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August 23, 2005

Thousands more low-income rural youths to get help preparing for college

News and Information

More than 2,700 students from small rural schools in the Yakima and Skagit valleys, as well as the community of Goldendale, will get help preparing for college through a $2.2 million-a-year federal grant received today by the University of Washington.

In a separate grant, the state of Washington has received funding for a six-year program that provides tutoring, career and college information, and scholarships to more than 1,000 other disadvantaged middle and high school students The program is a partnership among the UW, the Governor’s Office, the Higher Education Coordinating Board and the Washington Education Foundation.

Both grants, from the federal Department of Education, are part of the GEAR UP program, Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs.

The UW program, titled “Two Valleys One Vision,” will begin with children in sixth and seventh grade in 12 public school districts and one tribal school, providing them intensive services and support for six years. The program will include professional development for their teachers, before and after school tutoring, special summer and Saturday programs, mentoring, college planning and counseling, and family financial planning.

“Using research-based effective practices, we will use every resource available in implementing the GEAR UP curriculum for the success of these students,” says Loueta Johnson, Yakima Valley GEAR UP Director. “These best practices will include both in-class and out-of-class research models.

The program aims to increase by 20 percent the number of students from the same area and background who:


  • enroll in post-secondary education ;
  • graduate from high school;
  • and take the college admissions SAT and ACT tests.

In addition, the goal is a 10 percent increase in the number of students from similar backgrounds in the area who pass the state WASL tests in reading and mathematics in 7th and 10th grade, and pass advanced mathematics courses.

The UW GEAR UP program operated by the Office of Minority Affairs will be a partnership, with school districts providing volunteer mentors, using teachers as tutors, and giving counselors the opportunity to visit the UW to meet with admissions officers and others. Other partners include the Northwest Communities Education Center/Radio KDNA, which will provide informational programming and promotion of GEAR UP in the Yakima Valley; Heritage University, which will be organizing summer science student camps; Yakima Valley Community College, which will provide tutor training; Digital Learning Commons, which will provide online high school credit courses; the Northwest Community Action Center, which will provide parent training and financial counseling services; and Power of Hope, which will offer professional development for teachers and staff.

“We are excited about our partnership with local communities in piloting a solid pathway to higher education that is curriculum based and that will ultimately contribute to academic success of students benefiting both them and their communities,” says. Nancy “Rusty” Barcelo, UW vice president for minority affairs and vice provost for diversity.

The UW GEAR UP program will receive $2.18 million a year for six years. This is matched by an in-kind donation from the UW and its partners.

“The university is pleased to expand our GEAR UP services to new districts with compelling needs based on the number of low income students which reside within district boundaries,” says Enrique Morales, senior associate vice president for minority affairs. “We are pleased with their response and enthusiasm to join GEAR UP during the planning stages. Now we look forward to assisting them with locally responsive strategies to assist students to continue, at higher levels, into postsecondary education.”

The Washington State GEAR UP program, in addition to providing a rich menu of services for disadvantaged students, also brings together educators, business leaders, community organizations and local governments to improve teaching and better prepare students for college success.

For the UW state GEAR UP Project portion of the state GEAR UP grant, nearly 200 middle and high school students come to the UW for a week-long resident college awareness and readiness experience each summer. The program also includes the Honors Academy, a partnership with the Washington Education Foundation, which consists of a month of rigorous academic instruction in mathematics and language arts for nearly 80 post-ninth grade students each year drawn from eight Western Washington high schools that participate in the WEF Achievers Scholarship program. The program is housed in the UW’s College of Arts and Sciences.

The state GEAR UP program will receive $3.5 million a year for six years. In its first five years, the state GEAR UP program enrolled 74 percent of its high school graduates in higher education.

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For more information, contact: Connie Lehmen, UW state GEAR UP, 206-616-8157, cmlehmen@u.washington.edu; Enrique Morales, UW senior associate vice president for minority affairs, 206-543-6598, partida@u.washington.edu