Arizona GEAR UP and our schools are always looking for new and innovative ways to build a college-going culture. At Tonopah Valley High School, they did just that by successfully completing their first-ever College Road Trip earlier this month. Over a four-day trip, Tonopah Valley students and GEAR UP coaches traveled across Arizona and New Mexico to visit multiple college campuses to learn about the schools and their communities.
At the beginning of the year, the coaches announced big plans for students—a College Palooza—a 4-day, 3-night road trip to visit Arizona and New Mexico universities. Students had to meet certain criteria like minimum GPA and good attendance to attend the trip.
“Before this trip, we primarily took day trips to the big universities, so our students didn’t really get to see all of the options out there. With this trip, they got the opportunity to visit schools that we normally couldn’t visit in a day,” Tonopah Valley Coach Mike Valdez said.
On November 8, Mr. Valdez, Ms. Richardson, Ms. Mendoza, and 32 eager students gathered at Tonopah Valley High School to begin their multi-day journey. The group loaded onto a bus and headed east towards their first destination in Tempe, Arizona. After a little over an hour’s drive, they arrived at Arizona State University where they toured the campus and learned about the ASU community. After a visit to Sun Devil Stadium, the students were given a glimpse of life as college students, as they were allowed to explore the student union and get a bite to eat before heading out to the next stop.
After lunch, the crew gathered back onto the bus and headed down I-10 to visit the University of Arizona in Tucson. While on the U of A campus, students learned about the history of the university and what the school has to offer. After the tour, the group explored the Tucson area and ate dinner at a local spot before wrapping up the day and checking in to their hotel.
Day Two was arguably the biggest hit among the students as they traveled to Eastern Arizona College and across state lines to Western New Mexico University where they explored and learned more about the communities and schools.
“When we were touring Eastern Arizona, I saw students buried on their phones. I started to tell them to put their phones away, but it turns out they were applying to Eastern Arizona,” Mr. Valdez said.
Overall, 18 of the 22 seniors on the trip applied to Western New Mexico University while they were on their visit. To close out the day, the group stopped in Silver City, NM for the night.
The next morning, the group loaded up and made its way back to Arizona to visit Northern Arizona University. The trip was a hit among students as one senior who was accepted to NAU confirmed on the visit that it was the school for him. Following the last campus visit of the trip, the group explored Flagstaff where they had dinner and went on a haunted history tour of downtown. The group spent their last night in Flagstaff to rest up before heading back home to Tonopah Valley in the morning.
Students learned about several colleges and applied to multiple schools along the way—a big success. Mr. Valdez sees more and more students coming into the GEAR UP office eager to learn more about college opportunities, and students are asking questions already about the next college road trip.
“It was great to see the students embrace this trip so much. You can see it in the participation now, that this trip was beneficial to our students,” Mr. Valdez said.