of the students who GEAR UP is serving,” said Stephanie Carnahan, GEAR UP director. “We are thrilled to be able to offer them this once in a lifetime opportunity. The Congress will bring together students from around the country for this high-impact event that will teach them leadership and communication skills as well as how to be advocates for their schools and communities.”

Vicky Roller, a counselor at Taft High School, said, “We are ecstatic that BillyAnn and Alexa have been given this opportunity and look forward to them bringing the skills they learn back to Taft.” 

Assistant principal Tiana Tucker said, “I am impressed by the quality of the girls and their work ethic when it comes to improving their school. We are proud of them for representing Taft at a National Youth conference”. 

When asked about this opportunity BillyAnn remarked, “In a small community opportunities like this aren’t readily available. I am very proud to be recognized for my efforts and I hope everything we learn will impact our school in a positive way”.

Alexa Taunton said, “Hard work and being involved with school pay off. I am grateful for this once in a lifetime opportunity.” 

For more information: Oregon GEAR UP, National Council for Community and Education Partnerships

Oregon GEAR UP is a federally-funded program designed to increase the number of low-income students who are prepared to enroll and succeed in college. The program is administered by the Oregon University System.

Oregon University System (OUS) comprises seven distinguished public universities, reaching more than one million people each year through on-campus classes, statewide public services and lifelong learning.

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