CHARLESTON, WV -- Governor Earl Ray Tomblin has designated this week as “West Virginia GEAR UP Week” to recognize the impact and achievements of the Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) effort.
GEAR UP is a national grant program funded by the United States Department of Education. Its mission is to help students pursue and achieve some form of education and training beyond high school. This week has been declared “National GEAR UP Week” by program partners across the country.
“GEAR UP works, because it invests in the development of our State’s greatest asset — its young people,” Governor Tomblin said. “The program focuses on engaging students in the learning process at a young age and prepares them to succeed at the next level, whatever path they may choose. Developing the skills, knowledge and talents of our students not only strengthens our workforce and economy, but invigorates our communities.”
The West Virginia GEAR UP program serves approximately 6,000 students each year in middle and high schools in Boone, Fayette, Mason, Mercer, Mingo, Nicholas, Summers, Webster, Wirt and Wyoming counties. Students in the class of 2020 in those districts began working with the program when they were in seventh grade and will continue receiving assistance through their first year of education or training after high school. The program also provides services annually to 12th graders in eligible schools.
West Virginia GEAR UP offers students the chance to participate in free college tours, ACT and SAT test preparation workshops, tutoring, mentoring, financial aid workshops and college preparation summer academies. GEAR UP also coordinates college-planning workshops for parents and provides training programs for teachers.
“As a counselor, I enjoy listening to the students’ stories when they return from a [GEAR UP] college visit,” Katie Williamson, a counselor at Pineville Middle School said. “They know now that college is for everyone, and they have a greater understanding of their options after high school.”
The West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission coordinates the program. The Commission was first awarded a GEAR UP grant in 2008 and received its second consecutive grant in 2014. The initiative is funded through 2021.