High school juniors are headed for Washington, D.C., next week

Four high school juniors from Iowa have been selected to attend the 2018 Youth Leadership Summit next week in Washington, D.C. They will join students from all over the United States at the three-and-a-half day summit sponsored by the National Council for Community and Education Partnerships. All four are part of GEAR UP Iowa, a federal grant program administered by Iowa College Aid to increase college awareness and attainment in underserved school districts.

The students are:

Mary Ann Schwindt of Roosevelt High School in Des Moines

Mary Ann is a competitive swimmer and a volunteer at the Des Moines Public Library. She credits her experience in GEAR UP Iowa with making her more outgoing, more confident and better at listening to her peers. Mary Ann expects the Youth Leadership Summit to further build those skills. “I will be outside my comfort zone,” she says. “I will be pushing myself to absorb all the information offered to me as I get to know the people around me and to get the most out of the activities we do.”

Vanesa Alday of Storm Lake High School in Storm Lake

Vanessa will be a first-generation college student and hopes to become an anesthesiologist. Her experience with her GEAR UP Iowa mentor has motivated her desire to become a mentor herself. “I look up to her,” Vanesa says. “I want to be a lot like her, where she is taking her time to help others. … I want to help the kids who struggle to pass their classes so they can graduate on time and feel like they can be successful as well. I want them to know they are not alone.”

Gorma Williams of Hoover High School in Des Moines

Gorma is a GEAR UP ambassador and a church volunteer. She has found GEAR UP college visits to be beneficial, especially a three-day student summit last year at Iowa State University. “I struggle a little with communicating with others,” Gorma says. “These experiences of working with others and collaborating as a team in solving problems have helped me strengthen my communication skills. The Youth Leadership Summit will help me be more assertive and express my ideas more freely.”

Anika Munjal of Kennedy High School in Cedar Rapids

Anika is the vice president of her school French club and a volunteer with Best Buddies. She says last year’s statewide summit sparked her interest in advocacy work. “Speakers talked extensively about how it is possible to pursue every kind of job within my home state,” she says. “For example, I learned that in order to be a successful politician I don’t necessarily have to live and work from Washington, D.C., but rather that there is a lot of important legislative work being done right here in Iowa.”

“These four young women exemplify the goals and values of GEAR UP Iowa,” says Karen Misjak, executive director of Iowa College Aid. “They’re thinking not only of what they’ve gained from the program already, but what they can learn in the future and how they can use that knowledge to better their world.”

GEAR UP Iowa serves more than 7,600 students in 12 Iowa school districts. For more information, visit GEARUPIowa.gov.


Elizabeth Keest Sedrel​
(515) 725-3417
Thursday, July 12, 2018