In an attempt to gain information to help them to increase the literacy rate of Louisiana students, GSU English professors Dr. Pamela M. Payne and Melanie C. Thomas attended the 2007 Southeast Regional GEAR UP conference in New Orleans. The conference was held Oct. 3 – 5.Payne said, “I attended the conference in hope of getting information about the literacy component. I am very interested in getting young people to read and write more. In this age of advanced technology, there is a void in literacy for some children.”
Thomas said, “Too many high school and college students have poor writing skills because they are not given a good foundation. I attended the GEAR UP conference to try and find ways to help students improve their writing skills.”
According to Kerry Davidson, project director of Louisiana GEAR UP, the conference was “a collaborative effort among state and partnership grants from Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina.”
The primary mission of LA GEAR UP is to elevate the academic achievement of low-income students, leading to broader success in school, college and careers.
The presenters of the conference included high school and university students, teachers, parent liaisons, community leaders, principals, and GEAR UP staff.
The conference began with Teri Lesesne, whose topic was “Adolescent Literary: MIA.”
“I learned that students can be encouraged to read more if the teachers take time to identify books that are appealing,” Dr. Payne said. “We must do our part in helping students to find that love for reading. This will spill over and help to enhance their writing as well.”
Payne teaches an English methods course and supervises teacher candidates majoring in English.
“I plan to use the knowledge that I gained in assisting prospective teachers, as well as others, in how to get students to read more and not just to complete assignments,” she said.
Thomas said the proposal workshop was very helpful.
“Stephanie Williamson, the LA GEAR UP assistant director, gave us information about developing a proposal for middle and high school teachers,” she said.
“My main objective for attending the conference was to learn about the grants that are available. I was glad that I had an opportunity to speak with Savitri Scott because she possessed a wealth of knowledge and was very helpful,” said Thomas. Scott is the LA GEAR UP English Language Arts coordinator.
“I enjoyed all of the sessions that I attended,” Thomas said. Parental involvement was also stressed. The presenters told us how to make parents feel comfortable so that they will want to get involved in their children’s educational process.
“We were told that sometimes parents are too intimidated to go to schools and monitor the progress of their children.”
“The portion of the conference that I enjoyed most was the student panel at the welcoming dinner. GEAR UP participants told the audience how the program has benefited them and helped to prepare them for college and the world beyond. Hearing them has really inspired me to try to create a literary GEAR UP summer camp at GSU, said Thomas.
Payne said, “I would highly recommend the conference to all educators, especially those who are concerned about how students interact with printed materials. Everyone at the conference seemed to have a genuine concern about the reading and writing skills of our youth.