“When you come from a small town, college seems like such a far way away,” says Globe High School graduate Tim Wiley. Wiley was Globe High School’s valedictorian when he graduated in 2012 and this May he graduated from ASU with a degree in exercise and wellness. He is a passionate advocate for bringing educational opportunities to rural areas like Globe-Miami and recently traveled to Washington DC as part of the Gear-up Alumni Leadership Academy (GUALA) to bring that message to national and state leaders.
“We don’t have the same opportunities that people in Scottsdale have […] and we should,” says Wiley. Wiley was part of the 2012 Gear-up class at Globe High School. Gear-up is a federally-funded program that seeks to increase the number of students who are prepared for and succeed in higher education. Connie Callaway, Gear-up Coordinator at Globe High School, follows a class of students from seventh grade to graduation every six years. According to Callaway, the Globe Gear-up program is a partnership between Globe High School and Gear-up.
“Everything that Gear-up does focuses on them gaining college awareness early,” says Callaway. She adds, “First and foremost, our job is to make sure that everybody we started with in seventh grade graduates from high school. Second, what does life after high school look like for that individual student?” Callaway remembers Wiley when he first started Gear-up. “One of the best things about working with Tim was that he got it right away,” she says.
John Acedo, Technology Projects Manager and Summer Program Director for NAU Gear-up, nominated Wiley for GUALA. Wiley was one of only 24 students nationwide selected to participate in the year-long leadership program, which includes his recent trip to DC. Acedo calls Wiley “a natural leader” and says that he has always been a positive force in his community and with his peers. Acedo has known Wiley since he started Gear-up in seventh grade and says that he was always someone who adults could count on to check-in with other students who might be having a hard time. He also describes Wiley as someone who has never been afraid of stepping out of his comfort zone.
Wiley admits, “I love being outside of my comfort zone” and says he thrives in situations where he can push himself. His recent trip to Washington, DC, where he met with representatives from the Department of Education and Arizona elected officials from the house and the senate was a perfect example of this. Wiley says it was really exciting to have the chance to advocate for something that means as much to him as education. “I love representing what Globe-Miami has taught me growing up,” says Wiley. “It was an honor.”
“Having him selected for GUALA was huge,” says Callaway. “I really do believe that Tim was made for such a time as this—to stand up for what he went through as a Gear-up student and now to stand up for future Gear-up students and say ‘Yes, you need to keep funding this program because it works.’” Callaway remembers Wiley taking advantage of every college class that came his way when he was at Globe High School. “We are very fortunate that Globe High School wants Gear-up as much as Gear-up wants to be here because it does help,” she says.
In his years at GHS, Wiley was involved in a staggering number of activities. He was a member of National Honor Society, played varsity baseball and basketball, and ran cross-country. Outside of school, he was an Eagle Scout with the Boy Scouts of America and was an active community member at Holy Angels Roman Catholic Church. Wiley remembers that in high school, he hoped to become a professional athlete after graduation. Wiley worked for Acedo as a resident assistant at Gear-up’s summer program at NAU. Wiley says he saw himself in some of the kids he met there who also had dream of being pro athletes. He was encouraging, but also urged them to have a back-up plan. Wiley says that he has been “humbled by the real world.”
Callaway echoes Wiley, recalling conversations she has had with students. “I’m so excited you want to be a basketball player, do you have a plan B?” she says. She goes on to say, “you do want to give them a realistic view of what their career path could be.” Callway communicates with families and urges the students to communicate with their families about their hopes for the future as well. “You never want a parent to be surprised how much tuition costs,” she says.
Wiley says that for a lot of kids from low-income communities, their only reference point for college might be a college football game, for example. He remembers how the early exposure that he got to college—the opportunity to stay on a college campus, eat college food, take college classes—made college seem so much less foreign. Wiley explains that, in part because he had seen his sister go to college, he knew early that he wanted to pursue higher education. However, he says that one of the most powerful experiences for him was seeing the look in his classmates eyes when they realized higher education was attainable. “I was carrying the stories of people I graduated with into those offices [in DC],” says Wiley.
When he started college, Wiley was still deciding between devoting himself to law, something in a sports field, or political science. He settled on exercise and wellness at ASU and landed a top internship in his program as a performance specialist. The internship allowed him to work with professional athletes, special forces, and citizens doing sports medicine, strength training, and conditioning. With degree in hand, he now works doing strength and conditioning for youth ice hockey in Phoenix and hopes to continue his education and go to physical therapy school.
Outside of his physical therapy career, he also has a goal of getting involved in public policy with the hope of giving those from Globe-Miami and San Carlos a voice. “We have a voice and I think that’s something that we don’t always use,” says Wiley. “Nobody’s future should be determined by their zip code.”
Autumn Giles is a freelance writer and recipe developer whose work has appeared in Edible Baja Arizona, Modern Farmer, Punch, Serious Eats, and elsewhere. Her first book, Beyond Canning was published in February 2016.