CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Sept. 19, 2016) – Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin today proclaimed this week as “GEAR UP Week” to recognize the Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) initiative, a program funded by the United States Department of Education to help students pursue and achieve some form of education or training beyond high school. This week has been declared “National GEAR UP Week” by program partners across the country.
“GEAR UP is an exemplary program that has had a proven, positive impact in West Virginia,” Governor Tomblin said. “GEAR UP not only encourages students to dream big, but also provides them with the guidance and knowledge they need to turn their dreams into realities. There is no more powerful vehicle for personal betterment and community growth than education. The GEAR UP program empowers our young people to build meaningful lives here in the Mountain State.”
West Virginia’s GEAR UP program serves more than 4,600 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 through their first year of education or training beyond high school. The program also provides services annually to 12th graders in eligible schools.
Through GEAR UP, students are given the opportunity to participate in free college tours, ACT and SAT test preparation workshops, tutoring, mentoring, financial aid workshops and career, leadership and college preparation summer academies. West Virginia GEAR UP also coordinates college-planning workshops for parents and provides training programs for teachers.
The West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission, which coordinates GEAR UP in the state, was first awarded a GEAR UP grant in 2008 and received its second consecutive grant in 2014. Outcomes from the Commission’s first grant cycle were promising. From 2008 to 2014, GEAR UP schools increased their college-going rates by nearly four percent, and surveys showed that GEAR UP students were far more knowledgeable than their peers of the college-going process.
Many of West Virginia's statewide college access and success initiatives were first piloted through the GEAR UP program. For example, more than 400 schools across West Virginia participated last year in College Application and Exploration Week, an effort first launched in West Virginia GEAR UP schools in 2010.
The Commission’s current GEAR UP program is funded through 2021.