GEAR UP in the News

Westmoreland County Schools in Virginia highlighted GEAR UP’s work over the last couple years, including services GEAR UP offers and students who attended the Annual NCCEP/GEAR UP Conference.

Berea College, which runs two GEAR UP grants, is expanding its work with low-income students through a recently funded Promise Neighborhood Grant for work in Knox County, funded by the U.S. Department of Education.

In Kansas, KU GEAR UP has a mentoring program to help students explore possible futures. Students describe the experience mentoring has had in their lives.

At Thursday’s Madison County Board of Education meeting, board members heard stories from three local high school seniors who have been involved in the district’s GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs).

All three praised the program and the impact of having valuable resources and helpful representatives at their disposal.

GEAR UP is a discretionary grant program designed to increase the number of low-income students who are prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education. GEAR UP provides six-year grants to states and partnerships to provide services at high-poverty middle and high schools.

GEAR UP grantees provide valuable resources and assistance  to students beginning in middle school and following them through high school and graduation.

Terry Hosler, GEAR UP coordinator for Madison County, said now that the program is in its sixth year in the county, the impact of the program on student’s lives are more apparent.

“You have all the numbers and records in front of you,” Hosler told board members. “But I always prefer to hear from the student, so I decided to bring three seniors who have been involved with GEAR UP with me tonight to share with you how they have been affected by the program.

Ninth grade students and parents from Barbour County High School attended the GEAR UP Alabama Day sponsored by Troy University last week.

The county school students enjoyed a full day of activities, which began with registration and check-in at the Crosby Theater. After checking in, the students were given presentations on what to do to prepare for college, the admissions process, college finances, and also received encouraging remarks from Dr. Veronique Zimmerman-Brown, of the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Education, and the Gear Up Alabama Project Director.

New Jersey GEAR UP at Salem Community College named Destiny Bush as the project director. Bush is a first-generation college student and holds a master’s degree in education from Washington State University and a bachelor’s in criminal justice from Stockton University.

An estimated 75 percent of Americans live paycheck to paycheck, according to officials with the Texas Partners Federal Credit Union.

It’s a reality check that some local high school students got on Wednesday thanks to a real life simulation fair.

It was hosted by the Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP), in partnership with the Texas Partners Federal Credit Union.

About 200 students from the Killeen and Lampasas Independent School Districts learned about budgeting, the cost of living, and the importance of choosing a career that matches up with the type of lifestyle a student wants to have.

At the reality fair, students were randomly given a career and salary to live by, complete with monthly taxes and other expenses.

The goal for each student was to keep a balanced budget.

When Yvette Rooks, MD, CAQ, FAAFP, assistant professor, University of Maryland School of Medicine, was growing up in the Bronx, N.Y., she had very few role models and even as the daughter of two police officers, had a penchant for getting into trouble.

“Many years ago, I was in your seat,” Rooks told a group of about 100 freshman students from Edmondson-Westside High School, gathered in the auditorium of the University of Maryland School of Nursing (UMSON). “So as I speak with you today, I speak with you from my heart. Because you kind of see this middle-aged woman, she's a doctor now, how can she relate?”

Rooks served as guest speaker Nov. 9 at UMSON’s launch of Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP), a national program made possible through a $149,000 grant award from the Maryland Higher Education Commission. The grant provides high schools with college guidance services, professional development for staff, and support and resources for students and families through their senior year of high school.

Rumbila Abdullahi and her family came to America from Kenya before she entered high school. When she came to America, Abdullahi remembered catching on faster to the English language than her older siblings and parents did. She became not only a student with expectations of going to college —but a translator for her family members.

“I spend a lot of my time here,” Abdullahi said of Springfield Central High School. “We’re advised to challenge ourselves … But expecting students to get everything done and go through the college process can be overwhelming.”

As a future first-generation college student, Abdullahi is dealing with the pressures at home and at school to be knowledgeable and successful when it comes to getting to college. As a high school senior at Springfield Central High School and a student in GEAR UP, Abdullahi hopes to be relieved of some of the pressures she feels about the college process.

Central staff says college is a more attainable dream after high school because of the presence of GEAR UP. The program helps students and their parents learn more about the college application process. Statewide, the Massachusetts Educational Opportunity Association Factbook reported 6,382 middle and high school students being served by GEAR UP. Today, that number is over 10,000.

