Grant program creates opportunity for students

Public education is available to all, but once high school ends, the opportunities are seen less and less. For those coming from low-income families, any level of secondary education such as college is simply not an option. The GEAR UP grants program was designed to target this specific problem.

The program is a six-year process that starts at grade seven and works its way through grade 12. It then financially supports members through their secondary education. Once a GEAR UP member becomes a secondary student, the student is given the opportunity to withdraw money from their own personal account, which is then used on their college academic expenses. 

The federal program GEAR UP stands for Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs; it was established in 1998 and is funded by the U.S. Department of Education. Bill Clinton signed this grant program in 1998 as it supported the Higher Education Act of 1965, which offers financial aid to students.

Secondary education can be hard enough without having to stress about where the money for tuition and school supplies are going to come from.

“Through middle school and high school, GEAR UP helped me know in the back of my mind, ‘I can do this,’ I’m going to have the money to pay for it so I don’t have to worry about it,” said Trae Barnes, a GEAR UP student from Roosevelt High school.

Money from the program is awarded as an academic grant, which is put toward a secondary level of education and only to those who have made it through high school and received a diploma. The promise of these funds has encouraged students to push through school, and to not give up.

“Having this [opportunity] made me want to not slack off. I want them to not regret giving me this money,” said Barnes.

The program may be applied to any middle school and high school and later put into further action, as it will support a student all the way through the college of their choice.

The program provides funds for educational tools such as calculators, school tutors, books and other necessary school supplies that give the students the confidence they need to succeed.

Money isn’t the only thing provided by the GEAR UP program. Academic and social support is provided for the students as they make their way through this challenging process.

The program has diagnosed the student barrier to higher education and thus works to guide students and their families through the college search and the enrollment process.

GEAR UP provides funds for expenses such as advanced placement class testing. These tests allow students to take difficult classes during high school that can later be applied at the college level, which in turn bring the student closer to a college diploma as well as save them time in their secondary level of education.

The GEAR UP program funds visits to various colleges to help the student know what options they have, so they can choose their desired secondary education.