GEAR UP Begins Fourth Year

Haywood County GEAR UP TN will begin its fourth year in Haywood County Schools during the 2015-2016 school year. The GEAR UP Grant is a seven-year federal grant, that has matching funds from the City of Brownsville, and is administered by the state of Tennessee to help students get college and career ready. It began providing services in January of 2013 to the Class of 2018 and every class of seniors for the next seven years. It increases the number of students who are prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education.

The Haywood County GEAR UP Site Coordinator is Jackie Whitten. The grant provides many services throughout the year that benefit students and parents, such as ACT Prep Classes on Saturdays, English tutoring during the school day, college tours, job shadowing, job site visits, summer enrichment camps, individual and group college planning sessions, and College App Week. GEAR UP held the first College Signing Day on May 6 at Haywood High School. This was a special event that celebrated the choice students made to attend college. Over 100 students participated in this event and many chose to announce their names and the college they planned to attend in the fall, with great applause from those students and adults who attended this recognition ceremony. Special speakers were Mayor Bill Rawls, Shayla Guy, West GEAR UP TN Regional Coordinator, and Mary Laphen, Statewide Services Coordinator, and Haywood County Schools Superintendent, Teresa Russell.

GEAR UP also partners with various individuals and organizations. The recent “Walk and Line Dance with Drew and Friends” held on May 23 had over 60 participants wAlking and line dancing. GEAR UP partnered with Drew Magruder from the Healthy Haywood Coalition; Karen Jones, TSU Extension Agent; and Opal Hay, Haywood County Schools Parent/Family Coordinator, to provide community awareness of the services provided by each of these organizations. It was a great success and more walk and line dances are being planned for the future.

GEAR UP provided uprising 10th grade students with the opportunity to attend two job-shadowing camps during the summer. The “Learners to Leaders Camp” provided training about job shadowing and set up job shadowing opportunities for students with different individuals, businesses, and government offices. Students job shadowed optometrists, dentists, an electrician, physical therapist, police officer, real estate agent, principal, accountant, hair stylist, chiropractor, and other people in Haywood County. The job shadowing experience gave each student a first-hand look at the types of work done by the people in those occupations so they can make better decisions in their future when deciding on a college degree and career.

Seniors had the opportunity to attend the GEAR UP TN Rising Senior Camp at the University of Memphis at Lambuth. One of the highlights of the GEAR UP program is the opportunity for students in the class of 2018 to apply and possibly be chosen to attend the GEAR UP TN Youth Summit. The yearly summit brings more than 200 students, along with school administrators, and parents, to a university so students can become totally immersed in college life by participating in challenging activities that impels them to use their leadership, team-building and critical skills to complete all their given tasks. Students stay on a college campus for two and a half days, sleep in dorms, and dine on campus. This year, nine tenth-grade students went to the summit at Middle Tennessee State University to participate in activities with students across the state of Tennessee.

Site Coordinator, Jackie Whitten, believes the efforts of the GEAR UP program, along with the Tennessee Promise, can make a real difference in the number of college-going students. The Promise provides students two years of tuition-free attendance at a community or technical college in Tennessee. “It’s an exciting time for the students in Haywood County, and we welcome these opportunities for students to get the knowledge needed to prepare for college and the financial assistance they need to pay for their education after high school. College is now a reality for students and we will see an increase in the number of first generation college students.”

Sophomores at the GEAR UP TN Youth Summit learned how the college admission process works as they participated in a college application simulation. Students acted as college admission officers on a committee to decide who would be admitted to their college. Students had to consider family information, high school transcripts, ACT scores, activities, essays, and letters of recommendation to decide who would receive admittance.

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Students had the opportunity to job shadow during the “Learner to Leaders” camp.

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