Bernstein & STEM


Welcome to Bernstein-STEM GEAR UP

Bernstein and STEM belong to the second of two GEAR UP 4 LA grants operating at 16 school sites in the Belmont/Bernstein/ Kennedy Zones of Choice. Our unique cohort model follows the same group of students for seven years, meaning our current eighth and ninth 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.

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Our peer mentor program develops leadership qualities, strengthens public speaking skills, and trains students to become role models for their peers and advocates for their community. As mentors, students reach out to their peers and families with the premise that if individual students have the opportunity to climb the ladder of success, they will bring their families and communities along with them.


  • serve as a leader and role model to your peers
  • get fellow students excited about school and learning
  • attend regular meetings to build your leadership skills
  • encourage your fellow students to do well in their classes
  • become a better public speaker

Mentor Club Happenings

Dates to Remember

  • GU Mentor Club Lunch Meetings: STEM - Wednesdays, Bernstein - Thursdays


To be a peer-mentor, students must have a 2.0 GPA or higher, a teacher/staff recommendation and parent permission. If you are interested in becoming a mentor, complete the online application.  Please stop by the GEAR UP office if you need help completing the application.

Click the button below to fill out an application!


FOR TEACHERS AND STAFF: If you think a student has what it takes to be a mentor, fill out a recommendation form by clicking on the button below!


Upcoming Events


Our Staff

Questions? Contact us at [email protected] (Ms. Barbara Swenson) or [email protected] (Ms. Tanya Henriquez-Koenig).

  • Angelique (Jackie) Villalobos

    Academic Advisor

    • College: Occidental College
    • Favorite Movie: The Big Fish
    • Favorite Food: Pizza.  Anything with bread or cheese
    • My biggest influence: When I was deciding where to go to college, my Dad told me to not look at the price.  He said that he would work until he no longer could to ensure that I would have a brighter future.  If you knew my dad, this defines him as a father in a nutshell.  He has never let me down, and has completely shaped me to be the person I am today.
    • Why I love my job: The students.  They are always the reason! They give me such a unique motivation and are constantly pushing me to better – and they don’t even realize it!!!  I am inspired by them daily!
  • Barbara Swenson


    • College: Undergrad: University of Wisconsin – Stout; Masters: Concordia University – Irvine
    • Favorite Movie: The Sound of Music
    • Favorite Food: Ice cream
    • My biggest influence: My parents have been the biggest influence in my life.  They encouraged me to make my own decisions and goals, and supported me every step of the way.
    • Why I love my job: Making college and higher education accessible to every student is my passion.  After teaching for 20 years and being involved with the AVID and GATE programs, I saw that any student can benefit from a personalized learning experience, and GEAR UP provides just that!!
  • Michelle Cifuentes

    Academic Advisor


    • College: University of California, Irvine (UCI)
    • Favorite Movie: Wayne’s World
    • Favorite Food: Anything with fries
    • My biggest influence: My sisters are the reason I do the work that I do.  I am the eldest of five, second mom to all four of them.  I want to be able to provide them the skills to be successful young individuals, with the opportunity to receive a higher education.
    • Why I love my job: Coming from a disadvantage community, I found comfort and peace in academia.  I want to give students the opportunity to find their own peace among staff who believes and cares for them.
  • Maria Guadalupe Cortez

    Community Representative

    • College: Glendale Community College/Garfield Campus
    • Favorite Movie: Billy Elliot
    • Favorite Food: Pozole
    • My biggest influence: My biggest influence is my daughter Missaira Cortez.  Without a second of hesitation, she has the ability to transmit energy with which she faces all her challenges as well as her passion and her optimism for everything she undertakes. She teaches me to value people and myself when I see her inner strength that allows her to never surrender in the search of all her dreams.
  • Tanya Henriquez-Koenig

    Community Representative

    • College: took classes at CSUN
    • Favorite Movie: Pride and Prejudice
    • Favorite Food: Italian
    • 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, Bryman College
    • Favorite Movie: Temple Grandin
    • Favorite Food: I just love food, so I cannot say I have a favorite
    • My biggest influence: My son, he has taught me that it is okay to be different
    • Why I love my job: I love my job because education is the future. I dream of a better world.