An interview with a real-life Oklahoma’s Promise Recipient
The GEAR UP program is committed to ensuring that college-hopeful students across Oklahoma can access every resource they need to become college grads. That certainly means making college financially accessible for students and families, including resources like Oklahoma’s Promise.
Oklahoma’s Promise pays in-state tuition for students whose families earn an income of $55,000 or less at the time of application and $100,000 or less while enrolled in the program. In exchange, students agree to take the standard high school curriculum and not get in trouble. Read more about the program here.
We reached out to GEAR UP student and Oklahoma’s Promise recipient, Hannah DeLeon, to give you an inside look at what you can expect in the program.
Hannah is a dancer and Business Management major at Rogers State University in Claremore. Long before she was a Hillcat, she was a middle schooler in Skiatook with no idea what kind of degree she wanted to pursue.
“I heard about Oklahoma’s promise when I started my 8th-grade year. I still remember filling out my application with the help of my teacher. It was super simple.” Hannah and her teacher were able to set up an account and fill out the online application in less than 10 minutes.
“When I received a scholarship, I felt like I was really accomplished!” Students are often notified of their financial award soon after completing the application which allows them to relax and focus on school. “Receiving the money early gave me motivation because I realized I didn’t have to worry about it as much when I got to college,” Hannah said, “I didn’t have to pay anything with their help along with my Pell grant.”
A Pell grant is a federal grant that doesn’t have to be repaid and covers books and supplies as well as course tuition. Many students who qualify for Oklahoma’s Promise also qualify for Pell grants, which makes attending a public four-year university like Rogers State nearly free.
Students who apply and are awarded an Oklahoma’s Promise scholarship and have the support of college preparation programs like GEAR UP tend to have higher GPAs, better test scores and more success finding employment after college compared to other students.
Hannah expressed gratitude to her teachers for helping her stay on top of her studies and prepare for college. “My teachers helped me a lot through middle and high school. In high school, I got a new GEAR UP coach who was also working with RSU. She has kept me up with school, life and with GEAR UP.” She admitted how challenging finishing high school and starting college has been during the pandemic, “I started my college classes in the fall of 2020 which was massive for me.” A 40-minute commute doesn’t feel like much in comparison to completing high school and taking the ACTs virtually in a worldwide pandemic. After Hannah gets some of her general education credits out of the way, she’s considering transferring to a university where she can double major in dance and business to pursue her dream of becoming a choreographer and owning a dance studio. Oklahoma’s Promise allows her to do that, since it funds her education at any Oklahoma higher education institution.
“When I applied for college, I had the support of friends, family and teachers. It really was a fun process.” Hannah highly recommends students take advantage of GEAR UP services early to receive all the support needed when preparing for college. “They have amazing workers and coaches who will help you get where you need to go and receive the tools you need to get through college whether it be advice or scholarships.”