University of Washington GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) hosted an open house for its new office building on the campus of Heritage University in Toppenish, Wash., Feb. 15.
Dr. Sheila Edwards Lange, UW vice president for minority affairs and vice provost for diversity, was joined by staff members from the Office of Minority Affairs and Diversity (OMA&D) at the event.
A program featured remarks from Lange, as well Dr. John Bassett, Heritage University president, UW GEAR UP director Loueta Johnson, and UW GEAR UP assistant director Andy Pascua. Patsy Whitefoot, director of Indian Education for the Toppenish School District and Yakama tribal member, offered a blessing song.
The new brick building is a vast improvement from the portable trailer that previously housed the UW GEAR UP staff. According to Johnson, it symbolizes the commitment to GEAR UP’s mission of helping students from low-income families prepare for and succeed in higher education.
“It’s really about our students and our families,” Johnson said. “The building is beautiful, but this is about what work we can do with our children and with our future, sending these kids to college and getting them educated in the best possible way.”
The day’s activities for OMA&D staff also featured a tour of the Heritage campus and a visit with GEAR UP students from Mt. Adams Middle School in White Swan who demonstrated their most recent science and engineering projects.
UW GEAR UP is a federally-funded grant program managed by OMA&D. It serves middle and high school students in 13 rural districts in the Yakima, Skagit and Klickitat Valleys: Burlington-Edison, East Valley, Goldendale, Grandview, Granger, Mt. Adams, Mt. Vernon, Royal, Sunnyside, Toppenish, Wahluke, Wapato and Zillah. The program provides activities, information, educational opportunities and support necessary for students to be successful in college.
Photos by Erin Rowley