University of Washington GEAR UP

WHAT: The University of Washington GEAR UP Project is part of a national effort to help students from low-income families prepare for and succeed in higher education. The RISE UP / GEAR UP partnership addresses the educational needs of low-income, at-risk students in Yakima, Skagit and Klickitat Valleys by providing activities, information, and educational opportunities necessary for students to be successful in college.

WHY: These areas of Washington State include many small, rural, agricultural-based communities, home to a large number of immigrant and migrant farm workers. The partnering schools have some of the state’s highest populations of Hispanic, Native American and/or limited English-speaking students, and poverty rates of 81.2%. The schools suffer low academic achievement, graduation, and college enrollment rates.

WHERE: Thirteen rural school 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.

WHO: Organizations/corporations involved in this partnership include: U.S. Department of Education, University of Washington, Project Lead the Way, Boeing Aerospace, Microsoft, NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Museum of Flight, Pacific Science Center, LIGO, Mathematics, Engineering & Science Achievement, UW Biomedical Engineering, College Board, and Junior Achievement, seven institutions of higher education, and 11 community-based business organizations.

HOW: This $27.72 million U.S. Department of Education RISE UP grant serves 4,955 students over the next 7 years, beginning in the 6th/7th grades (Fall 2011), through high school graduation and into their first year of college. Increasing students’ readiness for college includes: a rigorous STEM curriculum and enrichment activities, instructional support and tutoring, SAT test preparation, field trips, and visits to college campuses. Providing parents with important information regarding college entrance requirements, the college application process, and financial aid – and teachers with ongoing STEM curriculum training and professional development, are also key components to the success of the program.

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