Ramon C. Cortines VAPA


Welcome to GEAR UP @ GRAND ARTS, the GEAR UP 4 LA program at Ramon C. Cortines School of Visual & Performing Arts.  GRAND ARTS is a dual mission high school that provides both a high quality arts education and a rigorous academic program.  GEAR UP 4 LA at GRAND ARTS serves the classes of 2017 and 2018.  We are located in the Visual Arts Building and have a staff of five people.  Our office is small but we have a big heart for our students, and it is pretty much always a hub of activity.  We sponsor the GEAR UP Mentor Club as well as an offshoot of the Mentor Club, called the “Share Our Knowledge” club.  Some of our favorite and longstanding activities are the 3 Point “March Madness” Contest, The Amazing (College) Race, and our “Coffee with GEAR UP” meetings for parents.  There is generally someone in the office from 7 a.m. – 4 p.m. and we encourage parents, students, and school staff to stop by when you can.

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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


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].

  • Kristin Didrickson


    • College:  Undergrad-American University and Graduate-UCLA, CSUN
    • Favorite Movie:  Star Wars (Episode IV)
    • Favorite Food:  Grilled Cheese Sandwich
    • 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 I have been able to follow them and get to know their families over the course of the Grant.
  • Sergio Ceja


    • College:  Undergrad-Cal Poly Pomona, Graduate-CSUN
    • Favorite Movie:  The Wizard of Oz and The Sandlot
    • Favorite Food: Chilaquiles
    • My biggest influence:  My mother because she always sacrificed her needs for our family.  She taught me, through her actions, how to work hard.
    • Why I love my job:  I enjoy helping others and I love that I am able to offer students a place where they feel safe and will be heard. For many, the unconditional regard I can show them on a consistent basis means school can be the safest, sanest, most supportive part of their lives.
  • Melina Romero

    Mentor Coordinator

    • College: Cal State LA
    • Favorite Movie(s): Drop Dead Fred, Sweeney Todd (2007)
    • Favorite Food: Sushi!
    • My biggest influence: My family, especially my parents.  Their endless love and support is what drives me everyday.
    • Why I love my job: I love my job because I’ve been provided with the opportunity to positively influence, encourage and motivate our students.  I believe in our students and I strive to make sure that they believe in themselves too.
  • 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.
  • Maria Guadalupe Cortez

    • 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.
    • Why I love my job:  I love my job because I am part of a team that changes lives by giving support to parents and students.  We give them valuable information, such as workshops, and field trips to colleges to help continue their kids’ educational goals and dreams. As a Community Representative I am helping our students have better lives, better opportunities for them and their families and the community. I love being a part of this, I love it!!!