FARMINGTON — The University of Maine at Farmington has been selected to receive a $20 million, seven-year grant to help at-risk middle and high school students prepare for and be successful in college.
The grant is projected to serve up to 7,600 students annually from 63 high-poverty, rural schools in 26 districts. In addition, 19 partners representing a wide spectrum of educational and business organizations will be working in support of the grant’s goals.
Participants in the program will work closely with students beginning in seventh grade to help improve their academic performance and increase the rate of high school graduation. In addition, they will work to increase students’ and their families’ knowledge of post-secondary education, financial literacy and the options available to them.
Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs, or GEAR UP, is a state grant from the U.S. Department of Education.
“This GEAR UP grant is a wonderful asset for Maine and Maine students,” UMF President Kathryn A. Foster said. “Its implementation will help inspire all Maine students to strive beyond high school and realize their potential. UMF looks forward to working closely with our partners and supporters so we can help improve student achievement and continue to advance Maine’s future.”
Maine is one of 10 states to receive the grant. The awards were recently announced by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Thirty-one partnership grants also were awarded. As the sole institution of higher education in Maine receiving the state grant, UMF will serve as the award’s fiscal agent, with Syntiro, a nonprofit based in Readfield, providing the administration.
“Syntiro is pleased to be collaborating with the University of Maine at Farmington, and we look forward to enhancing and supporting a robust college-going culture in the Maine schools,” said Kathryn F. Markovchick, Syntiro president and grant project director.
“We provided the administration for a previous GEAR UP state grant awarded to Maine's Department of Education from 2005-2011. We hope to build upon the successes of that experience and work to ensure that together, with UMF, school and non-school partners, we create outstanding opportunities for Maine's students,” she said.
“A new feature of the grant this year is the opportunity to follow and support GEAR UP students and their families during the first year of college,” said Katherine Yardley, UMF associate provost, dean of the College of Education, Health and Rehabilitation and grant program manager. “This is a valuable new connection that will give us additional insight into students’ needs in their first year and the types of support we can provide to ensure their academic success.”
For the first year of the grant, UMF will receive about $2.9 million. The $20 million from the federal government will be matched by 46 partners across the state.
UMF has worked with the GEAR UP program since 1999.
Source: Lewiston Sun Journal