More than 100 middle-school students in will descend upon the Central Washington University campus to attend the annual GEAR UP Math Festival on November 15.

GEAR UP, or Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs, is a CWU program funded by an  $18 million-plus US Department of Education grant, one of several that the university has received in the past 15 years. The current grant, SOAR3 (Success, Opportunity, Affordability and Rigor, Relevance and Relationships) serves students in the Brewster, Easton, Highland, Lake Chelan, Manson, Omak, Oroville, Quincy, Richland, Tonasket, and Wenatchee school districts.

“Participating in STEM competitions is a key component of the grant,” said Kelley Quirk, program manager. “Earlier this year, we took students to the VEX Robotics World Competition in Louisville, Kentucky.

This week was filled with paperwork at high schools across Montana, part of a statewide push for more students to go to college.

It was College Application Week, a Montana GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) and Office of Public Instruction collaboration to help high school seniors apply for college and fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid).

All Montana University System, private and tribal institutions participate, either waiving or deferring application fees. While it's called College Application Week, GEAR UP points out that it's to help seniors applying to any post-high school program.

College Application Week launched in 2013 in Montana. That year, 84 high schools participated. This fall, it's up to 138.


Walla Walla and College Place schools will share in a $25 million grant to be divided among 10 Eastern Washington school districts over the next seven years.

The federal money will be used to help students at Pioneer, Garrison and John Sager middle schools set a path for college.

GEAR UP, which stands for Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs, was established in 1998 by the Clinton administration and is administered by the federal Department of Education.

The local GEAR UP program is managed by Washington State University Tri-Cities, with oversight by a board consisting of superintendents from each participating school district.

Programs at 10 school districts in Eastern Washington will benefit from a $25 million grant to WSU Tri-Cities.

The university received its seventh seven-year Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) grant from the U.S. Department of Education to prepare students in low-income schools to enter and succeed in post-secondary education.

The university has been part of the program since 2002.

The money will pay for programs in Walla Walla, College Place, Dayton, Prescott, Touchet, Kennewick, Othello, Warden, Moses Lake and Soap Lake.

The university plans to hire 100 people across the districts to provide assistance to students, so they can attend a college or a university.

Students start in the program during six and seventh grade, and receive assistance throughout high school. The employees act as mentors, helping the students with homework, grammar and other life skills.

To be eligible for the program, 50 percent or more of the students at a school need to be eligible for the free or reduced lunch program.

“(The program) will really make a difference in our communities, especially for first-generation and underrepresented populations,” said Chuck Hallsted, the WSU Tri-Cities GEAR UP director.

The program ending in 2015 led to 25 percent more eighth-grade students passing the Washington Assessment of Student Learning, 29 percent more 10th-grade students passing the High School Proficiency Exam in math, and a 75 percent increase in the students passing the same test for science.

Washington State University Tri-Cities recently received a $25 million seven-year GEAR UP grant to prepare students in low-income schools to enter and succeed in post-secondary education.

The Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs project will hire close to 100 new employees to work with students in middle schools.

This is the seventh U.S. Department of Education GEAR UP grant received by WSU Tri-Cities since 2002. Earlier awards have helped the university serve more than 25,000 students in middle and high schools.

Low-income and rural partnerships

The grant goals are to improve academic performance, completion of rigorous courses, knowledge of financial aid and post-secondary education, on-time graduation and post-secondary enrollment.

The grant “will raise student awareness and readiness for post-secondary education and career opportunities,” said Chuck Hallsted, GEAR UP director. “It will really make a difference in our communities, especially for first generation and underrepresented populations.”

The program serves 4,500 students in 10 partner districts: Walla Walla, College Place, Dayton, Prescott, Touchet, Kennewick, Othello, Warden, Moses Lake and Soap Lake.

Adriana Badillo, project director for GEAR UP: $1,116,440 in second-year funding from the U.S. Department of Education for Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Program, or GEAR UP-Anaheim program, which follows students from Sycamore and South junior high schools from 7th grade through high school. Badillo also was awarded $969,860 in the last year of a six-year U.S. Department of Education grant in support of the CSUF GEAR UP program, which works with students from Dale and Orangeview junior high schools. Related story: Local High School Students GEAR UP for College.