GEAR UP Programs Prepare Seniors for Success

DeSoto ISD GEAR UP Programs Prepare Seniors for Future Career Success
Posted on 10/23/2023
DeSoto ISD GEAR UP Programs Prepare Seniors for Future Career SuccessDeSoto High School Seniors in the GEAR UP Program spent the morning with corporate professionals, company CEOs, franchisees, restauranteurs, entrepreneurs, and others during the DeSoto High School Senior Career Day event held in the DHS library.

GEAR UP is a federally funded grant program aimed to enhance student preparation for post-secondary learning pathways. The program aligns with the DeSoto ISD board goal centered around increasing postsecondary readiness and the district’s mission of ensuring that all students, without exception, learn and grow at their highest levels.

The event was filled with engaging conversations and real-life lessons from several speaker panels and question-and-answer sessions with current professionals, owners, and leaders from various industries, including healthcare, government, retail, financial services, restaurants, and technology.

Alyson Rae Lawson, a multi-unit franchisee owner of 7-Eleven convenience stores, was excited to inspire and raise awareness of the myriad of entrepreneurship opportunities and career options available with early preparation.

“I want the students to realize that you can do whatever you put your mind to and go wherever you want. The world is limitless and does not have a race color or age,” said Lawson, who also owns a vending machine company and is a motivational speaker. “It is important for students to hear this now because entrepreneurship starts at an early age because they can start planning. It does not just start upon graduation.” 

The event, though tagged as a DHS senior career day, was intentionally organized as more of an exploration into the journey and daily requirements to succeed in their area and industry. Some of the tips and knowledge shared focused on increasing the courage and confidence of the students, being financially literate, having endurance, overcoming imposter syndrome, and deeply engaging in learning.

Dentist professional, Dr. Candace Brown-Evans informed students about increasing personal endurance and how to prepare for the many tests to come for those entering the medical field.

“Take the test and don’t let the test take you. Get your hands on practice tests and analyze the test questions. See if they are level-one versus level-four questions. In dental and medical school they will ask level four questions. You have to understand several different things to answer these questions,” explained Brown. “So, while you are testing now, don't study to regurgitate information. Learn how to apply certain disciplines and understand what you are learning about. Test yourself on tests to understand what your endurance is to complete the test.”

Sports agent, a noted music and fashion industry professional and co-owner of Wings World Restaurants, explained his journey through a conversation of personal standards and a brisk walk through his use of his finances from a young age.

“To make a million dollars, you have to understand how money works. I started with $20 and looking at things with optimism,” said Brown as he explained how he obtained the Jordan shoes he desired as a teen but only had 70 of 90 dollars needed from his dad to purchase them. He began to do odd jobs as a teen to obtain the remaining dollars and it birthed an entrepreneurial and investing thirst that has fueled his success to date. Truitt explained how one business experience built upon and funded the other in alignment with the personal goals he set for himself.

GEAR UP College and Career Coordinator Chanell Truitt, who served as the event organizer,  admits that she wanted a little something different from this experience for students.

“The goal of this event is to expose our students to careers that they do not get to see outside of the media,” shared Truitt who used a career interest survey approach to support her speaker selection. “A lot of our students are interested in the criminal justice, law, or medical field but do not know a doctor that they could ask up close and personal questions.

Truitt then focused on the student’s interest and invited speakers with industry knowledge to speak with DeSoto High School seniors. Truitt intentionally shifted the traditional speaker questions to those which aligned with the students’ interests.

Esposure Founder and Chief Executive Officer Danny Martin came bearing gifts for the students and was elated as he took in the whole spectrum of the event. Ecstatic to have the opportunity to participate and strengthen students' knowledge of the esports gaming industries.

“Any time I get to impact students and give them an understanding of this industry, I will do it and am glad to do it,” explained Martin. “I loved the event because the panelists were able to provide real-life experience and answer critical questions that students in high school need to know as well as having the experience of the moderator who can ask their career questions, keep the attention of the students and get them to ask questions.” 

After the sessions, the engagement of the event was seen via the continuing conversations and connections made between the students and panelists.

DHS senior Fernando Flores, who is currently interested in real estate investing, gained confidence from attending this event.

“The important thing that stuck out to me the most was to know that there is a path for everyone. We must just keep the faith in ourselves, work hard, have gratitude, and everything will work out,” said Flores, who recently began attending GEAR UP events.

“This event was a blessing because I had a lot of doubts that I had before I came that I do not have anymore. The way they talked and the things that they said gave me closure. I had a great time listening and learning.”

The career professionals who attended this day of education are listed below:

● Danny Martin (CEO & Founder of Esposure)
● Dr. Candace Brown-Evans (Dentist)
● Alyson Lawson (Multi-Unit Franchisee of 7-Eleven)
● Vonda Bailey Shaw (255th Family Court Judge)
● Lavida Samuels (Owner of Elle View Body Butter)
● Amber Dorsey (Realtor) 
● Dr. Rin (M.D | PA-C.)
● Roland Truitt (Sports Agent)
● Zaneta Hearst (Navy) 3
● Dr. Lamar Quinn (Pharmacist | Philanthropist | Community Builder)
● Dr. Jolaiya Faturoti (M. D.| OBGYN)
● Keidra McGriff (Attorney) 
● Romello Truitt (Co-Owner of Wings World Restaurants)
● Jazmine Hawkins (Licensed Professional Counselor |Wellness Coach/Yogi)
● Roddrick West (Owner of RW Studios) 
● Branisha Hunter (Registered Nurse) 
● Sgt. Daryl Thomas (Marines)
● Sarah Jones (Vice President of Goldman Sachs in the Private Wealth sector)
● Andrew Lilly (Healthcare Manager)

In DeSoto ISD, the GEAR UP Program serves students in the 9-12 grades through its NextGEN cohort and grades 6-8 in its newest program cohort, College-Driven GEAR UP.

Learn more about the academic and future-focused opportunities available for DeSoto ISD students at the upcoming November 4 DeSoto ISD Programs Showcase and by visiting

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