Yancey Schools Receive $600,000 Grant

Post date: Oct 9, 2014 6:34:18 PM

Yancey County Schools received word last week that it will receive approximately $600,000 from the U.S. Department of Education to support on-going efforts to improve student achievement, address dropout prevention, and improve college access.

The seven-year grant will be awarded in partnership with Appalachian State University to implement strategies that lead to graduation and ultimately increase the number of students who are prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education.

Specifically, the funding will help support and expand GEAR UP, standing for Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs. This new funding ensures the program will be in place in Yancey County Schools until the 2020-2021 school year. The grant is also potentially renewable.

“This federal funding will bring much-needed resources into the school system,” said Dr. Tony Tipton, Yancey County Schools superintendent. “The grant award will boost continuing efforts for students to reach for the goal of graduation while putting an extra focus on early intervention. It will also provide crucial resources to aid in a student’s decision to continue their education past high school. The more support we have to ensure students don’t fall through the cracks, the better our school system will be.”

The funding provides a variety of interventions to students and their families including college visits, summer programs, career exploration, mentoring, job shadowing, tutoring, college advising, and financial aid. In addition, professional development is offered to school and district staff to share best practices and to assist with the creation and strengthening of a college access culture in the schools and the community.

“We have excellent students in Yancey County,” Tipton continued. “We know they have the drive to continue their education after high school, but are also aware that sometimes, just a fraction of them actually attend and more importantly graduate. The program is a tremendous resource that is available to every student in the targeted grades. We feel that a potent GEAR UP program in our school district has demonstrated in the past and will continue to prove the importance and accessibility of a multitude of post-secondary options.”

In partnership with Appalachian State, the GEAR UP grant allows the University to engage the western North Carolina region to promote improved access and preparation for the university experience.

“We are very appreciative to have Appalachian State as a partner in our effort to ready students for college or career,” said Colby Martin, Director of Grants and Compliance for the school system. “To add them to what is already an impressive GEAR UP program led by community partnership liaison Eric Klein and student services coordinator Samantha Briggs, will help us market the schools as a checkpoint to each individual student’s broader lifetime goals.”

The GEAR UP program has yielded amazing results since its inception in 2000. 92% of students in middle schools and 90% in high schools where GEAR UP funding has been put in place plan to attend college. 95% of 9th grade students in GEAR UP high schools are currently registered for a college preparation course of study.

“We want to help students develop their college ready skills, critical thinking, problem solving and analytic skills,” Jennifer Wilson-Kearse, the executive director of Appalachian’s GEAR UP program, said. “We know that employees need a certain set of skills to be successful. Those skills are the same across a broad range of employment opportunities, but sometimes our students are coming out of their educational experience without those skills.”

“We have the capacity to touch so many lives,” she continued, “in a way that we know is going to ultimately increase the economic development in Western North Carolina because we will be increasing the (educational) capacity of the students in the region who are our future workforce.”