Baylor Awarded $11.3 Million Grant For GEAR UP Waco

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    Pictured are several of the 27 Waco ISD high school seniors who received GEAR UP Champions Scholarships in May to further their education.
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    In March 2004, students from Lake Air Middle School took part in "Math Madness," one of the projects associated with GEAR UP Waco. The students followed a Math Trail to solve critical thinking problems all over the Baylor campus.
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    Dr. Randy Wood, professor of curriculum and instruction in Baylor's School of Education, helped create LEAF (Learning English Among Friends), one of the several successful projects within GEAR UP Waco. Photo by Cliff Cheney, courtesy of Baylor Magazine, Spring 2005.
July 18, 2006

by Lori Fogleman, director of media relations, (254) 710-6275

Read a related story in the July 27 edition of The Waco Tribune-Herald.

The U.S. Department of Education has 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.

Baylor was the only university in Texas to receive GEAR UP funding. Its $11.3 million grant, or $1.89 million per year, was 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."

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.

Additional projects this year include Marsh Madness, which will be led by Baylor biologists at the Waco Wetlands, and a technology venture at TSTC-Waco, Hyde said.

Nationwide, less than 50 percent of the students who complete high school enroll in any type of post-secondary education. Recent Education Department studies show that students who take academically demanding high school course work are more likely to go on to college, succeed, and earn more in the work force, regardless of their socioeconomic status.

Despite the availability of federal grants and loans for college, low income and minority students attend college at disproportionately low rates. However, disadvantaged students often are not aware of the need to take rigorous academic courses to prepare for college or of the availability of financial aid to pay for college.

The primary goal of GEAR UP Waco is to significantly increase the number of low-income students who are prepared to enter and succeed in post-secondary education. The partnership plans to increase the number of students who graduate from high school on time and are prepared for the demands of college courses by:

• expanding opportunities for meaningful interaction with colleges and universities;
• training faculty and other professionals in innovative, research-based strategies for the delivery of rigorous, accelerated and enriched curricula;
• supporting the emotional and social development of all students; expanding student and parent awareness of post-secondary education opportunities;
• training students and parents to navigate financial aid access systems successfully;
• and increasing the academic achievement of middle and high school students.

GEAR UP Waco also seeks to increase the number of students pursuing advanced placement, dual credit, concurrent enrollment and enrichment courses, as well as the percentage of students who pass standardized state exams and continue their education beyond high school.

The GEAR UP Waco partnership was initially funded in 1999 as one of 185 grants awarded nationwide by the Department of Education to help 200,000 disadvantaged children gain a pathway to undergraduate programs. Since then, GEAR UP Waco has impacted more than 7,000 WISD students in grades 6-12.

In May 2005, 24 Waco ISD high school seniors who were among the first to complete the GEAR UP Waco program received GEAR UP Champions Scholarships to further their education. GEAR UP Waco presented 27 more scholarships to graduating seniors in May.

"As a direct result of GEAR UP Waco's involvement, more than 73 percent of students in Waco ISD secondary schools feel they are excellent or good students," said Crystal Anthony, GEAR UP Waco interim director. "Moreover, an impressive 85.5 percent of cohort students report they will go to college and 24.7 percent of those students state they will continue on to graduate school."

"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."

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."

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