Justin Gaethje delivers keynote speech at EAC’s GEAR UP 2023 Summer Camp of Champions

Contributed Photo/Courtesy EAC: GEAR UP 2023 Summer Camp of Champions students attend STEM rotation facilitated by EAC’s Nursing Program.

By Kris McBride/EAC

THATCHER — Justin Gaethje, a professional prize fighter and Safford native, delivered the keynote speech to 67 high school students at Eastern Arizona College’s GEAR UP 2023 Summer Camp of Champions. The students in attendance were members of the GEAR UP Class of 2024, hailing from Chinle, Globe, Miami, Payson, Pima, Safford, Snowflake, and Window Rock.

“The students were thrilled to hear from someone local like Justin who has become so successful in his chosen career on an international level,” said Bobby Holder, EAC GEAR UP evaluator/data specialist. “He encouraged them to follow their dreams and to know that if they have the right mindset, anything is possible.”

Gaethje delivered the speech via Teams, and was introduced by his parents, Ray and Carolina Gaethje, who attended the camp in person. During the camp’s awards ceremony, two students were awarded laptops generously donated by Gaethje. One computer went to Veronica Walker from Pima and the other went to Dylan Lunsford from Payson.

GEAR UP, an acronym that stands for Gaining Early Awareness & Readiness for Undergraduate Programs, is a grant program that targets seventh-grade students and provides support throughout their high school journey. The program’s site coordinators offer after-school and summer classes, tutoring, enrichment courses and programs, and one-on-one counseling to better equip students for success in college.

“Justin also encouraged the students to take more challenging classes in high school so they can be better prepared in college,” said Holder. “They took his message to heart and were amazed that someone of his stature would take the time to talk with them about their futures.”

Contributed Photo/Courtesy EAC: Carolina Gaethje, left, and Mary Wack, right, award Veronica Walker a certificate for one of two laptop computers dontated by Justin Gaethje.

Throughout the three-day camp, attendees participated in three-hour STEM rotations facilitated by EAC professors. These rotations included Dorian Nelson and David Young in industrial technology, Sara Lemley, Adam Bingham, Kari Hull, John Clegg, Jennifer Williams, and Shalay Haynie in nursing, rad tech, and emergency medical technician training, and, Lydia Mata in robotics and coding. Erik Lehmann, EAC’s director of admissions, conducted a college readiness workshop focusing on FAFSA preparation and how to enroll in college.

Additionally, the students participated in a field trip to Biosphere 2 in Oracle, Arizona, where they received an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour showcasing the inner workings of the facility.

Contributed Photo/Courtesy EAC: Carolina Gaethje, left, and Mary Wack, right, award Dylan Lunsford a certificate for one of two laptop computers dontated by Justin Gaethje.

The EAC GEAR UP Summer Camp of Champions was started to help high school students explore college life and ease the sense of the unknown. Students were housed in EAC’s Residence Towers and interacted with the College’s faculty to build their confidence in exploring higher education courses. This marked the final camp for the current grant, with plans for future camps contingent on EAC securing another grant.

Special thanks is given to the EAC GEAR UP staff and project director, Mary Wack, for their instrumental role in making the camp a success.

Enroll Today in EAC Fall Classes:  Classes begin on August 21. Call EAC’s Financial Aid Office at (928) 428-8287 for details. Register by calling EAC’s Records and Registration Office at (928) 428-8270, or online at www.eac.edu.

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About Eastern Arizona College

Eastern Arizona College – the first community college in Arizona – has helped students claim their dreams since 1888. With campuses in Thatcher, Globe, and Payson, EAC’s qualified and caring instructors prepare students for the most in-demand careers and advanced study at universities. EAC offers more than 80 certificates and degrees, including the #1 nursing school in Arizona, a fine arts program featuring the only marching band in Arizona, and an engineering program that brings students up to speed for success at universities and top-tiered firms. Students thrive at EAC, making friendships that last a lifetime. EAC’s vibrant student experience includes on-campus housing, more than 30 clubs and organizations, active intramurals, and nationally ranked athletic and e-sports teams. At EAC, most students leave with $0 debt. Let EAC provide an affordable way for you to claim your dreams. Contact admissions@eac.edu or call (928) 428-8272 today.