Hector Araujo Is one of the first alumni to come out of Arizona GEAR UP, and he continues to represent GEAR UP on a national level. Hector was first introduced to GEAR UP as a student at Kino Junior High in Mesa, Arizona. In previous grant cycles, Arizona GEAR UP worked in a cohort model that followed a class from middle school through high school graduation.
On his first day of 8th grade, Hector made his way to the GEAR UP office. His motivation? SNACKS.
“They kept talking about free snacks, candy, and all this stuff. And as an eighth-grader, it’s really what motivates you,” Hector said.
In his visit to the office, Hector met his GEAR UP coordinator, Mrs. Johnson, who shared information on the program and encouraged Hector to come in often and ask questions about school and life. Hector continued to return to the office and built a relationship with Mrs. Johnson.
“What GEAR UP stands for outside of preparing you academically to go to college is also that longitudinal mentorship. Where they [coordinators] stay with you over time and are a consistent, positive force in your life,” Hector said.
Mrs. Johnson would spend the next five years supporting Hector and other students through high school graduation.
“She was great at creating an environment that was loving and nurturing,” Hector said about Mrs. Johnson, “She understood who we were and where we came from and met us where we were at to provide what we needed.”
Hector and his class graduated from Westwood High School in 2006, and he would go on to attend the University of Arizona. Even in his time in university, Mrs. Johnson remained in contact with Hector.
“Her commitment to being a part of our lives was essentially what kept me going,” Hector said.
In his time at the University of Arizona, Hector was a student-athlete competing in cross country and track while pursuing a political science degree. Hector graduated from the U of A with a bachelor’s degree in political science and a double minor in Spanish and business administration.
Since graduation, Hector has had many roles which support a variety of communities and youth programs. Currently, he is the Manager of Youth Leadership for Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA). He works with organizations across the nation to help build drug-free communities.
When reflecting on the most impactful moments in GEAR UP, Hector always returns to the support from Mrs. Johnson.
“The reason I was able to excel is because in the days I didn’t believe in myself, I was able to believe in the belief others had in me,” Hector said, “And the person that continuously believed in me was Mrs. Johnson.”