The grant is awarded through the Tennessee Higher Education Commission.
“We wrote this grant several months ago and it is a team effort whenever we write a grant in Bradley County,” grant coordinator Patti Hunt said. “Grants in our county go to a lot of things we wouldn’t be able to do otherwise. This grant is really going to meet our needs.”
The goal of the grant is to have more students pursue some type of postsecondary education.
In Bradley County, the goal of the grant is to prepare students academically for college, while helping them understand the application process and how to succeed in college.
“We spend a lot of time every day with your kids, and we want to provide the best for them, just like I know you want to, too,” Hunt said.
This will start by getting students in a college mindset well in advance of their senior year.
The grant’s programs had an official kickoff Tuesday where parents, students and community leaders were invited to learn more about the grant and the opportunities it can bring to students.
Lake Forest Middle School seventh-graders will be a part of the program until their first year of college.
Supervisor for secondary education Dan Glasscock read a proclamation from Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis calling Tuesday a GEAR UP Tennessee day in Bradley County.
Current seventh-grade students at LFMS will benefit from the grant. Each year the seniors at Bradley Central High School and Goal Academy will also benefit.
Seventh–grade students have already been introduced to the program. Presswood already has them excited about being college bound with a cheer. She said T-shirts with “college bound” across the back will also be given to middle school students.
“We want all of our students to be college bound when they leave high school,” Presswood said. “And college is so much more than what we might think of. It’s not just your typical four-year degree or your two-year degree. It includes career and technical options, certificate programs and lots of different programs. We want all of our students to get some kind of postsecondary education after high school.”
College visits, increased homework help and summer programs are a few opportunities the grant will provide.
Community partners are important to the success of the GEAR UP program, Hunt said. Bradley County Schools will be partnering with Cleveland State Community College and Lee University.
Cleveland State will provide a summer camp for rising seventh-grade students. Lee University will provide a residential summer camp for rising high school freshmen and sophomores.
“Cleveland State is offering other opportunities throughout the year,” Hunt said.
A college fair and an eighth-grade seminar will be held on the campus.
Community partners are also important to the mentoring aspect of the programs.
Services provided through the grant encourage students to begin thinking about college and what they would like to do after high school. The end goal is for students to be able to secure good jobs and careers.
Federal GEAR UP funds were awarded to the state of Tennessee and are being awarded to school systems in which students’ chances of attending college may be slim.
“Many GEAR UP students will be the very first in their families to go to college. Others never thought that college could be an option for them,” Gov. Bill Haslam said in a promotional movie clip shown at the kickoff. “We don’t want those students to feel that college is out of reach.”
“We are going to work hard to make sure that our students and parents feel more comfortable with applying for college and paying for it,” Presswood said.
Tutoring is another way the grant will prepare students. The grant goes beyond the student to educating the family.
“We want parents to be involved in this program,” Presswood said.
She also told the parents present they are invited to accompany their student on any college visit through the program.
Teachers will also receive more professional development as part of the program.