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August 28, 2006

South Monterey County sixth and seventh graders focus of $4 million grant

By Jennifer McNulty

It’s never too early to start encouraging children to prepare for college, and the federal government has awarded $4 million to the UC Santa Cruz Educational Partnership Center (EPC) to do just that among sixth and seventh graders in south Monterey County.

Photo: Student being tutored
An academic intern tutors a student at Rolling Hills Middle School in Watsonville, a partner school in the GEAR UP program.
Photo: Educational Partnership Center

Funding from the U.S. Department of Education will expand the EPC’s reach to about 900 students at Chualar Elementary School, Fairview Middle School, and Vista Verde Middle School.

The six-year grant supports outreach to these students through graduation from high school.

“Helping students imagine college and careers in their future provides them with an incentive to work hard in school starting in the sixth grade,” said EPC executive director Carrol Moran, principal investigator on the grant. “We help students aspire to college and ensure that they have the academic preparation that allows them to live their dream.”

The grant from the federal government’s Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) initiative will provide academic and college advising, tutoring, counseling, and coaching for students, as well as professional development in language and mathematics for teachers and outreach to families about college planning and financial aid.

The funding is the fourth GEARUP grant the EPC has received in six years, bringing total federal funding across the Monterey Bay region to more than $24 million, said Moran. “It’s a powerful endorsement of our mission to improve student learning and increase college-going rates among underserved students and students from traditionally non-college-going families,” she said.

Established in 1998, the EPC has more than doubled college-going rates among its partnership schools and more than doubled the number of students in GEAR UP schools who pass algebra by eighth grade, said Moran. Algebra is an important “gatekeeper” course that prepares students to meet college-admissions requirements.

In southern Monterey County, more than 80 percent of students in participating schools meet the federal guidelines for poverty, and more than half are English-language learners, noted Moran. With the infusion of new funds, students in the 2012 and 2013 high school graduating classes will benefit from services beginning this fall that include the support of undergraduate academic interns from Hartnell College, Monterey Peninsula College, and UCSC who serve as tutors and mentors.

Partners on the grant include the Monterey County Office of Education, King City Joint Union High School District, Greenfield Union School District, Gonzales Unified School District, Chualar Unified School District, Comite Comunitario de Chualar, California State University, Monterey Bay, La Preciosa KPRC and Wolfhouse Radio Group, UC College Prep Online, MESA, the California Reading and Literature Project, Ivy West, Advancement Via Individual Determination, the Migrant Education Office of the Monterey County Office of Education, and UCSC’s Bridging Multiple Worlds Alliance.

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