Oct. 17, 2018 GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Students in four Wyoming area school districts will gain academic assistance to boost their chances for success in college and beyond through a partnership with Grand Rapids Community College and a $2.1 million, six-year grant from the U.S. Education Department.
Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs -- or GEAR UP -- is a competitive federal program that provides resources to promote college awareness, improve academic performance in math and writing, increase high school graduation rates, and improve the transition of students from middle school to high school, and from high school to college -- particularly for at-risk, low-income, and first-generation students.
GRCC -- the only Michigan college to receive the federal grant this year -- will partner with the Godfrey-Lee, Godwin Heights, Kelloggsville, and Wyoming school districts.
“We embrace opportunities to be a resource for the communities we serve,” GRCC President Bill Pink said. “We’re working with our partners in the school districts, helping students and their families. GEAR UP is an intensive effort to build skills and awareness of college and careers so students can set ambitious goals and have the support to attain them."
The grants will serve a cohort of seventh-graders, following them from middle school to high school and off to college or career training. GEAR UP funds also can provide college scholarships to low-income students.
GRCC was awarded $357,544 for the first year of the partnership, part of a six-year offering of $2,111,222 that will include early intervention components along with math and writing support in order to raise awareness and expectations of all students that they can gain access and succeed in college.
Wyoming Superintendent Craig Hoekstra said he was elated to hear about how the grant could help his community and called the partnership “powerful.”
"This grant will further support student preparedness through graduation, and is an outstanding opportunity we will fully exhaust,” he said. “Being the only partnership in Michigan to receive this grant this year demonstrates that we have great people around the table collaborating and doing everything possible in the best interest of students.”
Students in the program will have access to tutors, advisers and academic support services. High school students will have access to career exploration software to help them discover their strengths and passions, discuss career aspirations and build awareness of the educational requirements for such jobs. Students will be encouraged to consider all possibilities, such as college, technical career training and certification programs.
Teachers will have access to intensive professional development and consultants to enhance existing programs. That includes developing a math curriculum that brings real-world job experiences into classrooms, building practical knowledge of how math is used in occupations.
District guidance counselors will be offered intensive training based on best practices to improve college and career advising, as well as communicating with families.
Pink saluted the Grand Rapid Community College Foundation, which worked to secure the grant, and appreciated the U.S. Education Department for its support for local educators and its investment in West Michigan's future.
Grand Rapids Community College has been offering educational opportunities in West Michigan for more than 100 years. Established in 1914, the college offers degree courses, certification and training programs, and workshops and personal enrichment classes. Offerings are held on GRCC’s downtown Grand Rapids campus, and at several locations throughout Kent and Ottawa counties, as well as through distance learning.