Monday, August 29, 2005

The U.S. Department of Education has announced that the Fairmont State GEAR-UP Partnership has received a new six-year grant for more than $31.7 million.

GEAR-UP supports early college preparation and awareness activities for low-income students. GEAR-UP provides grants to states and partnerships to provide services to middle and high schools that have 50 percent or more of their students receiving free and reduced lunch.

The major grant award has garnered support from West Virginia's congressional delegation.

"GEAR-UP grants have helped open a door for so many students in West Virginia who may not have been able to envision a path to college otherwise," said U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller. "It [GEAR-UP] encourages students to embrace the idea of a college degree as a personal goal and prepares them academically for success in reaching that goal. Supporting the GEAR-UP program is about supporting the future of West Virginia."

"A college education opens up a world of new opportunities for young people. That's why it is important to make them aware of the benefits of receiving a degree, and to support and encourage them as they prepare to continue their education beyond high school," said Congressman Alan B. Mollohan. "The GEAR-UP program is designed to achieve this very purpose and Fairmont State can take a great deal of pride in its success. I am pleased to congratulate the university on this major new grant award."

"Every young person in West Virginia deserves the opportunity to go to college, and Fairmont State's GEAR-UP program is helping to make that goal a reality," said U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd. "It is great news that soon even more Mountain State children will benefit from the program's important services. I commend the Fairmont State faculty and the students and families who work together to make GEAR-UP a success."

In 1999, Fairmont State received the largest of 164 partnership grants awarded throughout the U.S. The original grant, initially for five years and extended for a sixth year, served 16,553 seventh- through 12th-grade students in 29 middle schools and 18 high schools in nine counties: Barbour, Doddridge, Harrison, Marion, Monongalia, Preston, Randolph, Taylor and Tucker. Fairmont State applied for a new grant in March 2005 and received official notification of the grant award this month.

"Fairmont State's GEAR-UP Partnership grant has made a positive difference in the lives of students and their families over the past six years," said Dr. Daniel J. Bradley, Fairmont State University President. "We are thrilled to be able to continue and expand the program through our new grant. This is a major accomplishment for Fairmont State, and all of our GEAR-UP staff members should be commended for their efforts."

Fairmont State has been awarded the fourth largest of the 98 partnership grants given across the nation this year -- the only new grant to be awarded in West Virginia. The new grant will continue to serve the original nine counties and will expand the GEAR-UP program into Braxton, Calhoun, Gilmer, Lewis and Upshur counties.

"Although we have been working with the original nine counties for the past six years, there is still work to be done to truly implement sustainable programs, resources and partnerships in our GEAR-UP schools," said Amie Fazalare, Fairmont State GEAR-UP Director. "We are also very happy to have the opportunity to provide resources to the students, parents and teachers of five new counties."

For each of the six years of the grant, 6,617 students and their parents from 56 middle and high schools in the 14 counties will benefit from GEAR-UP programs and services. More than 20 state, business and community partners, as well as hundreds of teachers, are committed to the program. GEAR-UP activities include tutoring, mentoring, summer camps, teacher training and special workshops, field trips to colleges and special events, financial planning for parents, support equipment and motivational materials.

"I have had numerous parents and students tell me how GEAR-UP has made such a difference in their lives, and that they now truly believe that the students and sometimes even the parents can go on to college," Fazalare said. "We want West Virginia to have a better educated population, and this grant can make it possible through its programs, resources and staff development opportunities."

Fairmont State GEAR-UP's inaugural seventh-grade cohorts for the original grant are now in their first year of college. In an effort to evaluate the college readiness of these students during the last school year, a 40-question survey was submitted to a random group of seniors at each Fairmont State GEAR-UP high school. For comparison the same survey was given to a random group of seniors at four non-GEAR UP high schools.

The data show significant differences between GEAR-UP and non-GEAR-UP students in their preparation to enter and succeed in post secondary education. Even though in some cases non-GEAR-UP students had more access to resources such as AP, Honors and other college preparatory classes, the data show that GEAR-UP students take better advantage of these resources. More GEAR-UP participants expect to enter a four-year college, are enrolled in AP/Honors and other college preparatory classes and have a higher GPA than non-GEAR-UP students. In addition, a higher percentage of GEAR-UP participants have taken the ACT and SAT. These students also have more access to information regarding college preparatory classes and college entrance requirements. Overall, the findings indicate that GEAR-UP participants have a higher level of esteem regarding their educational expectation.

For more information on the Fairmont State GEAR-UP Partnership, call (304) 367-0436 or visit www.fairmontstate.edu.