CAP Through our Eyes: Rachel Nave-Lewis

In this series, we will feature individual CAP staff members and dive into their unique perspectives on college access, education, the role of our grant programs in the community, and more. This month, we highlight Rachel Nave-Lewis, GEAR UP Assistant Director of Curriculum and Instructional Design. Rachel's passion for learning and love of education is evident in her work with GEAR UP, and you'll learn more about what drives her in her perspective below...

Education is more than just what someone gains through traditional schooling; it's a transformative journey that enriches our minds, broadens our horizons, and fuels our innate desire as humans to pursue knowledge in response to life's remarkable path. The idea that we have the ability to grow as much as we want to challenge ourselves to grow as people is something that pushes me through the hardest of times. I find it an honor to spend every day in the field of education. While education is not limited to the classroom or school environment, it is within those walls in which scholars spend the majority of their waking lives during some of the most crucial years of development, and also where the love of learning is seeded and nourished. Some people love it to the point of staying within those school walls, and I was one of those people. Eventually, though, I saw that my love for learning and igniting possibilities for scholars had created a hope for change that had to exceed my school’s wall. 

Rachel Nave-Lewis

In 2021, a fellow teacher and friend shared a job posting to work with GEAR UP within College Access Partnerships at Appalachian State as an Academic Innovation Specialist with me. She said, “Rachel! This is you made over! You should apply.” I was not necessarily looking for this type of a change in my career. At best, I was hoping to move into a school administrative/leadership role. However, her words resonated with me. So, I applied. GEAR UP was completely new to me. While it was in my district, I had never been in the population in which it partnered and served. My researching sprint prior to applying, and throughout the application process, did not truly capture the value in which it has on so many communities in western North Carolina, across the 10 districts it supports. 

I am beyond honored to not only get to serve on the GEAR UP grant at Appalachian State, but to also have a personal child that is part of the GEAR UP 2.0 cohort. For me, that is an investment that is priceless. As part of the Academic Innovation Team, now serving as the Assistant Director of Curriculum and Instructional Design, I enjoy working with fellow educators to improve learning opportunities for all scholars through innovative and research based approaches. The privilege that comes with getting to know each districts’ culture of community, strengths, accomplishments, and priorities makes the job very meaningful to me. The relationships are so remarkable, and ones that I know I will always treasure. As a teacher, I knew that relationships were fundamental to creating a two-way understanding of respect and trust in which my scholars knew that I both wanted them to succeed and knew they were capable of succeeding. The truth is, that does not change when working with adults. In my role, I build relationships with districts and support them in making the academic strides and goals they have set for their school and classrooms. I believe they can succeed, and I am waiting for them at the finishing line ready to celebrate those victories. Each district holds a special place in my heart, and I have grown to love each community as if it were my own. Those schools are my schools. 

GEAR UP brings many opportunities to the whole school that is not traditionally doable due to lack of funding or resources to the school. What is unique about GEAR UP is our approach to reaching the stakeholders in each school community and the support we offer through various programming. First and foremost, we understand that it is the scholars who are being faced with the choices of tomorrow. Therefore, we ensure that each of our districts have coordinators that are part of the school system to serve on a daily basis, and provide extended opportunities such as Design Camps, College Tours, Bus Tours, Pitch Competitions, FAFSA support events, and financial literacy to establish a broad progression to prepare scholars for various pathways. Additionally, we focus on teachers, those individuals who have the power to change a scholar’s trajectory. To this audience, we offer professional development, individualized and specialized curriculum developed in-house, hands-on opportunities, Academic Innovation Mini Grants, and our Academic Innovation Conference. However, there are other professionals in the schools who also impact scholars’ lives, and GEAR UP understands that is part of the puzzle. Therefore, we have experts on the team to help serve counselors, administrators, families, and communities with strategic programmatic development. That is why I am delighted to be working with fellow members of my team to expand our GEAR UP reach, as we work on two additional GEAR UP grants, GEAR UP 3.0 and 3.1. Our work is just beginning in western North Carolina. 

The continual pursuit of new grants and opportunities is just one thing that I find very compelling about working within College Access Partnerships, or CAP. The drive to know the needs of the school districts in western North Carolina, and then seek out and identify the right match through federal funding opportunities always impresses me. CAP is not about expanding just for expansion sake. There is something to be said about this purposeful momentum, while navigating the nourishment of seasoned partnerships in tandem with the establishment of new partnerships to make the greatest impact possible. Of course, all of this would not be feasible without amazing individuals who work throughout the organization. CAP has some of the best people I know working day in and day out to serve who we serve. Everyone is invested in the next phase of education. 

While the pathway in education is still unknown, CAP knows that the future is the scholars. Our investment is in the pathways and choices that lay ahead for those that we serve. No matter the direction education goes, we know that there will always be a need for individuals who challenge their own learning and growth. This is empowered by creating a system of support around a person. CAP works with districts to best develop those systems for all to be successful in the paths they select. It is hard to prepare for what is yet to be discovered, but is comforting to know that there is no right or wrong destination when it comes to learning more about yourself, your community, your world, and your own self-improvement.

CAP Through Our Eyes: Rachel Nave-Lewis
Published: Jan 9, 2024 12:25pm