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OMA&D awarded $40 million in GEAR UP grants to build stronger college and career pathways

The University of Washington Office of Minority Affairs & Diversity (OMA&D) has been awarded $40 million in GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) grant funding to deepen its efforts with school districts and community organizations to make college a reality for more low-income middle and high school students in the state.

A seven-year $23.4 million grant will establish the new GEAR UP Achievers Partnership with four school districts and community organizations in South King County. The school districts include Auburn, Kent, Renton and Tukwila.

Another seven-year $16.7 million grant will support a new cohort of students in the RISE UP (Rural Initiative in STEM Education) GEAR UP program that has been working with school districts and partners in the Yakima and Skagit Valleys since 2011. Overall, OMA&D has administered UW GEAR UP grants in the Yakima and Skagit Valleys since 1999.

Funded by the U.S. Department of Education, GEAR UP is a national college readiness program designed to increase the number of low-income students who are prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education. It begins serving students at the sixth or seventh grade level through their first year of college.

Both GEAR UP grant programs will also focus on closing academic achievement gaps for these student populations in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.

“This is great news for our partner districts and schools, OMA&D and the University of Washington,” said Rickey Hall, vice president for the Office of Minority Affairs & Diversity and university diversity officer. “OMA&D has a long history of working with partners to build pathways to postsecondary education for underrepresented and low-income students, and these grants will ensure that even more students in our state are college and career ready.”

The GEAR UP Achievers program will forge a partnership between the Auburn, Kent, Renton and Tukwila school districts and several community organizations to address needs of low-income students and support their academic potential by helping them overcome barriers to educational success. The program will serve 4,303 students in these districts annually.

The RISE UP GEAR UP grant will serve a new cohort of 2,979 students annually within the following school districts: Burlington-Edison, East Valley, Goldendale, Grandview, Granger, Mt. Adams, Mt. Vernon, Royal, Sunnyside, Toppenish, Wahluke, Wapato and Zillah.

In addition to STEM focused activities, partners for both GEAR UP programs will provide students with mentoring and a range of college-readiness activities including information, assistance and workshops for students and parents on financial aid, scholarships, admissions applications, SAT, financial literacy, campus visits and career exploration.

Since OMA&D began administering these grants in 1999, UW GEAR UP has provided over $62 million in funding and served over 17,000 sixth-12th grade students.

With GEAR UP included, OMA&D has a variety of college access programs that currently serve over 25,000 students across the state.

For more information:
Patricia Loera
Associate Vice President, College Access
UW Office of Minority Affairs & Diversity