Opportunities return to Knox students through GEAR UP

Photos of the eight new staff members joining GEAR UP Opportunity in Knox County Shools

Opportunities for students to prepare for college and receive the support they need to achieve success in postsecondary education are returning to Knox County through GEAR UP Opportunity.

Partners for Education at Berea College was recently named the recipient of two new Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) grants that will help students in 19 Kentucky counties prepare for college and receive the support they need to achieve success in postsecondary education.

GEAR UP is not new to Knox County, the last cohort of students that started with middle school students are now enrolled in college.  One additional year of the prior grant is finishing up at Lynn Camp preparing their seniors for the next step after graduation.  The Opportunity grant 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 the former GEAR UP grant.

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

Students will receive services from multiple programs designed to assess and improve academic skills. Mentors will work directly with students to improve challenge areas and services will be tailored to address preparation gaps. Students will also build academic skills and confidence through the National Math Science Initiative’s advanced placement training incentive program which uses the College Board’s Advanced Placement curriculum and exam as a framework to provide students with materials to study and opportunities to practice for AP tests.

Programs like the Governors Commonwealth Institute for Parent Leadership (GCIPL) will engage parents and caretakers in their students’ education. The programs create pathways for parents and caretakers to become more informed and involved in school, so they can be resourceful agents of change. Parents and caretakers also learn about college admission processes and how to apply for financial aid, so they can help guide their students.

Photos of the eight new staff members joining GEAR UP Opportunity in Knox County Shools

Knox County will welcome eight new faces to schools through GEAR UP Opportunity.  Sheila Barnard, Brandi Mills, Wendi Mills, and Jill Wilburn will serve as Academic Interventionists.  The Academic Interventionist role is to 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.  Meanwhile, Jeff Frederick, James Stewart, Abbigail Sprinkles, and Patti Wilson will serve as College and Career Navigators.  Their work will 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.

“We are excited to have GEAR UP back in Knox County based on the success of the last grant through Berea College,” said Superintendent Kelly Sprinkles.  “GEAR UP exposes our students to so many college and career opportunities throughout the region that are not commonly known by students and their families.  It really does open up student eyes to the endless possibilities that exist once they graduate from KCPS.”

The Academic Interventionists and College and Career Navigators are currently attending training provided by Berea College and the school district.  They should begin working in schools within the next few weeks.

GEAR UP Opportunity joins a portfolio of other services provided to Knox County students through Partners for Education at Berea College.  Partners for Education 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.