OTTUMWA— As the GEAR UP students transition to Ottumwa High School as freshmen, a new face will provide expanded GEAR UP services, thanks to support from the Ottumwa Regional Legacy Foundation.
The State of Iowa was awarded a second federal GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) in the fall of 2014. Ottumwa was selected to participate. The project supports a group of students (Class of 2020) for seven years, following them from seventh grade through their twelfth grade year. Students and their families receive a variety of services aimed at preparing them academically, financially and inspirationally to enroll and succeed in college. Upon enrollment in college, GEAR UP Iowa students will receive a modest scholarship for up to four years.
Ottumwa’s grant provided for a part-time coordinator to work with students for seven years. Staff at Ottumwa High School strongly believed more time was needed to help encourage and prepare high school students for the next step after graduation. The district requested support from Legacy to expand the position to full-time and was funded.
Alyx Coble-Frakes is the district’s new GEAR UP coordinator. A Wartburg graduate, Coble-Frakes spent two years in the Peace Corps before landing a job as an Americorp volunteer at Indian Hills. Her job involved helping families make a decision about college and completing the college application process, including the FAFSA and admission forms.
The transition to GEAR UP will be easy with a similar focus on college and career readiness. She sees her role more about building relationships and changing perceptions. “I want to instill in the hearts of students a different type of understanding of what is meant by ‘college-bound,” said Coble-Frakes. Other seeds she hopes to plant include “college is for everyone” and “going to college will change your life.”
Additional hours will allow Coble-Frakes to see every student weekly. Initially, this time will be in a core subject area. Schedule adjustments will be made as student courses become more diverse during their junior and senior years. Her goal is to provide hands-on experiences, including field trips to university campuses and job shadowing. Building relationships with local employers will provide students a variety of opportunities. Funds from GEAR UP will provide these experiences four times each semester.
GEAR UP is also about parents. She realizes the importance of getting parents involved and wants to do more for parents. “How do we get parents feeling comfortable [about college] and encouraging their students to go on?” she said.
“I’m very passionate and excited to be working with students,” Coble-Frakes said. “It’s going to be a great year.”
Source: Ottumwa Post