The grant is one of seven state-level Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) recently announced by President Bill Clinton.
“GEAR UP is an initiative to bring together key stakeholders and resources in a partnership to address the college going rate in West Virginia,” said State Superintendent Dr. David Stewart. “The West Virginia GEAR UP initiative will focus on 31 middle and high schools in eight rural counties, connecting those schools with higher education institutions; local, regional and state partners; and interested agencies and groups to bring about substantive improvement in the college going rate and college preparedness of students.”
According to Dr. Stewart, participating counties include Hampshire, Clay, Pocahontas, Roane, Mason, Lincoln, McDowell and Monroe.
“These school systems have endorsed this effort and are committed to increasing college going rates and improving the ability of students to be prepared for college,” the State Superintendent noted. “These counties plan to make a difference through this initiative.”
Dr. Stanley Hopkins, GEAR UP project director for the West Virginia Department of Education, said the initiative will begin at the seventh grade, focusing on academic preparation and providing information to students and their families about college.
“By reaching students early, when they’re beginning to make decisions about courses to take in their junior high and high school careers, we will help them build a solid academic foundation on which to continue their education at a college or university,” Dr. Hopkins explained. “Students participating in the GEAR UP initiative will take the rigorous coursework necessary to continue their education, so they will be better prepared for undergraduate programs. Also, as part of this initiative, students and their families will be better informed about educational and career opportunities and the importance of postsecondary education in today’s world, while receiving access to the financial assistance necessary to achieve their goals.”
Dr. Hopkins said that too many West Virginia students don’t prepare for college or don’t believe that college is an option for them.
“This initiative will not only help prepare students for college, but it will also encourage them to begin looking at college as a realistic goal,” he said. “GEAR UP is designed to change the attitudes about and expectations for technology at the school and school system level."