Knox to partner with Berea for GEAR Up program

Students in the Knox County Public Schools will receive additional preparation for college thanks to a partnership with Berea College.

Berea announced last week that they have received funding for a GEAR Up proposal that will provide services for seven years to Knox and ten other counties in southeastern Kentucky.    GEAR Up is centered on raising aspirations, building skills, and creating a college-going culture for students.

In Knox County, two schools will be initially participating in the project, Knox County Middle and Lynn Camp Schools, with Knox Central High School being added after two years.

“By high school, many of our students have already made education decisions that will impact their life after graduation,” stated Frank Shelton, public relations director for the district.   “This grant will target students at an early age and provide a college-focused foundation for their education now and in the future.”

The grant will provide an academic specialist at Knox County Middle and Lynn Camp to help provide postsecondary preparation and college services to students.   The specialist will begin working with students in the seventh grade this year, although they may target lower grades at Lynn Camp due to its K-12 configuration. 

According to Melissa Evans, director of district-wide programs, the academic specialist will follow the students through each grade level until one year after they graduate.

“The specialist will help students identify possible majors for college, arrange for college visits, assist the student research scholarships, and work with the family on financial aid,” stated Evans.   “The academic specialist at Knox County Middle will continue to provide services to students when they enter Knox Central.”

Other duties of the academic specialist will include providing intervention, monitoring student data, and providing referrals to services necessary to ensure their success.

“The actual program will be specific for each school, and each student, to ensure that they are college and career ready,” said Evans.  “The specialist will also assist students to increase their ACT scores so that they have a score to reflect the college entrance requirements of the program they decide to pursue.” 

Nationally, students who have participated in the GEAR Up program apply and enroll in postsecondary education at a higher rate than their peers.   

The partnership with Berea will provide an added boost to the district’s focus on college readiness.  Senate Bill 1 and the new accountability system are centered on the number of students who are college and/or career ready by graduation.

“Our teachers are delivering a rigorous curriculum to prepare students for college and this partnership will be an essential component of providing the much needed additional support to help keep them on track for success,” said Shelton.