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Money to help students prepare for college

ELLENSBURG – Oroville and Tonasket School Districts are among 11 districts to be part of a more than $18 million Gear Up award by the U.S. Department of Education to help students prepare for college.

The federal agency made the award to Central Washington University to help students in the Brewster, Easton, Highland, Lake Chelan, Manson, Omak, Oroville, Quincy, Richland, Tonasket and Wenatchee school districts prepare for college. CWU is the only institution of higher education in Washington State to receive the award for Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP). This is CWU’s fourth GEAR UP grant since 2001 and its largest-ever federal grant.

The grant provides $18,155,200 for a new seven-year GEAR UP program, Project SOAR2 (Success & Opportunity through Affordability, Relevance & Rigor). CWU’s director of Research and Sponsored Programs, Julie Guggino, said the SOAR2 program would build on the solid foundation of the MOSAIC2 GEAR UP grant, which focuses primarily on student success in STEM fields.

“SOAR2 encourages students to apply themselves in all disciplines, with emphasis on academic rigor, relevance and affordability,” said Guggino. “SOAR helps put a college degree within reach of students by helping them stay on track for high school graduation, pursue rigorous coursework in high school, apply for financial aid and helping families understand how to support their students.”

The grant will serve current sixth- and seventh-grade. Seventh graders will receive support through their first year in college. The funds will help provide classroom and after-school program tutors, college visits and higher education preparation materials to more than 3,000 students in these rural areas.

The two-grade cohort represents the future for 11 rural communities across a vast, rural region in north central Washington. Poverty rates, indicated by the percentage of students participating in the free and reduced lunch programs, range from 50 to 97 percent. When these students move into college, an estimated 87 percent will be the first in their families to go to college.

The grant pays for the coursework teachers need to earn the credentials necessary to offer college-in-the-high school courses. These enable students to earn college credit while still in high school. In addition, CWU teacher-education students will have the opportunity to work with students in some of the targeted school districts, gaining valuable experience in multicultural environments and in K-12 education settings. CWU teacher education majors will develop undergraduate research projects in association with the SOAR grant.

Source: Okanogan Valley Gazette Tribune