Newswise — Irvine, Calif., Jan. 12, 2022 — The U.S. Department of Education has awarded a $5.2 million Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs partnership grant to the University of California, Irvine. This supplements a GEAR UP grant of $5.4 million awarded to the UCI Center for Educational Partnerships in the fall of 2018.
The goal of GEAR UP grants is to provide multiple services to schools in socioeconomically disadvantaged communities that will help prepare students for college and success. The new funding is scheduled to end in 2028, guaranteeing 10 years of direct support for under-resourced students in Compton.
“We are thrilled to be awarded this highly competitive grant again to accelerate and expand our work with longtime CFEP partners in the Compton Unified School District and at Compton College. It represents the confidence of the U.S. Department of Education in the work currently underway and an increased investment in the innovative work still to come that’s needed now more than ever before,” said Stephanie Reyes-Tuccio, UCI assistant vice chancellor for educational partnerships, referring to the fact that the educational access crisis has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The objective of UCI’s initial GEAR UP project was to increase opportunities for Compton students by giving them and their families the tools and information to plan for, enter and complete a postsecondary education. Now project leaders have recognized the critical need for college access programming across the Compton district. “Teachers and counselors are working toward providing students with an excellent education, but there are broader systemic barriers that prevent them from doing that,” said Rodolfo Acosta, UCI’s GEAR UP director.
He noted that GEAR UP was building great momentum in Compton with multiple programs providing mentorship, tutoring, knowledge and leadership – all of which came to a halt due to distance learning conditions mandated by the pandemic. The commitment demonstrated by Compton’s educators combined with the need to address pandemic-related setbacks motivated UCI to apply for additional funding. Only nine grants were awarded in California during this cycle, with 27 GEAR UP projects funded nationwide.
Eight Compton schools are affected by the new GEAR UP award, which will target an even younger age group to help students adjust their educational journeys after losing nearly two years of in-person instruction. Seven K-8 schools will be new to the program, which originally focused on middle school students and followed them into high school. This new grant will also continue to fund an ongoing partnership at Davis Middle School centered on science, technology, engineering and math education.
“Over the last three years, we have provided more than 20,000 service hours to students at eight schools from the initial grant,” Acosta said. That includes over 5,000 hours of workshops, 1,000 hours of tutoring, 5,000 hours of summer programming, 4,500 hours of exposure to colleges – including both in-person and virtual field trips – 500 hours of mentoring, and 5,000 hours of counseling and advising. In 2021, 1,118 Compton students built college knowledge through UCI-facilitated GEAR UP programming.
By leveraging relationships with multiple community partners, GEAR UP also offers students cooking, financial literacy, art, engineering, clothing design and music classes and workshops. Program leaders have witnessed students broadening their understanding of what it means to go to college as well as more engagement in the process of building college knowledge by students and parents alike.
“In a sense, we engage in the work of myth-busting,” Acosta said. “On one end of the spectrum, we work with our students to demystify attending college. On the other end, we have conversations with institutions demystifying the notion that students who attend schools in Compton are not capable of being successful as college students despite institutional barriers or limited access to resources. The students and families we work with have the capacity and will to not only attend college but excel.”
The services provided by the GEAR UP grant will continue to be managed by CFEP. Celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, CFEP has become a national model for successful college preparation and support by meeting the unique and diverse needs of the Southern California communities it serves.
About the University of California, Irvine: Founded in 1965, UCI is the youngest member of the prestigious Association of American Universities and is ranked among the nation’s top 10 public universities by U.S. News & World Report. The campus has produced five Nobel laureates and is known for its academic achievement, premier research, innovation and anteater mascot. Led by Chancellor Howard Gillman, UCI has more than 36,000 students and offers 224 degree programs. It’s located in one of the world’s safest and most economically vibrant communities and is Orange County’s largest employer, contributing $7 billion annually to the local economy and $8 billion statewide. For more on UCI, visit www.uci.edu.
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