(Olympia, Wash.) The Evergreen State College’s Student and Academic Support Services department will receive a $5,760,000 six-year GEAR UP grant from the Department of Education.
GEAR UP – an acronym for Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs – has been an Evergreen tradition since 2002. GEAR UP grants are designed to increase the rates of college attendance by working with students beginning in middle school. The national program is focused on reducing poverty by supporting students’ efforts to prepare for college and encouraging retention in schools.
The second of two GEAR UP grants received by Evergreen will be used to serve Clover Park and Oakville school districts. Approximately 2,800 students have participated in GEAR UP to date. The new six-year grant will provide for direct services to another cohort of students -- approximately an additional 2,800 students --- including mentoring programs, information for families and professional development for teachers. The work relies heavily on partnerships with school districts and twenty six community groups.
“The whole purpose of GEAR UP, starting with the sixth and seventh grade is to help students graduate and enroll in college,” says Dr. Kimberly Lees, GEAR UP director. “And, this is not just about the students, the parents are a critical piece of the support system in the lives of students,” adds Lees.
“GEAR UP helps the parents navigate the complicated process of choosing a college and gaining financial aid, as well as making vocational choices,” says Lees. “We give the parents the nuts and bolts information and start them off early in planning, including college visits, tutoring, and considering career options. Our grant is meant to help us go out and enlist the resources of community partners.”
Dr. Phyllis Lane, dean of academic and support services notes that the program “provides help to restore communities, enhance cultural resources and share what we know.” She notes that previous GEAR UP funds have resulted in a development of a culturally aware and relevant curriculum that did not exist for the Confederated Tribes of Chehalis.
“GEAR UP allows us the opportunity to change the course of history,” says Lane. “We have the opportunity to help students to learn, help their families to learn, and to help the students help themselves.”
Carletta Garraway, educational specialist at Lake High School in Clover Park, says GEAR UP “creates vision and possibilities. The one thing I have learned in working with the kids is that they can learn that possibilities are unlimited.”
Garraway emphasizes that GEAR-UP’s goal is to create both college readiness and “college-worthiness.”
“We do not sell kids short,” explains Garraway. “We create hope for our students where everyone else is giving up on them. We bring resources to the table and build avenues to explore and build confidence among students. We also focus on the parents. . . . We are the navigating agents, and help families navigate through the educational process so students are able to be more successful.”
The Evergreen State College is a nationally recognized public liberal arts and sciences college known for its distinctive interdisciplinary curriculum, high level of student/faculty engagement, commitment to community service ethics and professions, and emphasis on putting learning into action.
For more information, please visit www.evergreen.edu/gearup