Teens GEAR UP for a Rewarding Future
One student is working toward her nursing degree; another plans to major in business so she can run her own bakery; a third student aims to plant trees on Mars. What do all these students have in common? Their dreams have been guided and supported by the mentors in the GEAR UP program.
Signed into law by President Clinton in 1998, Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) is a federally funded college and career readiness program that helps students, from seventh grade up prepare for postsecondary education and learn life skills.
Vancouver Public Schools (VPS) is now in its third cycle of the GEAR UP program, and it has proven to be a very successful grant program, with verified higher graduation rates and a higher percentage of students going on to postsecondary education.
“There are two models of GEAR UP,” explains Nina Stemm, district coordinator for VPS’s GEAR UP program. “One is the cohort model where we follow an entire class from seventh grade through their first year of postsecondary schooling. And the other is the priority model, where only students who qualify for free and reduced meals are in the program. In Vancouver, we function as a cohort model and follow the class of 2023.”
To qualify for GEAR UP, a school must have 50% or more of their students enrolled in the free and reduced lunch program. Three middle schools and two high schools within VPS fall under this category. The seventh-graders at Discovery, McLoughlin and Gaiser Middle Schools began the program in the 2017-18 school year and are now freshmen at Hudson’s Bay and Fort Vancouver High Schools. A small percentage of the students moved on to Skyview, and even though Skyview is not a qualifying high school, the grant allowed those students to continue with the program.
One thousand students are now involved in Vancouver’s GEAR UP.
Read the rest of this article in the full digital issue below.