West Virginia ‘GEAR UP’ student named to national leadership academy


Kendyl Ryan is one of 29 selected from a nationwide pool of applicants

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Kendyl Ryan, a native of Boone County, has been selected to participate in the highly competitive “GEAR UP Alumni Leadership Academy,” (GUALA) a 12-month national leadership program providing students across the country with intensive training in civic engagement and community development. The GUALA program identifies students with exceptional leadership potential and provides additional training and tools to help them more effectively engage their peers, schools and communities in creating a college-going culture.

Ms. Ryan, a sophomore at Marshall University, was one of 29 students selected from a nationwide pool of applicants made up of students who have graduated from high schools served by the federal GEAR UP program. GEAR UP, which stands for “Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs,” works to prepare students to enter and succeed in postsecondary education programs. Last year, West Virginia was awarded its second consecutive GEAR UP grant.

GEAR UP provides services to approximately 551,000 students in low-income schools across 43 states and 1 territory. Ms. Ryan was a part of the West Virginia GEAR UP program, which is managed by the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission, and provides college preparation services to approximately 17,000 students in ten West Virginia counties.

In order to better support the GEAR UP mission nationwide, the National Council for Community and Education Partnerships (NCCEP) created the GUALA program, with the support of the Kresge Foundation. GUALA works to advance college and career readiness in communities by providing 12 months of training for Alumni Leaders on topics related to peer-to-peer outreach and mentoring, social media engagement, public speaking and education policy.

Ms. Ryan will participate in the year-long GUALA training program in order to better serve her GEAR UP community. As part of the program, Ms. Ryan is spending this week in Washington, DC where she will participate in an intensive leadership training and meet with national policymakers and leaders.

Ms. Ryan is a 2014 graduate of Scott High School in Boone County. She is currently pursuing degrees in public relations and journalism. During her time in West Virginia GEAR UP, Ms. Ryan helped launch a statewide youth leadership program, “Higher Education Readiness Officers (HEROs),” to engage high school students in promoting a college-going culture within their school communities. Additionally, Ms. Ryan was named the national GEAR UP Youth of the Year as a high school sophomore and recently was awarded the Midwest Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators “Access Award” for providing mentorship to assist her peers in pursuing higher education.

Governor Earl Ray Tomblin commended Ms. Ryan’s accomplishment and her commitment to helping West Virginia students further their educations.

“I am incredibly proud that a West Virginia student is included in the 2016 class of the national GEAR UP Alumni Leadership Academy,” Governor Tomblin said. “Education and skills attainment is the key to economic development, and the GEAR UP program has made tremendous strides in advancing the postsecondary educational opportunities of our students. I know Ms. Ryan will represent our state well, and I am encouraged and inspired by her early leadership and focus on educational achievement.”

More information about West Virginia GEAR UP is available at www.wvgearup.org. More information about the national GEAR UP Alumni Leadership Academy can be found at www.edpartnerships.org or by contacting Alex Chough at NCCEP at (202) 530-1135.

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