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GIPS awarded $6 million federal GEAR UP grant for college readiness program

Grand Island Public Schools announced the $13 million total impact of being awarded a $6 million federal GEAR UP grant at a special press event Monday, Oct. 15, at 2 p.m. at the GIPS Kneale Administration Building Board Room.

GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) is a discretionary federal grant program designed to increase the number of low-income students prepared to enter and succeed in post-secondary education. GEAR UP will serve the cohort of current sixth and seventh grade students, following them through high school and into their first year of college.

“This is a special day for the outstanding students, educators and administrators who strive for excellence at GIPS,” said U.S. Senator Deb Fischer.

GEAR UP is a matching grant, with a total seven-year combination of federal funds of $6,036,800, GIPS in-kind contribution of $1,011,080, and partner in-kind match of $6,620,398. The total impact on GIPS students is $13,668,278.

“Grand Island GEAR UP PROMISE will allow GIPS to create a pipeline of success for students to build college and workforce aspirations early by exposing them to high-quality, evidenced-based curriculum and relevant workforce experiences,” said Dr. Tawana Grover, GIPS superintendent. “With our strong partnerships, it advances the work we are doing for students and families, adding new supports to help them navigate through the entire college process - from choosing a school and applying, to financing and attending - as well as being ready for workforce demands.”

The Grand Island GEAR UP PROMISE (Partners, Resources & Opportunities Matching Individualized Supports & Education) will use the funds and rely on partners to create a program of support starting with current sixth and seventh grade students and their families at Barr and Walnut middle schools. The program will offer 360-degree support through these students’ first year after graduating from Grand Island Senior High.

The 360-degree student support will include personalized academic support for students and their peers with increased rigor to prepare them for college; expanded professional development and training for the students’ teachers; and increased financial literacy education and planning support for the students’ families.

Partners are key in all aspects of this support. GIPS will rely on business partners to intensify their role in training staff with externships, advisory boards and updating curriculum. They will also help with college and career planning for students thorough tours, job shadow opportunities and internships. Specific partners will help with financial planning, scholarships and additional family supports.

The partners include two post-secondary institutions (University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Central Community College), business and workforce organizations (Nebraska Department of Labor, Grand Island Area Chamber of Commerce and Grand Island Area Economic Development Corporation), private businesses (CHI Health St. Francis, First National Bank of Omaha, Chief Industries and Gallup, Inc.), area non-profit foundations (Grand Island Public Schools Foundation, Nebraska Children and Families Foundation, Central Nebraska Community Partnership, Inc., EducationQuest and Everfi), and education partners (ESU10 and Learning Sciences International). These are the organizations listed in the grant, however a constantly growing collection of partners will be involved.

“This grant will allow GIPS to provide early intervention services including: mentoring, tutoring, academic and career counseling, college preparation and services to increase parental involvement,” said Sen. Fischer. “All of these services are crucial to achieving success in college and the workforce. GIPS’s educators will have a unique opportunity to utilize more tools to help ensure every child in their district has access to quality education.”

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln will be a leading partner in the Grand Island GEAR UP PROMISE, offering its expertise in expanding college access to Nebraska’s at-risk, low-income and underserved students.

The university first established its Nebraska College Preparatory Academy at Grand Island Senior High in 2006, with the aim of increasing both the college-going rate and college graduation rate of first generation, low-income students. One hundred percent of students who have successfully completed NCPA requirements have gone on to college. Grand Island GEAR UP PROMISE will replicate aspects of this model for students.

“Grand Island Public Schools has been a great partner, and we’re honored to work with them on this larger initiative,” said Amber Williams, UNL’s assistant vice chancellor of Academic Services and Enrollment Management.

The university and NCPA will provide on-campus and on-site professional development to GIPS staff to improve high school-graduation and college-going rates. The university also will coordinate an academic summer bridge program for selected GIPS students each summer for the next six summers.

“The Grand Island GEAR UP PROMISE aligns with so much of our GIPS Strategic Plan to get students who thrive,” said GIPS Board of Education President Bonnie Hinkle. “It features intense professional development to empower our instructional leaders. It provides enriched personalized learning pathways for our students to close achievement gaps. It has embedded data monitoring to continually help us design decisions for student results. It leverages in an amazing way the partnerships we have formed with our community and throughout the state. It will make an impact on our entire community moving forward.”

 

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