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CWU Program Honored During GEAR UP Week

Gov. Jay Inslee recently honored Central Washington University’s successful Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) for its work with more than 5,500 students across the state.

In a formal proclamation, governor designated September 19-23 as GEAR UP Week in Washington. CWU’s efforts are among those being acknowledged during the week. More than 32,000 students in Washington take advantage of educational opportunities offered through GEAR UP.

“Since it was founded back in 1999, GEAR UP grants have allowed thousands of students to attain a goal—and maybe one they thought they would not be able to achieve—of attending college,” said Tracy Plouse, CWU director for GEAR UP.

CWU has received four GEAR UP grants since 2002, in partnership with the Northwest Learning and Achievement Group of Wapato. The federally funded program’s goal is to increase the number of students who stay in school and go on to succeed in postsecondary education. It specifically focuses on students from low-income and underserved communities, who may become the first person in their particular family to go to college.

“We start with middle school students and follow them through to their first year of college,” Plouse noted. “To get those students prepared to succeed in higher education, the focus is on transitions between grade and school levels, rigorous academic work based on college entrance requirements, career and college admissions and financial aid counseling for students and their families.

CWU GEAR UP specifically serves students in the Brewster, Highland, Lake Chelan, Manson, Omak, Oroville, Quincy, and Tonasket, Wenatchee, Richland and Easton school districts.

The program includes: Moving Our Students Academically In to College and Careers (MOSAIC2), which serves 2,200 11th and 12th grade students; and Success and Opportunity through Affordability, Relevance, Rigor and Relationships (SOAR3), which involves 3,300 more students in the eighth and ninth grades.

Students participating in the program get opportunities for:
• Tutoring and additional academic assistance
• College field trips
• College and career exploration
• Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) activities, camps, and competitions— including some focusing on robotics—led by university faculty, students, and staff in Ellensburg and at participating schools.

To aid with its efforts, GEAR UP partners with a wide range of CWU departments, including astronomy, biology, construction management, physics and the Center for Excellence in Science and Math Education, along with off-campus entities, such as Washington First Robotics and Junior Achievement.

“Through GEAR UP, we can also sponsor professional development for teachers those looking for master’s degrees, endorsements and certificates,” Plouse pointed out. “It’s another way to help increase the number of highly-qualified teachers in these districts.”

At CWU, Plouse works with Kelley Quirk, and Marla Weidenaar, who provide administrative and program support for CWU’s GEAR UP initiatives.

Media contact: Robert Lowery, director of radio services and integrated communications, 509-963-1487,

September 20, 2016

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