My name is Emily Crawford and I am the GEAR UP Ambassador at the University of Nevada, Reno. I have been with the Nevada State GEAR UP Grant for almost 10 years. I began as a GEAR UP student at Wooster High School in Reno, Nevada in the second cohort. In college, I was selected to participate in the GEAR UP Alumni Leadership Academy (GUALA). There, I was provided with mentorship to help me grow professionally and guide my career path. A requirement of GUALA was to participate in a year of volunteer service in our local GEAR UP communities. I went back and volunteered with our current cohort when they were middle school students and was inspired by their determination and dreams. I wanted to stand by them and support them through their journey towards post-secondary success.

I have been a GEAR UP professional with the current cohort for 3 years. As the UNR Ambassador, I provide outreach services to all 20 GEAR UP schools across the state of Nevada. I facilitate workshops and camps related to college readiness, financial management, financial aid, career exploration, character development, and I provide one-on-one advising for students.

This year has been exciting as our current cohort has a group of graduating seniors. Senior year is the best year of high school and it has been exciting to work with the seniors as they prepare for new endeavors after high school. Throughout the past 3 years, I have mentored GEAR UP students across the state, and this year I have worked with them and their families to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, apply for colleges, apply for scholarships, and get prepared for life after high school.

Many of my students got into their dream colleges, and received enough scholarships to get a college degree debt free. I, myself, received two college degrees debt free—thanks to support from my GEAR UP mentors, and it has provided me incredible freedom in my professional pursuits. Therefore, it has been beyond rewarding talking to students as they find out that they too will be getting a college degree debt free. I have watched GEAR UP students across the state grow into successful young adults and I am looking forward to seeing them flourish in their academics, leadership, and professional roles in the coming years.