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GEAR UP Achievers Hosts its First-Ever Parent Academy

This fall, 49 parents from Lindbergh, Hazen, Renton, Kentwood, Kent-Meridian, Kentridge, and Foster High Schools attended GEAR UP’s first-ever Parent Academy. Parent Academy is an 8-week course designed to help families learn how to best support their students on their path to college by providing information and resources about the college-going process. The sessions were offered in English and Spanish and hosted at the UW GEAR UP Achievers office in Kent, Washington. The English course was co-facilitated by GEAR UP Achievers Program Managers Pulemau Savusa & Quadelle Satterwhite. The Spanish class was co-facilitated by Larissa Reza & Lucia Martinez, both well-known in South King County for their work with students and families in the community. Each week the facilitators focused on a new topic:

  • Session 1: Parent Academy Orientation
  • Session 2: All About High School
  • Session 3: Postsecondary Options
  • Session 4: Applying for College
  • Session 5: Different Ways to Pay for College
  • Session 6: All About FAFSA & WASFA
  • Session 7: Choosing a College
  • Session 8: Transition to College/What to Expect

Parents have a significant impact on their student’s success in education.  When parents understand and engage in the steps their students must take to prepare for, apply to, and successfully start college, students have a higher chance of achieving their post-secondary goals. Families need accessible resources and information about what this journey looks like and safe spaces to have a dialogue and ask questions along the way. GEAR UP sought to create a safe learning community, explore topics in depth, and break down barriers that prevent families from supporting their children by letting them know what postsecondary options are available and the steps needed to get there. Another goal for Parent Academy was to help families understand the financial aspects of pursuing higher education by giving families accurate information to help them make informed decisions, and prepare them for what to expect from the high school to college transition process.

Parents joined our Parent Academy for a variety of reasons. Some of them include:

  • They wanted to gather information: What is the process? How to find scholarships and pay for college? What are all the postsecondary options available?
  • Their children are first-generation college students or parents who never graduated from college and need support.
  • They immigrated to the United States and are not familiar with the U.S. education system.
  • They want to learn how to best support their students.
Parents engaging in conversation

Families shared many fears and worries as they think about their students going to college. Many families are concerned about the costs of college, picking the right college, navigating the application process, their student graduating from college, and more.  Throughout their participation in Parent Academy, many of those fears were addressed, as information provided throughout the course allowed parents to feel more confident in supporting their student with the college-going process.  One parent stated,

“My main worry was how am I going to afford to send my daughter to college. I’ve been pushing her to perform well academically in school so she can get a scholarship, but this has been difficult with the COVID years. But I’ve learned in Parent Academy that there are tons of scholarships available. Parent Academy assisted with showing how to look up and match personality with passions and how that can translate to a scholarship. Parent Academy also helped with ways to apply and what kinds of things to write about in the application for scholarships as well as on college applications. I’m encourage about my daughter’s future and going off into college.”


The figures below show some of the results from the pre- and post-surveys parents took in the English and Spanish courses. Data shows an increase in families’ understanding of college access concepts and their ability to support their students after completing Parent Academy.

Figure 1: English Pre-Survey

Figure 2: Spanish Pre-Survey

Figure 3: English Post-Survey Results

Figure 4: Spanish Post-Survey Results

Throughout the 8 weeks, parents formed a safe learning community where they could learn, share personal stories, and ask questions about the college-going process. Each week, we provide dinner from local businesses in the Kent area and parents shared a meal together before class began. Childcare was also available; families brought their young ones along while they were in class learning content, and their children could enjoy fun and enriching activities. Upon completion, each parent received up to a $160 cash stipend for attending Parent Academy. On the final day, we had a celebration where we awarded parents with a certificate of completion along with a small gift.

Parents at the celebration

GEAR UP Achievers is proud of all the parents who participated, and we are honored to have built relationships with so many families over the past two months. We would like to give a big shoutout to all our GEAR UP coordinators who helped recruit families.  Additionally, we want to thank our partners and facilitators who supported the planning, curriculum development, and logistical work that helped make the first-ever GEAR UP Parent Academy a success!

English course award ceremony
Spanish course award ceremony


Written by Quadelle Satterwhite