New Berea College GEAR UP Programs Offer Resources to Local Students

BEREA, KY — Partners for Education at Berea College is the recipient of two new Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) grants that will help students in 19 Kentucky counties prepare for college and receive the support they need to achieve success in postsecondary education.

The U.S. Department of Education grants, worth a combined $109 million, will allow Partners for Education to work with a range of postsecondary institutions and key organizations to serve almost 20,000 students in 66 schools by offering a comprehensive set of programs – to parents, students and schools – that support a sustainable college-going culture. The array of services will be aligned to accomplish four overarching goals: lift educational aspirations, build academic skills, connect academics to college and career, and engage parents as partners.

The grants, referred to as GEAR UP: SOAR and GEAR UP: Opportunity, will build upon successes Partners for Education has had in the past braiding different research-based programs together, and will continue the work started by former GEAR UP grants at Berea College.

“We have provided GEAR UP services in Appalachia since the program’s inception in 1999,” Sara White, director of programs at Partners for Education, said. “During the past 19 years, we have invested in sustainable strategies and best practices proven to mitigate low graduation rates and college completion.

“This past spring, high schools in our existing service region reported higher ACT scores and college-going rates for their senior classes,” she added. “We look forward to continuing the work we’ve been doing for almost two decades in eastern Kentucky!”

GEAR UP: SOAR will serve Bell, Breathitt, Harlan, Perry, Knott and Whitley counties, and GEAR UP: Opportunity will serve Clay, Estill, Garrard, Jackson, Knox, Laurel, Lee, Leslie, Madison, Owsley, Powell, Pulaski and Rockcastle counties.

Students will receive services from multiple programs designed to assess and improve academic skills. Mentors will work directly with students to improve challenge areas and services will be tailored to address preparation gaps. Students will also build academic skills and confidence through the National Math Science Initiative’s advanced placement training incentive program which uses the College Board’s Advanced Placement curriculum and exam as a framework to provide students with materials to study and opportunities to practice for AP tests.

Programs like the Governors Commonwealth Institute for Parent Leadership (GCIPL) will engage parents and caretakers in their students’ education. The programs create pathways for parents and caretakers to become more informed and involved in school, so they can be resourceful agents of change. Parents and caretakers also learn about college admission processes and how to apply for financial aid, so they can help guide their students.

“I’m excited to be involved with such a strong initiative that provides resources to our communities spanning southern and eastern Kentucky,” Kristen Sutherland, associate director for GEAR UP at Partners for Education, said. “With federal funding and district in-kind commitments to match, we have a partnered investment each year to provide resources for families, communities and schools. Our funding is designed to increase high school graduation rates and to inspire continuing education as a lifelong pursuit.”

Partners for Education at Berea College uses a place based, student focused approach to improve educational outcomes in Appalachian Kentucky. By braiding services and aligning federal, state and private funding streams, Partners for Education works to ensure all Appalachian students succeed at school.


Berea College, the first interracial and coeducational college in the South, focuses on learning, labor and service. The College admits only academically promising students with limited financial resources, primarily from Kentucky and Appalachia, although students come from 40 states and 60 countries. Every Berea student receives a Tuition Promise Scholarship, which means no Berea student pays for tuition. Berea is one of seven federally recognized Work Colleges, so students work 10 hours or more weekly, earning money for books, housing, and meals. The College’s motto, “God has made of one blood all peoples of the earth,” speaks to its inclusive Christian character.