NACOGDOCHES, Texas-The Texas Education Agency and Texas GEAR UP program have named Stephen F. Austin State University's e-mentoring program a Texas GEAR UP Promising Practice, so that it may serve as an example for up-and-coming programs statewide.

Secondary education majors at SFA participate in the e-mentoring program, which pairs the future educators with high school students in rural East Texas who may not realize college is an option for them.

In their weekly e-mails to high school students, SFA mentors discuss various subjects, including financial aid opportunities, campus activities and the typical day of a college student. At the end of the school year, the students get to visit their mentors at SFA and have the opportunity to sit in on a college course. For many participants, the visit is their first time to be on a college campus.

"SFA has one of the few GEAR UP programs that reach out to students in rural areas who may not have as many resources as larger, metro areas," said Barbara Davis, project director. "Mentoring is an absolutely crucial part of our GEAR UP program because it offers students an opportunity to see a world beyond their own."

The e-mentoring program is designed to provide high school students with positive role models and familiarize them with college life, she said. University students, in turn, can gain an understanding of secondary students' concerns to supplement their own education.

The Texas Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) project is a federal initiative designed to increase early college awareness in traditionally underrepresented groups.

The SFA e-mentoring program is a featured program in the Texas GEAR UP "Mentors, Mindsets and Role Models" media toolkit, which gives other schools the materials needed to implement a similar program in their area. The featured video can be seen on the Texas GEAR UP Web site at