West Virginia GEAR UP Graduate Gives Back to New Cohort of Students as She Succeeds in Academia

Kaci FosterProgram updates

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – “West Virginia GEAR UP has touched my life in ways that I never would have imagined as a seventh grader– the year when I was first introduced to the program. I’m so glad that I’ve stayed in touch with the people that I’ve met throughout this journey,” said Taylor Raby, a 2014 graduate from Scott High School.

Taylor has been working as the College Access Program Specialist for West Virginia GEAR UP for the past two years. Having completed both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Psychology, she is currently pursuing her EdS degree. At the end of July, Taylor will be leaving her position with West Virginia GEAR UP to begin a year-long internship working under a school psychologist. 

Taylor feels that West Virginia GEAR UP has played a vital role in her college career. She added, “West Virginia GEAR UP ensured that I was aptly prepared to go away for school. There were not many Scott High School graduates at the college where I attended. With the help of West Virginia GEAR UP, I knew that everything would be okay.”

After graduating high school and beginning college, Taylor knew that she wanted to give back to the program. “I was already familiar with the great things that the West Virginia GEAR UP program can do for students. When the opportunity arose to be a counselor at the GEAR UP U a few years ago, I jumped at the chance. I truly enjoyed camp when I attended as a student, so I was excited to be able to give back as a counselor. When I was a camper, one of my counselors gave me some advice that helped me to decide which college that I would eventually attend. So, I wanted to pass that advice along to the next generation of GEAR UP U students,” Taylor stated.

West Virginia GEAR UP further effected Taylor’s life when she was asked to speak about her college experiences at the Student Leadership Academy. After her speech, she relayed that she was graduating a semester early from college and was looking into graduate programs. Elizabeth Manuel, the Director of West Virginia GEAR UP, called a few weeks later and asked if Taylor was interested in working with the program. Not long she finished her undergraduate degree, she began her position with West Virginia GEAR UP.

Even though her tenure is now coming to an end, Taylor cherishes her memories of West Virginia GEAR UP. She reminisced, “My favorite memory, both as a student and employee, of the program is camp. There are too many fun memories to choose from as a student. However, as an employee, I enjoyed it when campers met with their counselors to discuss college. The campers had all sorts of questions about my personal college experiences, as well as general college questions. What shocked me the most was the content of these questions. They asked me how to schedule classes and what happened if they did not like their roommate in college.”

Taylor continued, “I was pleasantly surprised that they wanted to learn more about the day-to-day aspect of college than social aspects. The fact that their inquiries were more towards the academic side was quite encouraging. I could tell that West Virginia GEAR UP was planting the seed and getting them to truly consider what opportunities college can offer.”

As for the next generation of West Virginia GEAR UP students, Taylor has some advice. She wants the students to know that it is okay to ask for help or guidance when they need it. Also, they should keep an open mind when it comes to new opportunities.

Taylor truly is a West Virginia GEAR UP success story! We congratulate her on her accomplishments and wish her the best in her future endeavors!