Campus: CSU, San Marcos -- September 28, 1999

CSUSM Begins Program to Prepare Escondido Students for College

Work is underway on a $2.6 million, five-year grant aimed at putting Escondido school children on the road to college. The project is known as GEAR UP, or Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs, is coordinated by CSU San Marcos and is funded by the U.S. Department of Education.

A unique part of the program is partnerships with local, community-based organizations and businesses. The partners include Unisys Corporation, the Escondido Education Compact, the North County Interfaith Council, the Boys & Girls Club of Inland North County, the Parent Institute for Quality Education and the Palomar Family Counseling Service, as well as Grant Middle School and Escondido and Orange Glen High Schools.

A kick-off meeting of partner organizations is scheduled at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, September 29 at the headquarters of the Escondido Union School District, 1330 E. Grand Ave., Escondido. Superintendent Nicolas Retana and CSUSM President Alexander Gonzalez will be at the meeting to welcome the partners to the program.

Partners will be asked to contribute through existing aspects of their services. For example, the grant might fund a counseling position within a local community organization that already provides counseling, according to Carolina Cardenas, director of Academic and Community Empowering Student Success at CSUSM, who will direct the program.

The program begins with sixth grade students at Grant Middle School in the Escondido Union School District. The students will receive tutoring to help them with their academic skills. Their teachers will receive training designed to help them improve student self-esteem. Specific aspects of the program will seek to improve student test scores.

Cardenas explained that each year, the program will continue with the first group as they move up one grade, and add a new group of sixth graders, until students from the sixth to the eleventh grade are involved. As the years progress, the program will involve parents, educating them about college options and factors that may be impeding the progress of their child. As the students enter high school, the program turns to career counseling and other factors that can derail college plans.

"This grant is about changing the school culture away from low expectations. We'll help the students want to be there, wanting a more rigorous academic program, eager to get into college," said Cardenas.

"The goal will be to raise grades, cut the absentee rate, gain increased involvement in extracurricular activities and see the basic skill levels of the students rise," said Cardenas

Additional information is available from Cardenas at (760) 750-4872.

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