GEAR UP project manager brings decades of education, leadership experience to college readiness program

Author: BHSU Communications/Monday, June 13, 2016/Categories: 2016

Dr. Peg Diekhoff, project manager of SD GEAR UP at Black Hills State University, said GEAR UP helps to provide children and families the tools to prepare students for a successful post-secondary experience.

The South Dakota GEAR UP Program at Black Hills State University benefits from the nearly 30 years of experience in public education Dr. Peg Diekhoff brings as GEAR UP project manager.

Diekhoff previously served as a teacher, coach, and administrator in the Todd County School District on the Rosebud Reservation in south central South Dakota. She says her experiences at Todd County inspired her to take on leadership roles to pay back the support shown to her.

"Parents and families want their kids to succeed, and kids want to succeed too, but they don't always have the right tools to know how to get there, especially with regard to post-secondary education," says Diekhoff. "GEAR UP is an opportunity to reach out to families and to kids, providing them an avenue to learn those tools."

Diekhoff has spent the majority of her professional career working with at-risk students. She served as a teacher and coach at South Elementary School for nearly a decade. She then worked at Todd County Middle School for 14 years where she served as both assistant principal and principal. Her most recent position was assistant principal at Todd County High School. In that role, Diekhoff increased the number of courses offered within the Career & Technical Education Program at the school and enhanced the professional culture. She also improved accountability at the Alternative High School where she served as principal.

After earning her doctorate in August 2015, Diekhoff says she was ready to use her skills and degree in a new way. A first generation college student herself, Diekhoff says she is passionate about how GEAR UP prepares families and students for a successful post-secondary experience.

"We all have a responsibility to give back and help more people grown and learn. I loved coaching, I loved teaching, and I love helping others learn how to be leaders," said Diekhoff. "It all comes full circle."

The goal of the SD GEAR UP Program at BHSU is to significantly increase the number of low-income students who are prepared to enter and succeed in post-secondary education. One aspect of GEAR UP, the Summer Honors Program, begins next month at BHSU. The three-week, residential, pre-college enrichment program is designed for high school students who desire to enroll and succeed in higher education.

Diekhoff calls GEAR UP "an important stepping stone" to students' college readiness. She recalls one of her students at Todd County talking about the impact of visiting a college campus. The student had a hard time in high school but resolved to finish and go to college.

"I asked the student what the turning point was where she knew she would go to college. She said when she toured a college campus and as they were walking around, she told herself "I'm going to be here someday," said Diekhoff. "GEAR UP is that chance for many kids, a chance to explore options they didn't know they had."

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