LISD awarded $1.89 million GEAR UP grant to prepare Class of 2023 for college

LISD awarded $1.89 million GEAR UP grant to prepare Class of 2023 for college
Posted on 02/14/2018


Contact: Christina Courson, Public Information Officer

(512) 398-0033 office

(512) 738-1413 cell


Date: February 14, 2018

LISD awarded $1.89 million GEAR UP grant to prepare Class of 2023 for college Two coordinators hired to implement program Lockhart Independent School District secured a 7-year grant of $1.8 million to directly support a cohort of students currently in seventh grade to increase their academic performance and participation in postsecondary preparedness.

The grant program, Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP), is funded by the US Department of Education in partnership with the University of Texas at Austin. LISD is one of eight Texas school districts selected this school year to participate in the program, which provides support to students in this cohort beginning this school year through their first year in college.

Current LISD seventh graders will receive access to advanced academic courses, college advising and counseling, mentoring and academic tutoring, and participate in college tours and job site visits. Additionally, parents of participating students will benefit from support to learn more about postsecondary readiness, college options, and ways to pay for college.

To lead these efforts, LISD hired two GEAR UP coordinators, who will serve this seventh grade cohort through their first year in college.

Art Mendez, Ed.D., has served students for 25 years in roles including elementary and middle school teacher, counselor, and assistant principal. He has worked in Austin ISD and most recently in Hays CISD.

Mendez earned a bachelor’s  degree in interdisciplinary studies and a master’s degree in counseling from Sul Ross State University.  In addition, he earned his doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Texas at San Antonio.

“I am so excited to be here in Lockhart working with the students thru the GEAR UP program.  I feel that all my academic preparation and prior work experiences will enable me to be a strong, positive resource for our students, their families, and the Lockhart community,” said Mendez. He began working in the district Monday, Feb. 5.

Samantha Sánchez Cook, most recently managed the Leading Enrichment Afterschool Program in Del Valle ISD.

Sánchez Cook earned a bachelor’s degree in communication with a minor in Spanish from St. Edward’s University. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in leadership and change from the Bill Munday School of Business at St. Edward’s University.

“I attribute my success to the many mentors, educators and coaches that supported my dreams as a student. My college years where transformative and positive because I felt college-ready. I hope to be that support system for Lockhart ISD students through GEAR UP with the help of the community,” Sánchez Cook said. She begins her new role in LISD Monday, Feb. 19.

The GEAR UP coordinators are planning a kick off meeting at Tuesday, Feb. 27, at 6 p.m. at Lockhart Junior High School for seventh grade students, their parents, and interested community members to provide an overview of the program, how it will support students, and how the program will engage parents and the community to boost student success.  There will also be an opportunity for attendees to ask questions about the program.

Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Mark Estrada is excited about how the program will also benefit other students. Estrada shared, “The structures and systems being developed through this grant will ultimately benefit future students moving through our secondary schools.” The district is currently pursuing additional grant support to potentially expand this program to future cohorts.

“The district is thrilled to have the opportunity to be selected for the GEAR UP grant,” said Superintendent Susan K. Bohn. “This award generously provides incredible support for our students, challenging them to have high expectations of themselves and providing the tools they need to be successful in advanced academics and promote a college-going culture.”

To learn more about GEAR UP, visit

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