Campus: CSU, Fresno -- October 25, 2000

New $1.8 Milllion Grant Helps West Fresno Youngsters 'Gear Up' For College

West Fresno students will be getting a new boost toward a college education thanks to the second $1.8 million federally funded project granted to California State University, Fresno in two years.

The U.S. Department of Education recently granted a Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR-UP) project to Fresno State's School of Education and Human Development. The new grant was announced by Dr. J Michael Ortiz, provost and vice president of academic affairs, as part of National College Week Oct. 16-20.

Last year the first GEAR UP project was awarded to Fresno State's Division of Student Affairs - a five-year $1,858,546 grant to conduct intensive and long-term enrichment training to middle school students at McCabe Junior High School in Mendota.

The Student Affairs GEAR UP, which served as the model for this year's school of education grant, assists students by providing a range of support services including after school tutoring and summer programs for these students through middle and high school.

The program focuses on preparing students for college as they graduate from high school. It assists the same students over five years to track the effectiveness of various support programs for students and their parents.

"GEAR UP will serve as a model for successful, long-term strategies to assist all schools, especially rural ones, in meeting the college preparation requirements of its students," Dr. Judy Sakaki, vice president for student affairs and dean of students.

One current activity underway in the Mendota program is the "Aztec Olympics" with students competing academically and athletically over the past few weeks, earning points for homework, assignments, good conduct and team activities during PE classes.

Students were divided up to represent 18 countries competing to win gold, silver and bronze medals. The final week of competition began Monday, Oct. 23 culminating with a closing awards ceremony scheduled for Friday, Oct. 27, at Mendota High School at 1 p.m. A torch extinguishing ceremony will also be conducted.

Provost Ortiz said the GEAR UP projects are more examples of combining resources of the university with those of the community to address practical educational issues. It also demonstrates how Fresno State is moving to become one of the best "interactive universities" in the country, he said.

"The early intervention methodology of this project is supported by a wealth of research and should prove to be very successful in having an impact on the educational attainment of the poor rural children it is designed to serve," Ortiz said.

The second, recently-funded GEAR UP project is a partnership between the school of education, West Fresno district officials and the United Black Men of Fresno.

Like the first grant, it would increase the college entry rate of low socioeconomic students through mentoring and other support by getting an early start with elementary students and their parents in gearing up, not only to meet college entry requirements, but to successfully complete a college degree.

Steve Price, project administrator for the school of education project, said the program will provide support services for participants from fifth grade through high school, insuring that students are academically prepared to complete high school courses required for college entry.

He said the program's partners will provide developmental outreach services to a group of 300 West Fresno students in fifth, sixth and seventh this year, expanding to 600 students over the next three years.

"Students will improve academic skills through after-school, weekend, and summer tutoring and enrichment activities," Price said. "As they progress through high school, students will be mentored, counseled and supported in college readiness to facilitate enrollment in college upon high school graduation."

He said "a low percentage of low socioeconomic students, especially African-American, complete the high school requirements for university entry."

The new program started in September and is currently hiring staff. Informational meetings for parents are planned in November.

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