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OU Student Stands as GEAR UP Initiative’s Latest Legacy

Bridges Magazine words

OU Student Stands as GEAR UP Initiative’s Latest Legacy

man standing at podium with a crimson OU backdrop

Juan de Dios Trujillo-Velazquez stood at the podium on stage at the John Q. Hammons Conference Center in the Embassy Suites by Hilton Norman Hotel & Conference Center. Trujillo-Velazquez, a senior at the University of Oklahoma and a mathematics tutor with the Transformative Tutoring Initiative in the Jeannine Rainbolt College of Education, was a guest speaker for the GEAR UP for LIFE celebration.


This event marked another cornerstone in the OU K20 Center for Educational and Community Renewal’s work to aid 28 under-resourced schools across 23 school districts in Oklahoma to help students and their families prepare for college and workforce training.

Man in light tan jacket speaking at a podium

With notes and a new set of glasses in hand, the industrial and systems engineering student stood as testimony to GEAR UP for LIFE. This initiative sets out to provide economic and educational opportunities where there otherwise would not have been.


“I am grateful for this opportunity to share that the GEAR UP program has had on me and so many of my classmates,” Trujillo-Velazquez said. “I know that this will impact the future of so many scholars as it impacted mine.”


Trujillo-Velazquez first came to know K20’s GEAR UP grant during his early teen years at Roosevelt Middle School in Oklahoma City. The K20 Center arrived with its initiative of providing assistance and economic opportunity for students – an opportunity he believed was out of his reach at the time.


“As a young student, I didn’t really understand the importance of what GEAR UP was doing at the time,” he said. “As an undocumented immigrant student, I was not sure I could even go to college.”


Trujillo-Velazquez looked back on his initial thoughts on the K20 Center with the honesty and innocence he possessed at the time.

Four people sitting in chairs in a conference room clapping

“I knew that they took us to visit a lot of colleges, and what kid doesn’t like missing class to go on field trips?”


That desire to immerse himself and learn took hold. With that, Trujillo-Velazquez’s legacy within the program began to bloom.


The turning point came during the Oklahoma Promise event during his seventh-grade year. This night answered many of his questions and gave him a path to an opportunistic future.


“With so many doors closed to me in terms of financial aid, I wasn’t even sure if going to an Oklahoma’s Promise night would be worth my time,” Trujillo-Velazquez said. “When I attended the event, I learned that it might be possible for me to receive the scholarship if I was in the process of obtaining my permanent resident status.”

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