In honor of National Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) Week, the Fridley Public Schools GEAR UP program hosted local college and university booths, as well as many fun-filled games and activities, from September 18-22.
“This week, we just want to get the ‘college-going’ culture up and going for the year,” Rebecca Walker, interim GEAR UP director said. “We’ve had various colleges everyday during lunch to come in and talk with students, give them information, and get them thinking and excited about college.”
In addition, students were able to sign up for their Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID which is used to log into U.S. Department of Education websites and is necessary when applying for financial aid. Students also shared their goals and dreams for the future on a ‘dream wall’ and participated in other activities, including a spinning wheel where students spun to answer questions regarding an aspect of college or GEAR UP.
GEAR UP is a federal grant initiative that partners with schools to offer support services to middle and high schools. The program is meant to prepare students to enter and succeed in postsecondary education.
The grant serves one grade level of students beginning in 7th grade and follows the cohort through high school graduation and their first year of college. Fridley Public Schools has provided services to students since 2012 through a partnership with Hennepin Technical College and will celebrate its graduating class at the end of this school year in 2018.
The grant program provides students with critical early college awareness and support activities like tutoring, mentoring, academic preparation, financial education and college scholarships which can help improve access of higher education to low-income, minority and disadvantaged first-generation students and their families.
Coming up in October is College Knowledge Month, a statewide effort that aims to prepare and support every graduating high school senior to apply for college.
Walker said the month will be busy with many GEAR UP programs, including a presentation from the Student Success Agency. The initiative is a virtual mentoring organization which will pair up 50 Fridley students with current college students or young professionals to offer them support and mentor them along their journey of applying to, getting into and going to college.
Walker is also strongly encouraging students to submit their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) early, an application process that opens on October 1. Additionally, the last week of October is Free Application Week, where many college and universities offer fee waivers. Walker said Fridley staff will be doing a lot with seniors to assist in submitting applications throughout the week.
“We really want to help our students so they don’t have to worry so much about that financial obligation of applying to, and going to college,” Walker said. She added that there will be workshops available during parent-teacher conferences, where bank partners will be presenting on financial literacy and how postsecondary options are attainable for all students.
The class of 2018 has had numerous GEAR UP opportunities throughout their middle school and high school career and many are ready to take the next step in their educational journey.
“So now that our students are finally seniors, they are not only ready to enter college, but they are ready to succeed because they have the necessary skills in place and have been practicing them for so long,” Walker said.