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Central Washington University

CWU Observing "GEAR UP Week" This Week

ELLENSBURG, Wash. — Gov. Jay Inslee has proclaimed September 23 through 27 as GEAR UP Week in Washington. Central Washington University is highly involved in the US Education Department’s Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) program, which is designed to increase the number of low-income students who are prepared to enter and succeed in college.

Through a seven-year, $11.7 million federal grant, CWU serves approximately 2,040 GEAR UP students in the Brewster, Highland, Lake Chelan, Manson, Omak, Oroville, Quincy, Tonasket, and Wenatchee school districts.

“We are currently working with 8th and 9th grade students,” said Tracy Plouse, CWU’s GEAR UP director. “We began serving these students in the 6th and 7th grades and will follow them through to their first year of college.”

The grant, funded through the federal GEAR UP program, was written in partnership with the Northwest Learning and Achievement Group (NLA) of Wapato. GEAR UP funds programs that are designed to meet the needs of schools in districts with high minority populations and high poverty rates.

CWU and NLA are the lead agencies in what’s known as Project MOSAIC2. Already, about 95 percent of participating students have visited CWU for a day of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)-related activities, sponsored by a variety of campus departments, including anthropology, biology, exercise science, mechanical engineering, and paramedicine.

“Many CWU faculty and students generously contributed their time to plan and deliver these interactive workshops that have been very effective in exposing middle school students to STEM-related, college-level academics,” said Plouse.

Focusing on middle and high school students, the project develops student enrichment activities, tutoring programs, teacher development institutes, and parental and community involvement. Financial aid availability, college admission procedures, and career planning are also highlighted as the students progress through school.

Current Central students also benefit from the program, as they get the opportunity to work with students in the targeted school districts, gaining valuable experience in multicultural environments and in K-12 education settings. There are also opportunities for undergraduate research for university students.

GEAR UP program objectives emphasize making systemic changes in schools and in teacher preparation, as well as in working with students in the schools. Central has one of the largest teacher preparation programs in the country. The grant provides an opportunity for Central to develop additional strategies to serve schools that are facing the challenges of a changing school population.

Media contact: Robert Lowery, CWU Public Affairs, 509-963-1487, loweryr@cwu.edu