Payson Schools Superintendent Greg Wyman received the call before the Sept. 22 board meeting —the U.S. Department of Education’s GEAR UP grant is back on.
“Today ... EAC (Eastern Arizona College) called to say they have the (federal) GEAR UP grant ... this all just happened in the last two hours,” Wyman told the board and audience at the meeting.
Last year’s GEAR UP grant provided a mentor, advocate and master teacher to help the class of 2014 through, starting in seventh grade. The graduating class this year had a dramatic rise in graduation and college attendance rates and also won a record number of college scholarships.
Among this year’s GEAR UP grant students in Payson, 72 percent had plans to pursue post secondary school education, compared to 50 percent in years past.
Not only did more students plan on attending college, but the class took in a larger percentage of scholarships than in the past, amassing a record $1.2 million.
However, when the grant ended, the district decided it couldn’t afford to continue the program without the federal money.
The program did inspire some spinoff advocacy and mentoring programs like the BRIDGES program started by Rim Country Middle School academic adviser Trevor Creighton. That program turns eighth-graders into mentors for sixth-graders.
The idea for a mentorship program came from EAC originally. EAC Grant Coordinator Carter McEuen and GEAR UP Project Director Eldon Woodall said the programs offer interventions that include tutoring, mentoring by classmates, teacher training, advanced placement, after-school and summer classes and internships.
The grant also requires EAC to offer character education programs that teach personal responsibility and citizenship.
EAC trains its site coordinators help students realize college is attainable and affordable.
EAC serves as the grant coordinator for nine schools in Arizona, Payson included. McEuen writes grants to the federal GEAR UP grant foundation. The grant awarded started in 2008 and finished last year.
McEuen said he believes his focus on a few schools gave him a leg up when applying.
According to its website, the purpose of GEAR UP — which stands for Gaining Early Aware¬ness and Readiness for Under¬graduate Programs — is to “increase the number of low-income students ready for college. The GEAR UP advocate and mentor starts working with students in sixth grade and follows the class through high school graduation.
Woodall gave examples of GEAR UP success stories:
“One parent told me, ‘I am so happy with GEAR UP, my daughter would not have gone off to such a good college in her wildest dreams.’”
Another young man received a scholarship — and so did his horse. “Tyler Bartlet received a unique sports scholarship — team roping,” said Woodall. “This is a boy who is amazing.”
Since the grant is so new, Woodall and McEuen said they are still working out the budget. Last time site coordinators received between $70,000 and $80,000 in salary and benefits. They were also given $23,000 for supplies and to employ tutors.
Wyman plans to hire a GEAR UP site coordinator. “We’re doing some advertising for positions ... it appears (the grant is) everything it was last time.”
Source: Payson Roundup