Promoting college attendance

Published 9:56 am Wednesday, September 27, 2017

A new initiative in Charlotte County is encouraging an increase in college attendance amongst underclassmen.

According to Charlotte County Schools Division Superintendent Dr. Nancy Leonard, the division received notice last week that Randolph-Henry High School (R-HHS) would receive a $63,877 grant for the Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) initiative.

Leonard said the the award notification would be presented to the county’s school board and board of supervisors at their upcoming meetings.

According to a summary of the grant, “this discretionary grant program is designed to increase the number of low-income students who are prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education. GEAR UP provides six-year grants to states and partnerships to provide services at high-poverty middle and high schools.”

Leonard said R-HHS Principal Robbie Mason and GEAR UP Coordinator Kaylei Jones were both instrumental in facilitating the initiative.

Mason said the initiative has provided students with several opportunities made only possible through the program.

“As the GEAR UP coordinator and school counselor, I am thrilled to have the opportunity to create programs and activities to help increase the likelihood that our students will succeed in their goals of attending college and pursuing their dreams,” said Jones. “I aim to maximize the benefit of our grant funding while it is available by seeking input from students, parents and staff on initiatives to pursue.”

Jones said some of the additions and activities made possible by the initiative include having an iPad cart in the earth science classroom, a new skeleton for biology courses, several learning tools for geometry and a new College and Career Center in the guidance building.

She said the most recent technology purchase includes virtual-reality goggles purchased using funds from the grant.

While the grant affords students the opportunity for classroom advancement, the program also provides students opportunities to participate in different activities and programs.

“We have brought engaging speakers to campus to get students thinking about their future,” said Jones. “GEAR UP also sponsored an SOL boot camp for students to remediate prior to SOL tests in the spring. Of the many programs that we have done through GEAR UP, my favorite is our yearly Overnight College Visit.” 

A group of 31 GEAR UP students recently were given the opportunity to go on an overnight trip to visit the campuses of Virginia Tech and Radford University.

“GEAR UP grantees serve an entire cohort of students beginning no later than the seventh grade and follow the cohort through high school. GEAR UP funds are also used to provide college scholarships to low-income students,” according to the grant summary.

“The desire is for there to be direct benefit to the children,” Leonard said.