Program to prepare students for success

Sixth and seventh graders in Colusa County could have a better chance at going to college than all the middle schoolers that have preceded them.  

The United States Department of Education, University of California, and other partners are investing more than $19 million to implement the Gear Up Program in 14 high poverty middle schools, primarily in Colusa and Glenn counties, in order to prepare students for success after high school. 

Stacy Garrett, from the University of California, said for the first time since the Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Program was founded in 1999, funding will be provided to the local middle schools to directly help students prepare for, get accepted, and succeed in college. 

“We are just super passionate about serving new communities,” Barrett said during a presentation last week for the Williams Unified School District Board of Trustees. “Both Glenn and Colusa counties have never had this funding before.” 

Students in Williams Upper Elementary, Egling Middle School, and Lloyd Johnson Jr. High in Colusa County; Hamilton Elementary, CK Price, and Willows Intermediate in Glenn County; and Vista Preparatory in Tehama County will directly benefit from the funding, which will pay for after-school programs, summer programs, workshops, and extra mentoring sessions for students in sixth and seventh grade, Garret said. 

Typical services also include individual academic plans, in which staff will meet with students one on one. They will also host parent and family nights. When the students get into high school, UC staff will provide career counseling, college application assistance, SAT prep, and take students on field trips to universities, and other services. They also provide professional development for teachers. 

“They will follow the sixth and seventh graders through seven years, providing resources and funding,” Garrett said. “Everyone is just passionate about providing hope for these students.” 

Garrett said this first ever grant will allow the University of California to serve Colusa County’s predominantly low-income, rural students who, otherwise, would not have the same opportunities to go to college and move forward in society as students from more affluent communities. 

“When this opportunity came up, we wanted to reach out to communities closer to Davis in the rural agricultural valley,” Barrett said. 

With the funding, a full time advisor will work at each of the campuses, working with students, teachers, administrators, and families, under the direction of principals and superintendents. 

Garrett said only 30 percent of the grant applications across the nation were funded this year. 

“We received a perfect score,” she said. “That was amazing, so we are very excited to get started.” ■