Arleth Rodrigues Rascon, from Gillette, has been selected as the National Council for Community and Education Partnership (NCCEP) GEAR UP Wyoming Student of the Year nominee and received the Prudential Spirit of Community Award in recognition of her work to make college more accessible for all.
A dual and concurrent student at Gillette College and 2020 graduate of Campbell County High School, Rodrigues Rascon is the first in her family to graduate high school. She will attend Amherst College in Amherst, Massachusetts, this fall and plans to major in neuroscience and economics. Rodrigues Rascon was also accepted to Princeton, Tufts and Middlebury College, among several other prestigious universities.
“Higher education is extremely important because it opens up your mind to opportunities and the possibility of a better life,” she said. “I’m excited to see what else I can do in the world.”
According to Rodrigues Rascon, her involvement in GEAR UP Wyoming and her experience taking dual and concurrent classes in biology and anatomy at Gillette College played a big role in her success.
“The staff and faculty at Gillette College were incredibly supportive and encouraged my passion for learning,” she said. “Without those experiences, I probably wouldn’t have discovered how much I like science and academics.”
GEAR UP stands for Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs and is a federally funded grant program that offers services such as academic support, college preparatory testing, college application guidance and other family services to income-eligible 7th – 12th graders.
As a student, Rodrigues Rascon noticed that while over a fourth of GEAR UP students in Campbell County are Hispanic, information and events in the community and at her school about college were only available in English. She decided to help translate the information into Spanish to help the program become more effective in supporting Hispanic students and their families.
Rodrigues Rascon partnered with Kristin Young, GEAR UP site coordinator at Northern Wyoming Community College District, to make the program in Campbell County bilingual. She dedicated her LEDA (Leadership Enterprise for a Diverse America) project to the effort, calling it “Un Futuro Accesible”, meaning “An Accessible Future”.
Young says that thanks to Rodgrigues Rascon’s hard work, the GEAR UP Wyoming program is well on its way to being bilingual.
“Arleth’s volunteerism as a liaison to the Spanish speaking community has improved college access in our community, and many of her translations have been used statewide by our program,” said Young. “She knows that the decision to attend college is a family decision, and she is a wonderful advocate for college access.”
Thanks to Rodrigues Rascon, the GEAR UP program is able to be more inclusive of Spanish speaking families, making it more likely they will achieve higher education.