Thursday, January 06, 2005

More than 200 students from high schools across the state will receive training Friday and Saturday, Jan. 7-8, on leadership and college preparation skills in an effort to boost West Virginia's college-going and retention rates.

The students will be trained to serve as peer mentors for "GO Centers" in their respective high schools as part of a collaborative college preparation/retention campaign among four groups: the Fairmont State GEAR UP Partnership, the state Higher Education Policy Commission, the state Council for Community and Technical College Education and the state Department of Education. The project was first introduced to the agencies by the Southern Regional Education Board as a way to increase the state's college-going rate and students' level of academic preparedness.

This week's training will help to create GO Centers in state schools. The GO Center is an assigned area within a school where resources are available concerning colleges and careers. The mission of the GO Center is to provide a local resource that motivates students to pursue a college education and provides the necessary support students need to successfully transition from high school to post secondary education. Applications and testing information will be found in GO Centers along with related print and Internet based resources related to career and college exploration.

The GO Centers will be operated by a selected group of trained high school students called the G-Force. G-Force members are trained in leadership, outreach and marketing as well as basic college preparation information so that they are able to assist and motivate others to ensure college readiness and access. G-Force members will also be responsible for the development of local outreach and marketing efforts originating from their GO Centers.

"Fairmont State GEAR UP is very excited to participate as the pilot project for establishing GO Centers in our 18 GEAR UP high schools and five of the high schools that participate in the state GEAR UP grant," said Amie Fazalare, Director of the FS GEAR UP Partnership.

The training will be held at the Radisson hotel in Morgantown. A ceremony at 12:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 8, will honor the program sponsors and guests including HEPC Chancellor J. Michael Mullen; Sen. John Blair Hunter; Delegate Larry Williams, Vice Chair of the House Education Committee; Blair Montgomery, President of Fairmont State Community & Technical College; Robert Morgenstern, Director of Legislative Relations, External Communications and Outreach for HEPC; and Dan Crockett, Director of Student and Educational Services for HEPC. Members from each participating school along with their sponsors will be recognized as a group.

The purpose of the project is to increase both the college-going rate and retention rate of students (college readiness). According to recent reports, West Virginia's college going-rate (percent of high school graduates enrolled in degree-granting institutions of higher education following graduation) is at the national average, but the percentage of students that graduate from college within six years is one of the lowest in the nation.

The HEPC, WVCCTCE and state Department of Education have developed a web site targeted to students on issues such as financial aid, scholarship information and applying to community and technical colleges and four-year institutions. The new site, www.collegeforwv.com, will provide students everything they need to know about applying for college. The web site is intended as a portal to the wealth of information and services that exist and will funnel traffic to other sites (e.g., West Virginia Clearinghouse, PROMISE, West Virginia Edge, etc.) by virtue of the links carried on the site.

Fairmont State's GEAR UP Partnership is a six-year, federally funded program that aims to significantly increase the number of students who are prepared to succeed in education beyond high school. In 1999, Fairmont State received the largest of 164 partnership grants awarded throughout the United States. GEAR UP grant goals include parent outreach efforts. For more information about GEAR UP, call (304) 367-0436.