The pandemic brought new challenges to everyone over the past year and a half. But for GEAR UP Coach, KenJuan Lockhart, he embraced the challenge and helped students succeed in spite of COVID-19.
Mr. Lockhart joined GEAR UP in 2020 as a coach, and he has taught English at Buckeye Union High School for four years. “When the opportunity came up, it made sense because I get to reach a broader range of students on a daily basis,” Mr. Lockhart said.
Mr. Lockhart relates well to students and personally understands the difficult circumstances students experience. “When I look across the table and see a student, who comes from a similar environment as I did, that to me is the biggest benefit,” Mr. Lockhart said. “Sure, the activities and trips are fun, but helping these students find a direction and purpose is the biggest thing for me.”
Mr. Lockhart radiates positivity, and optimism is another key to his success. “That’s what I’m all about. If I can be positive, I’m going to be positive…” Mr. Lockhart said. “Let’s find things to celebrate. Every day is a blessing, and it’s a gift to do something with it.”
When the school year shifted online, he saw the challenge as a teaching opportunity for his students. “The pandemic was a challenge and also a chance to teach the kids that things like this happen in life. Sometimes we have to pivot, and you’re going to have to adjust and make changes when you don’t want to, and it’s how you handle those circumstances that reflect how things are going to be in the future.” Mr. Lockhart said.
At the beginning of the year, he set a goal to make sure at least one of his students earned the Dorrance Scholarship, a prestigious scholarship that is valued at up to $120,000 towards college education. He worked with students individually, guiding them through the application process and getting all their paperwork right. Mr. Lockhart and his students worked on things like mock interviews, building resumes, how to dress for an interview, and how to convey professional mannerisms.
Hard work paid off. With the help of Mr. Lockhart and GEAR UP, not one, but two students earned the Dorrance Scholarship, and received a full-ride scholarship to the college of their choice.
“What GEAR UP does is strategic; it allows for one-on-one real conversations and relationship building opportunity to help take the steps with students to help them get to where they want to be.”