The University of Washington has received a grant, expected to total more than $12 million over the next five years, to provide low-income students in the Seattle schools with the skills, motivation and preparation to pursue higher education.
Sen. Patty Murray announced the grant, part of the national GEAR-UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) initiative from the Department of Education. Over the life of the grant, more than 4,600 Seattle students will be served.
“We work best when we work together,” Sen. Murray said. “The Seattle GEAR-UP program is a perfect example of how public and private groups can join forces to achieve ambitious goals. Every student deserves a chance to go to college, and I look forward to watching GEAR-UP students reach their full potential through the program. I’m also proud that this grant continues the administration’s commitment to improving educational opportunities in the Seattle area.”
The UW will partner with students at Seattle middle schools. The schools include six in the Seattle School District-the African American Academy, Aki Kurose, Mercer, Madrona, Meany and the Seahawks Academy-as well as Zion Preparatory Academy. These schools are characterized by high poverty rates; the free and reduced lunch rate at the schools is 65%.
Students will begin participating in GEAR-UP in sixth or seventh grade and will participate in the program for the life of the grant. The services available to them will include: tutoring; summer employment; academic assessment and class planning; career and college planning; academic advising; campus field trips, information sessions on financial aid, admissions and other college readiness issues; service learning; and mentoring. Parents and teachers will be involved in the program as well. The project also will provide financial assistance in the form of scholarships.
“We’re very excited to receive this grant and to be working with the Seattle schools,” says Tom Colonnese, assistant vice president for minority affairs and principal investigator for the grant. “One of the goals of this program is to increase the diversity in the higher education institutions in our state by working with students who might not consider college a real option for them, and by beginning at an early age have a real impact. The slogan for our effort is, ‘College is a plan.’”
“Our mission in Seattle Public Schools is to ensure academic achievement for every student in every school,” said Superintendent Joseph Olchefske. “This grant will be of tremendous assistance as we work to close the achievement gap between students of different ethnic groups and provide exceptional opportunities to every young person in our district.”
In addition to the UW and the Seattle Public Schools, partners in this GEAR-UP grant include the Meredith Matthews East Madison YMCA Black Achievers Program, and Central Youth and Family Services. The program also will have support from Microsoft Corp.
Tom Colonnese can be reached at: (206) 543-7453 or by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org