'GEAR UP' Manchester programming slated to debut in early 2019

November 13, 2018

MANCHESTER — School board members heard an update on how a federal grant providing $10.5 million over the next seven years will help low-income students in Manchester middle schools.

Earlier this year, U.S. senators Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan, both Democrats, and Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, D-NH, announced a Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) grant for $1,572,534 per year over the next seven years to the New Hampshire College & University Council.

According to information provided by the U.S. Department of Education, GEAR UP provides six-year grants to states and partnerships to provide services to students at high-poverty middle and high schools, beginning no later than seventh grade and following the student through high school. GEAR UP funds are also used to provide college scholarships to low-income students.

State grants are competitive six-year matching grants that must include both an early intervention component designed to increase college attendance and success, raise the expectations of low-income students, and a scholarship component.

The grant awarded to the New Hampshire College & University Council will fund GEAR UP programming for Manchester students beginning in the sixth and seventh grades for seven years, serving 1,967 students per year, according to a news release.

According to a presentation made Tuesday night to school board members, GEAR UP Manchester will serve sixth- and seventh-grade students at the city’s four middle schools — McLaughlin, Hillside, Parkside and Southside.

“We’re really excited to get going,” said Scott Power, director of the State Scholar Initiative at the New Hampshire College & University Council and Campus Compact for New Hampshire (CCNH).

School officials have begun recruiting and hiring program staff this month, according to the presentation.

Staff orientation will take place, and implementation plans developed, in December, with initial programming set to debut in schools in January.

“We’ll be working at these schools this year,” said Stephanie Lesperance, associate director at CCNH. “These services and programming will follow the students through high school.”

“In other words, it’s a seven year project,” said Power. “At this time we’re working on the rollout and getting a sample timeline, bringing the project together.”

“It’s not about individual services,” said Lesperance. “It’s more of a grade level intervention.”

“This has been a long time coming,” said Ward 2 Committeeman David Scannell. “The Manchester school district has repeatedly applied for this grant.

“In Manchester, we’re striving to set all of our students up for success,” said Mayor Joyce Craig in a statement. “GEAR UP will help us increase student achievement by engaging our students in the learning process early on and preparing them to succeed at the next level. I want to thank our federal delegation and the New Hampshire College & University Council for recognizing the potential in Manchester and delivering this significant funding. With GEAR UP, many more of our students can achieve some form of education and training beyond high school. I look forward to continuing to work with our incredible partners to create new opportunities for our students, parents and educators.”

“A college education is often the gateway to the middle class, yet many students experience significant hurdles to achieving the dream of a college degree,” said Shaheen in a statement. “By collaborating with school and community leadership, prioritizing family engagement and providing financial support, the GEAR UP program will serve many hundreds of Manchester middle and high school students.”

“We should give more young people the tools to pursue and succeed in post-secondary education,” said Hassan in a statement. “Community stakeholders, led by the New Hampshire College & University Council, are pursuing innovative strategies through GEAR UP Manchester to help expand opportunity for lower-income students.”

“Too many middle and high school students struggle to access the support they need to help them prepare for secondary and higher education,” said Shea-Porter, a member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, in a statement. “By funding innovative approaches and traditional teaching supports, this GEAR UP grant from the U.S. Department of Education will help current sixth- and seventh-graders throughout their time in Manchester’s schools to be better prepared for the next steps in their education. This grant will help give these children a bright future.”

By:  Paul Feely
Source: Union Leader