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National GEAR UP Week Offers Students Post-Secondary Guidance
September 20, 2022 – Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools is set to kick off “Pep Up GEAR UP” Week! In honor of the nationally recognized “GEAR UP Week,” WS/FCS has scheduled several outreach events to raise awareness for the college readiness program.
GEAR UP stands for Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs. It is a federal grant program from the United States Department of Education that was established in 1998. The latest initiative is a partnership with Winston-Salem State University and WS/FCS. This year, WSSU received a more than $28 million grant to host the program. It is the largest grant in the university’s history.
GEAR UP works with cohorts of students starting in seventh grade at middle schools where at least 50% of students benefit from free and reduced-cost lunch. Financially disadvantaged students are more likely to opt out of going to college, and GEAR UP’s mission is to give those students all of the information they need to buck that trend.
“Exposure, exposure, exposure, that’s what this is all about,” said Family and Community Coordinator Charlene Thomas. “Hopefully, by the time they’re in 12th grade, they’ll have heard enough that they want to go to college.”
Throughout the school year, GEAR UP engages with students in many different ways. They go on field trips to explore college campuses, they learn how to fill out applications for admission and financial aid, and they attend workshops about figuring out their personal goals for after graduation. National GEAR UP Week is a prelude to those activities that focuses on getting the word out so that every family will be prepared to take advantage of available resources.
“We’re encouraging students to work with the programs that are already in place,” said Family and Community Coordinator Maribel Cabrera De Rojas.
The week will kick off with coordinators going into classrooms to discuss GEAR UP with students who may not have heard about it before. From there, teachers will set aside time to discuss their own college experiences with their students and provide perspective on what college is really like. Coordinators will also spend time in car rider lines before and after school sharing information with parents as they pick up and drop off their kids. Educating parents about options for their students to attend a university can be just as important for their academic success as discussing it with the students, especially on the financial front.
“We want to show that path to families and let them know that they have options,” said Family and Community Coordinator Michelle Sanabria.
It will ultimately be up to each student to decide whether college is right for them, but they all deserve to be well-informed when they make that decision. GEAR UP gets students thinking about how to reach their full potential years in advance and leaves them better prepared to achieve their goals once they graduate. It’s WS/FCS’ mission to put every child in a position to succeed, and GEAR UP is a key part of that mission.
“It’s getting them into that mindset of life after high school,” said GEAR UP Liaison Dr. Carol Montague-Davis. “The GEAR UP national goals align directly to WS/FCS district goals. ”
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