Friday, February 24, 2006

About 600 people are expected to attend the Fairmont State GEAR-UP Partnership's annual Family Day on Saturday, Feb. 25, at the FS main campus.

Those attending, representing about 200 families, will take part in a day of events designed to give them a feel for the college campus atmosphere and to connect them with people who can answer their questions about college, whether their children plan to attend Fairmont State or any other college or university. This year's theme is "Come Discover the Treasures Within Your Student."

Registration for Family Day begins at 8 a.m. at the Falcon Center. Dr. Lisa DeFrank Cole, Executive Director of the PROMISE Scholarship program, will give a keynote address at 8:45 a.m. Her visit is sponsored by the American Association of University Women. An education and career fair featuring a variety of academic and educational resource booths and interactive demonstrations begins at 9:30 a.m. in the Colebank Hall gym. Families will tour campus and academic departments from 11 a.m. to noon and then break for lunch. Parents and their children will separate for the afternoon session from 1-4:45 p.m. Students will attend recreational activities in the Falcon Center while parents attend a series of workshops. They will reunite for dinner and entertainment at 4:45 p.m.

"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," said Amie Fazalare, Director of the Fairmont State GEAR-UP Partnership Grant. "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."

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 in August 2005.

In August 2005, Fairmont State was awarded the fourth largest of 98 partnership grants given across the nation -- the only new grant to be awarded in West Virginia. The new six-year, $31.7 million grant will continue to serve the original nine counties and will expand the GEAR-UP program into Braxton, Calhoun, Gilmer, Lewis and Upshur 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. The annual Family Day is just one of the many year-round GEAR-UP events.

On the national level, GEAR-UP continues to face federal budget cuts that could jeopardize funding for partnership and state grants such as the one at Fairmont State. The White House released a budget earlier this month that proposed completely eliminating the GEAR-UP program. Those who support GEAR-UP and the Fairmont State GEAR-UP Partnership Grant can write letters to their representatives in Congress to let them know they think GEAR-UP is worth saving.

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