Berea College has been awarded two Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) grants from the U.S. Department of Education totaling nearly $10.7 million annually to focus teachers, administrators, parents and secondary school students on preparing for success in post-secondary education. The grants will fund two programs (GEAR UP Appalachia! and Promise Neighborhood GEAR UP) that serve elementary and middle school students in 17 central and southeastern Kentucky counties, a dozen of which are among the poorest in the nation.
The grants will be administered by Berea College's Office of Externally Sponsored Programs, which is devoted to fulfilling Berea College’s commitment to providing educational opportunities for students, primarily from Appalachia, who have great promise and limited economic resources. The grants are expected to extend for a period of seven years, totaling nearly $75 million through 2018.
"Preparing our youth for achieving success in college is an extension of Berea’s commitment to serving our region and preparing students to be engaged citizens and lifelong learners,” says Dreama Gentry, director of Externally Sponsored Programs. “Receiving these awards is a testament to the strong partnerships we have with schools and communities throughout Appalachian Kentucky, where together we will dramatically increase the numbers of students who graduate from high school and successfully complete college.”
GEAR UP programs aim to increase academic performance and preparation for postsecondary education, increase the rate of high school graduation and participation in postsecondary education and to increase students’ educational aspirations and student and family knowledge of postsecondary education options, preparation and financing.
Berea College’s GEAR UP staff will work with teachers, students and parents to ensure that young people have help preparing for college, both at home and at school. Specific services will include tutoring, professional development, college visits, career exploration activities, financial literacy classes and parent engagement work.
Promise Neighborhood GEAR UP, which partners Berea College with 11 high-poverty school districts (Bell, Breathitt, Clay, Jackson, Knott, Knox, Lee, Owsley, Perry, Powell and Rockcastle Counties), will serve more than 7,000 students in 44 schools in southeastern Kentucky, 12 of which are designated by the U.S. Department of Education as persistently lowest-achieving schools.
GEAR UP Appalachia!, which partners Berea College with eight high-poverty school districts (Berea Independent, Estill, Garrard, Jackson Independent, Laurel, Leslie, Madison and Pulaski Counties), will serve more than 6,200 students in 22 schools in central and southeastern Kentucky, five of which are designated by the U.S. Department of Education as persistently lowest-achieving schools.
Both GEAR UP programs will partner with other educational and community organizations, including Hazard Community and Technical College, Eastern Kentucky University and 22 community organizations including the Kentucky Science and Technology Corporation, College for Every Student and the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority.
"We know innovative programs like GEAR UP that intervene early can make all the difference in whether young people go to college," said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. "These grants provide the mentoring, support, and financial aid that will give thousands of students a greater opportunity to achieve success in postsecondary education."
The Office of Externally Funded Programs at Berea College operates eight federally-funded programs to support the college in reaching this initiative. The oldest of these programs, Upward Bound, has been serving low-income, first-generation high school students since 1967. Since that time, the college has also acquired the following federal programs: Educational Talent Search (1991), GEAR UP (1999), Upward Bound Math and Science (1999), Women’s Education Equity Act (2009), Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Strategic Enhancement to Mentoring (2009), Kentucky College Coaches (2010) and Promise Neighborhood (2010). Through these eight programs, the college serves 57 counties in Kentucky.