published Thursday, January 31st, 2013

Bradley Schools GEAR UP for post-secondary education

Melissa Presswood, college and career coordinator for Bradley County Schools, and Bradley Central High School seniors engage their audience with the rallying cheer of "I am college bound" at the GEAR UP kick-off.
Melissa Presswood, college and career coordinator for Bradley County Schools, and Bradley Central High School seniors engage their audience with the rallying cheer of "I am college bound" at the GEAR UP kick-off.
Photo by Paul Leach.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

To learn more about GEAR UP, contact Bradley County Schools at 423-476-0620 or visit the system's website at http://www.bradleyschools.org.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. — A U.S. Department of Education program to help increase student awareness and preparation for professional training and college has had its local kickoff.

About 100 education officials, community leaders, teachers, students and their families came to Bradley Central High School's Fine Arts Building on Tuesday night to learn more about Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs.

"We want to improve the number of people with college degrees," said Troy Grant, Tennessee's director for GEAR UP. "We have to start early with the students and put supporting structures in place."

Bradley County Schools will receive $846,300 in GEAR UP grant funding over the next seven years, according to a news release. That money will go to provide services to low-income students and families as a means of "increasing enrollment and success in postsecondary education."

Lake Forest Middle School, Bradley Central High School and GOAL Academy students will benefit from the program. The class of 2018, now in seventh grade, will receive support for the duration of the program. GEAR UP also will help participating seniors to prepare for postsecondary education and training over the life of the program.

"I am college bound" is the motto and logo that soon will find its way onto T-shirts on those campuses. The message is part of the overarching intent to create "a college-going culture," officials said.

"I am very excited about what this means for our students," said Christy Critchfield, a member of the Bradley County Board of Education. "To do well, college education is a must."

The basic goals of GEAR UP are to increase students' academic performance and graduation rates, said Melissa Presswood, college and career coordinator for Bradley County Schools. Another key objective is that students understand their educational opportunities after high school, including how to prepare for them and pay for them.

Tutoring, one-on-one mentoring, college visits and financial aid counseling form the backbone of the program. A local site coordinator, funded by the grant, will work closely with students and oversee the implementation of the program with educational and community-based partners.

Cleveland State Community College, Lee University, Bradley County Board of Education, Oasis Center, Centers for School Climate and Dropout Prevention, Bradley/Cleveland Public Education Foundation, tnAchieves and Chattanooga's PEF are part of Bradley schools' GEAR UP effort.

The state will provide a public outreach campaign through CollegeforTN.org, a website promoting college access and success.

Bradley County was one of sixteen 16 school districts selected by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission to receive GEAR UP funding last fall. Other counties receiving funding include Anderson, Campbell, Claiborne, Davidson/Metro Nashville Public Schools, Grainger, Hancock, Hardeman, Haywood, Henderson, Johnson, McNairy, Robertson, Shelby/Memphis City Schools, Union and Wayne. In all, the state awarded $15 million in GEAR UP grants.

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