In 2006, the U.S. Department of Education announced that Baylor University has been awarded an $11.3 million, six-year grant to fund GEAR UP Waco (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs), an established partnership between Baylor, Texas State Technical College-Waco, Making Connections with Youth Count Inc., City of Waco Academy for Educational Development, and the Waco Independent School District that prepares at-risk students academically and socially for college. The primary goal is to get Waco ISD middle school students "geared up" for future college attendance.
"I am thrilled that these timely funds were approved for GEAR-UP Waco," said U.S. Rep. Chet Edwards of Waco. "GEAR UP Waco is an important local program that helps local students reach their potential through hard work that can ultimately make the dream of a college education a reality."
Baylor was the only university in Texas to receive GEAR UP funding. A $11.3 million grant (or $1.89 million per year), it was the second largest award in the state, behind only the funding received by the Texas Education Agency. The Baylor grant also was the second largest award given to a U.S. university, just behind Washington State University which received $1.9 million per year in GEAR UP funding.
"The GEAR UP Waco partnership has made considerable strides over the past seven years to become a community catalyst for educational change and a leader in college access and awareness both locally and nationally," said Dr. Truell Hyde, vice provost for research at Baylor and the principal investigator for the GEAR UP Waco grant. "When we applied this year, we took the project components that worked well and proposed that we move them toward self-sufficiency. We also greatly strengthened STEM Education - Science, Technology, Engineering and Math."
Four members of the mathematics department at Baylor are heavily involved with Gear Up Waco throughout the year. Dr. Baxter Johns and Kathy Hutchinson, together with Dr. Trena Wilkerson and Dr. Rachelle Meyer from the College of Education, have been giving two one-week summer workshops for the past two years; click on the link Math Initiative for further information. And twice during the academic year, Dr. Tommy Bryan, Kathy Hutchinson, and Amy Goodman run Super Saturday at Baylor University. This program has been very successful, reaching dozens of teachers and hundreds of students through twenty Super Saturday sessions over the past five years. In 2002, the Super Saturday program at Baylor was designated as an exemplary program for University-School Partnerships by the Texas GEAR UP Board, and as such, was showcased in a documentary video of exemplary GEAR UP projects statewide.
Since 1999, the GEAR UP Waco grant partnership has included more than 20 projects, such the Physics Circus, Project Democracy (speech, debate and democratic participation), LEAF (Learning English Among Friends), Math Initiatives through Baylor's School of Education (Math Madness, Math in Motion, Math Super Saturdays and Math Trail), TSTC-Waco science and technology summer camps, College Night, tutoring, mentoring and TAKS preparation.
Dr. Hyde said that the federal grant is important to Baylor as the university moves toward becoming a top research university, one of the goals of Baylor 2012, the university's 10-year vision. The grant also directly impacts Waco and Central Texas by improving local educational opportunities and spurring economic development.
"Successful research initiatives within Baylor 2012 are already moving the university forward in the national rankings as evidenced by our most recent Carnegie classification," Hyde said. "But we also realize that federally funded, peer-reviewed programs that impact the local and regional community can act as an economic driver for the city of Waco. Our priorities with the latest $11.3 million GEAR UP Waco grant are to build on our already strong research base and use it to have a direct impact on local school districts. Hopefully, the combination will have a tremendous impact on both Baylor and Waco."