UB student tapped for prestigious leadership program

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Saul Almazan is one of 24 students from national pool of applicants selected into the GEAR UP Alumni Leadership Academy

Saul Almazan—a University of Bridgeport (UB) honors student who has spent much of his college career advocating for expanding access to higher-education among underserved youth—has been chosen for GEAR UP Alumni Leadership Academy (GUALA), a prestigious national campaign that identifies exceptional student leaders throughout the United States and trains them to more effectively engage peers, lawmakers, and communities in creating a college-going culture.

GEAR UP, or Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs, is a $322 million federally-funded program that provides services to 570,000 students in low-income schools across 43 states and one territory to help increase the number of students who are prepared for and succeed in higher education.

In the Bridgeport region, GEAR UP is run by Yale-Bridgeport GEAR UP, which operates out of Yale University and Bridgeport Public Schools. UB has served as partner to the program since 2008.

Almazan, 20, is among 24 exceptional students who were selected from a national pool of applicants to be trained over the course of a year as GUALA leaders in areas related to peer-to-peer outreach and mentoring, social-media engagement, public speaking, and education policy.

Dr. Nadia Ward, project director of the Yale-Bridgeport GEAR UP Program, called Almazan “the perfect choice to represent the State of Connecticut in this prestigious youth leadership training opportunity. He is a natural leader among his peers. His powerful personal story is one that must be heard by policymakers in Washington.”

Almazan began participating in GEAR UP as a seventh grader at John Winthrop Middle School in Bridgeport and later completed GEAR UP college-preparatory programs when he attended Central Magnet High School in Bridgeport. After graduating from Central in 2014, Almazan enrolled UB and is currently in his junior year majoring in psychology.

At UB, Almazan’s top grades have qualified him for both the Dean’s and President’s List on multiple semesters. He is a student ambassador for the Purple Knight Society and previously served as senator for the School of Arts and Sciences for the Student Government Association. He was also given the opportunity to represent the delegation of Brunei Darussalam with the UB Model United Nations Club for the National Model United Nations Conference in New York. This past summer, he traveled to the Republic of Korea (S. Korea) to study international business and Korean language.

Almazan said he plans to do advocacy work for GEAR UP on all levels while also mentoring students and running Young Gentlemen’s Clubs for Bridgeport public high school seniors. As a GUALA leader, he has already traveled to Washington, D.C., to participate in week-long intensive leadership training, where he met Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT) and other national policymakers.

Said Almazan: “My next goal is to be a leader to young gentlemen in Bridgeport high schools. What I did right, what I did wrong. I want to share these things with others so they can be successful. The people In GUALA helped build me up and helped me in high school. This is just my way of saying thank you.”

Media contact: Leslie Geary, (203) 576-4625, lgeary@bridgeport.edu

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