Gear Up

Welcome to Bernstein-STEM GEAR UP

Bernstein and STEM belong to the second of four GEAR UP 4 LA grants operating at eight school sites in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Our unique cohort model follows the same group of students for seven years, meaning our current tenth and eleventh graders – the graduating classes of 2020 and 2021 – have been with GEAR UP 4 LA since 2014.

Fifty percent of our students live within the Promise Zone, an area designated by President Obama’s initiative to expand educational opportunities. They face challenges including transience, living below the poverty line, and being the first in their family to attend college.

In its fifteen years, GEAR UP 4 LA has provided services for over 13,000 students at over twenty campuses.  Stop by the GEAR UP office anytime.

Caro Castro

Academic Advisor


College:CSU Los Angeles

My Biggest Influence:My parents are my biggest influence in life. I am a kind, passionate, and hard working individual because of them. I have also been fortunate enough to meet wonderful friends who also influence me to do better and to continue my professional growth.

Why I love My Job:I love working with GEAR UP because my colleagues and students are amazing. I enjoy being part of a team that shares a common goal and works together to achieve it. I also love being a resource for my students.


Kristin Didrickson



College:Undergraduate:  The American University  Graduate:  UCLA and CSUN

My biggest influence: My parents have been my biggest influence.  They raised me to be compassionate, gracious, and curious. I have also been greatly influenced by the experience of spending my junior year of high school as a student in Germany.

Why I love my job:  I love my job because I get to work with an awesome team of people who are passionate and beyond dedicated to students.  I love seeing students’ faces light up as they realize their dreams.  I also love that GEAR UP follows the students and their families over the course of 7 years, so we really get to know them.



Alex Paredes



College: Undergraduate – UCLA , Graduate – CSUN & Cal Poly Pomona

My biggest influence: My middle school math teacher for believing in me by merely changing my seat (back of the class to front of the class). This mere act helped me learn in her math class and it made me feel smart. I am also highly influenced by my ninth grade English teacher for seeing something in me and recommending me for the Honor’s program at Belmont High School. As a Counselor, my biggest influence is my longtime friend and colleague at UCLA EAOP, Hugo Cristales.

Why I love my job:  I love the fact that I get to work with compassionate people that believe anything is possible for all students. I love GEAR UP schools because it allows me to help students and families that need it.



Evelyn Menjivar

Senior Academic Advisor

College: UCLA

My biggest influence: My biggest influence is my desire to fulfill my goals. My parents faced intense challenges to build a living and I am so grateful that they gave me the opportunity to pursue my own dreams.

Why I love my job:  I get to learn every day from many different people. Growing up, I didn’t know about my opportunities after high school and I made uninformed decisions. I grew passionate to make sure high school students know their potential and possibilities, especially those they may have not considered. I feel most inspired after learning about students’ different lives, interests and motivations.



Tanya Henriquez-Koenig

Community Representative


College: took classes at CSUN

My biggest influence: My father was the biggest influence in my life.  He came to this country in the 60’s with my mother and 3 siblings, and learned the language and took odd jobs to take care of his family. He took community college classes late in life but always encouraged us to go to college and get an education.

Why I love my job: I love my job because I love to see the look on a student’s and parent’s face when they find out that going to college is a possibility.



Claudia C. Pena Clemente

Community Representative


College:  Santa Monica College and Bryant College Medical Administrative Assistant program

My biggest influence: There are two people who has made me the woman that I am.  My grandmother who raised me to be a hard working woman and my son who has taught me to always fight back, never give up and understand the world from a different perspective.  He has made me a better person and because of him I learn new things every day.

Why I love my job: I love my job because keeping track of data is a very important part of the grant. I love data and it’s one of my biggest passions.