Students at six Lafayette Parish middle schools are about to start preparing for life after high school.
This year, sixth- and seventh-graders at Acadian Middle, Carencro Middle, Judice Middle, Lafayette Middle, Paul Breaux Middle and Scott Middle will be in the cohort group for Gear Up, a federally-funded grant that pays for resources for college and career preparation.
In a rarity, the Lafayette Parish School System has received the Gear Up grant for a second time. The district has been awarded $13.8 million for the program. Traci Aucoin, the LPSS Gear Up project director, said most grants go to universities or state agencies. Twelve school districts across the country were awarded Gear Up grants in the most recent award cycle.
“These kids will have an awesome opportunity,” Aucoin said at a Wednesday kickoff meeting. Four college and career coaches will work with those students to help create a “college-going environment,” she added.
Interim Superintendent Burnell LeJeune said the preparation is more critical than ever, with more jobs requiring post-secondary education, technology skills and creativity.
“Our mission and our purpose is to provide every opportunity for a young person to have a successful career,” LeJeune said. “We also want every student to become a productive citizen. That’s our mission.”
Students who were part of Lafayette’s first Gear Up cohort, which began in 2008, said the program allowed them to visit college campuses beginning in middle school, create detailed graduation and post-high school plans and prepare for standardized tests and the college enrollment process.
The hope is that a new generation of Lafayette Parish students now can enjoy those same benefits.
“I’m absolutely enthused,” said Alex Chough, vice president for government relations for the National Council for Community and Education Partnerships. “I would argue that Gear Up has never been needed more.”
Chough said that since Gear Up launched in 1998, the goals have changed somewhat. There’s more of a nationwide focus on college and career readiness, rather than high school graduation, as well as more emphasis on helping a student choose the right college or university, rather than any institution.
The fact that Lafayette Parish received a second Gear Up grant speaks to the district’s success in moving toward those goals, Chough added.
“Something good is happening here,” he said. “Students are up for the challenge, so let’s meet them where they are.”
Source: The Daily Advertiser