GEAR Up to bring new opportunities for students, families, and aspiring educators

Gear Up logo from PFE

The Knox County Public Schools, through a partnership with Partners for Education at Berea College, has been awarded a second federal GEAR Up grant that will provide educational opportunities for students and employment opportunities for those aspiring to work in education during the next seven years.

GEAR UP: Opportunity will build upon successes Partners for Education has had in the past braiding different research-based programs together and will continue the work started by a former GEAR UP grant in the school district.  GEAR UP: Opportunity will service a cohort of 1,253 students in 2018-2019 in grades K-11 at Lynn Camp Schools and in grade 7 at Knox County Middle.  Like the previous GEAR UP grant, the cohort will follow those groups of students until their senior year of high school and into their first year of college.

The Knox County Board officially approved the grant agreement during their meeting on November 15.  Also during the meeting, the Board established jobs that would be needed to provide student services.  Four academic specialist and four college and career navigator positions were created, each with a set annual salary of $37,000.  Applications are currently being accepted through the Knox County Public Schools’ website (

The College and Career Navigator (CCN) is a fulltime 186‐day position in the school district. CCNs provide direct services and interventions to a cohort of students by organizing and conducting college access lessons and activities both within and outside school hours. Activities include organizing and sponsoring school clubs, conducting college tours, arranging for job shadowing and mentoring opportunities, and by providing out‐of‐school‐time learning experiences including overnight and weekend activities around leadership, college access and awareness.

Twenty‐five percent (25%) of the CCN time will be in engaging with parents to promote financial understanding and literacy of college costs and the responsibilities to both the student and family during the educational journey. CCN’s will meet with students and families, individually and collectively, to develop a plan for post‐secondary success. The services will vary depending upon the grade level of the students. The CCN will work with families and students for as long, and as intensively, as needed to assist each student in becoming college and career ready, and selecting and adjusting to post‐secondary education or training programs. The College and Career Navigator will monitor individual student data using an Early Warning System to ensure that interventions occur as soon as signs of concern rise (attendance issues, discipline referrals, etc.).

The Academic Interventionist (AI), is also a fulltime 186-day position.  The Academic Interventionist will provide direct academic interventions to students by meeting with them individually and collectively, to develop a plan for academic success by providing tiered academic interventions and referrals to services necessary to ensure success.

Services will vary depending upon the level of the students. The AI will work with students for as long and as intensively as needed, to assist each student in achieving academically for the purpose of becoming college and career ready; The AI will also provide out‐of‐classroom learning/intervention during out of school periods; The AI will monitor individual student data using a Universal Screener to ensure that interventions occur as soon as academic needs arise.

“We have provided GEAR UP services in Appalachia since the program’s inception in 1999,” Sara White, director of programs at Partners for Education, said. “During the past 19 years, we have invested in sustainable strategies and best practices proven to mitigate low graduation rates and college completion.

“This past spring, high schools in our existing service region reported higher ACT scores and college-going rates for their senior classes,” she added. “We look forward to continuing the work we’ve been doing for almost two decades in eastern Kentucky!”

Partners for Education at Berea College uses a place based, student focused approach to improve educational outcomes in Appalachian Kentucky. By braiding services and aligning federal, state and private funding streams, Partners for Education works to ensure all Appalachian students succeed at school.