Mayor Frank Kuntz and Governor Jay Inslee last week officially proclaimed September 23-27 as GEAR UP Week in recognition of the contributions these programs have made to our community and state.
Created by Congress in 1998, GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programming) is a federal program funded by the U.S. Department of Education. The goal of the program is to significantly increase the number of low-income middle and high school students who are prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education.
Since GEAR UP began in 2002 in the Wenatchee School District, this transformative program has impacted thousands of students and families. In 2012 alone, 3,285 district students benefitted from participation in a variety of GEAR UP-sponsored programs including mentoring, tutoring, college visits, test preparation, parent education, and admissions and financial aid assistance.
GEAR UP has helped low-income, first-generation college-bound students at Wenatchee High School earn $845,000 in private scholarships through the College Mentor Program — a recipient of KCTS-9 public television’s Golden Apple Award in 2012.
As a grant requirement, GEAR UP partners with local businesses to provide matching dollars of approximately $150,000 per year. As a result, $1.8 million in matching dollars have been brought in to the Wenatchee School District benefitting EVERY student in our participating schools.
In 2005, GEAR UP introduced AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) to the Wenatchee School District. AVID — a college-readiness program designed to increase school wide learning and performance — has since become a district-wide initiative.
Shane Whitaker, an 8th grader at Orchard Middle School in 2005 when he was recruited into the AVID program, states, “I came from a low-income household with many obstacles (a death in his immediate family and little family support for education) that would have made it difficult for me to seek higher education.
“AVID encouraged me to take the pursuit of college seriously and equipped me to succeed there. I graduated from Wenatchee High School in 2010. I am now in my senior year at The Evergreen State College (Olympia) and will be graduating with a degree in Religious Studies and Social Justice. Without AVID and my friends at GEAR UP, I would not have gone on to college and may not have even graduated from high school.”
Wenatchee High School celebrated National GEAR UP this week with a variety of activities highlighting student achievement and a college-going culture.
Angela Prater is the GEAR UP site supervisor for Wenatchee High School. She lives in Wenatchee with her husband and children.