Photo courtesy of Utah State University

LOGAN – Utah State University’s STARS! GEAR UP is a program affiliated with the Emma Eccles Jones College of Education. The program supports students from middle school through their first year of college.

Jim Dorward, the program’s executive director, explains its mission.

“It’s a program that’s designed primarily to enhance and enable students from low-income families to pursue college education, once they graduate from high school,” Dorward explained. “So, it serves primarily those that are enrolled in free or reduced lunch programs to get them knowledgeable about college and the opportunities if affords and how parents can afford to send their students to college.”

He said from its start, GEAR UP! has been responsible for a large increase in participating students who go on to college.

“Of the target schools we started with here in Utah — and we do have several in Cache Valley — we had around 20 percent of those students after they graduated high school, would go on to college,” he added. “At the end of seven years in the GEAR UP! program in 2019, of students who graduated in the spring, about 65 percent of them went to college their first year.”

Dorward said a grant supporting the program is based on a partnership model which means that for every dollar the grant receives, schools need to raise the same amount from state and local governments or businesses.

He said the grant focuses on addressing STEM education to overcome gaps in schooling and bring awareness to prepare for college.

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