This is GEAR UP week across the nation and Goldendale is celebrating its 10th year with the program at Goldendale schools. GEAR UP stands for Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs. The program mission is to significantly increase the number of low-income students who are prepared to enter and succeed in post-secondary education.
GEAR UP funds are federal Department of Education grants and in Washington, the University of Washington and Washington State University are two recipients of the grants, administering programs in different areas of the state. Goldendale currently receives $159,000 through the University of Washington grant and the program leader is Molly Fahlenkamp.
Also working with the local program is Candy McCredy, who is focused on giving students and families on-campus experiences. “We like to get the kids onto the college campuses so they have that 3-dimensional experience and are better able to see themselves there,” says McCredy.
While the target audience is low-income families with no college experience, the GEAR UP program is providing benefits to all of the students at GHS. The grants began with students who were in the sixth and seventh grades. The educational effort focused on those students as they have made their way through high school. The current funded project students are freshmen and sophomores. Specific students aren’t singled out, says McCredy; rather, the program serves those students and what is termed their
cohorts,” or classmates.
One way GEAR UP is connecting students to colleges and tech schools is through the funding of digital screens that are mounted in the high school halls and cafeteria. It is part of a College Media Access Initiative, says McCredy. “We’re streaming live Tweets from colleges and the SAT to inspire students to consider life after high school. I think, often, they [students] picture college as just more high school, when, really, going to college opens a whole new world for them,” says McCredy.
Some of the benefits of the GEAR UP program are still at work in the Goldendale Middle School where GEAR UP funded the Gateway to Technology Lab and purchased laptop computers that have been used throughout the school. It was also GEAR UP that brought the VEX robotics program to the high school. GEAR UP has provided after school programs, teacher training and supported focused efforts on math and reading programs.
GEAR UP is also making connections with colleges to connect incoming freshmen with tutoring and mentoring programs. “Fewer than 60 percent of freshmen go on to graduate,” says McCredy. The early connection is aimed to improve on that statistic. Another are of emphasis for the program is to get families educated on the financial aspects of college education. The first group of 6th and 7th graders who graduated at Goldendale received more than $1 million in scholarships.
While GEAR UP is looking to move graduates into Washington universities and colleges, it recognizes that other options may fit the student better. GEAR UP supports the approach of attending community college, if that is a student’s best option. GEAR UP will be taking students to visit Central Washington University, Yakima Valley Community College and Perry Tech during October.
In addition to the University of Washington grant, GEAR UP has been supported by Boeing Aerospace, Microsoft, NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Pacific Science Center. For more information, contact McCredy through Goldendale High School.
Source: Goldendale Sentinel