GEAR UP Grant Funds Educational Opportunities for East Kentucky Students

BEREA, KY — Partners for Education at Berea College has been awarded a Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) grant worth $3.9 million to serve students in Floyd, Magoffin, Menifee, Pike and Wolfe counties. The United States Department of Education grant will provide 5,833 students with an array of services aligned to accomplish three overarching goals: lift educational aspirations, build academic skills and connect academics to college and career.

The grant, referred to as GEAR UP: East Kentucky, will build upon successes Partners for Education has had in the past braiding different research based programs together. Students will receive services from multiple programs designed to asses and improve academic skills. Check and Connect will be implemented to create individualized improvement plans for students. By monitoring grades, attendance, incidence of suspensions and other factors, staff will be able to assess each students’ educational needs.  Mentors will then work directly with students to improve challenge areas. Students will also be assessed by college and career readiness performance targets­—test scores that indicate if a student is on track to be “college ready” by the time they finish high school. After assessment, services will be tailored to address the 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 Families and Schools Together (FAST) and 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.

Partners for Education brings a strong record of implementing GEAR UP grants to the project. “We have provided GEAR UP services in Appalachia since the program’s inception in 1999.  During the past 18 years, we have invested in scalable strategies and best practices proven to mitigate low graduation rates and college completion,” says Sara White, director of programs at Partners for Education. “This past spring, high schools in our existing service region reported higher ACT scores and college going rates for their senior classes.  We are excited to take our work into even more communities in eastern Kentucky!”

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.