January 11, 2011/GEAR UP Incentive Grants Help Raise College Aspiration, Preparation Levels in Oklahoma City Metro Area
Oklahoma GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) recently awarded four subgrants totaling $111,000 to Oklahoma City-area community- and faith-based organizations. The funds are helping students and families prepare for college through programs that provide access to financial aid, mentoring and tutoring services, college campus tours, individualized counseling and academic planning.
The organizations are: the Greater Oklahoma City Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; Prospect Missionary Baptist Church; St. John Christian Care Center; and the Star Spencer High School Parent, Teacher, Student Association.
The subgrantees are working with community partners to expand programs and services that help raise college aspirations and encourage student participation in Oklahoma’s Promise.
Oklahoma GEAR UP, a federally funded program administered by the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education that helps students and their families prepare for college, awarded the grants through the Raising College Aspirations Community- and Faith-Based Organization (CBO) Incentive Grant Program. The main objective for all subgrantees is to facilitate enrollment in Oklahoma’s Promise, a college access scholarship program that allows high school students from families whose annual income is $50,000 or less and who meet certain academic and conduct requirements to earn free college tuition.
“Oklahoma is fortunate to have a scholarship program like Oklahoma’s Promise that provides many students with the financial support needed to obtain a college education. By working together with organizations at the local level, we create awareness for the program and strengthen college opportunities for eligible students,” said Chancellor Glen D. Johnson. “Through our combined investments of time, money and dedication, we are able to open the doors for many more students and help them continue on their path toward the successful completion of their degrees.”
Since 2005, the GEAR UP “Raising College Aspirations” grant projects with community- and faith-based organizations have involved 33 community organizations, 21 institutions of higher education and 58 public schools. These partnerships have resulted in 6,377 students enrolling in the Oklahoma’s Promise scholarship program.
This year, the Greater Oklahoma City Hispanic Chamber of Commerce is continuing its program by partnering with Oklahoma City Public Schools and Oklahoma City Community College. The program utilizes case managers to work with students and families from three high schools – Capitol Hill, Southeast and U.S. Grant – and three middle schools – Roosevelt, Webster and Jefferson. Their mission is to enroll students in the Oklahoma’s Promise scholarship program and to inform students and their parents about the steps needed to be successful in college. The VIVA Oklahoma’s Promise outreach case managers make presentations during school assemblies and set up appointments to discuss college options with both parents and students. Also, grant funds are being used to track the progress of students once they are enrolled in Oklahoma’s Promise. In addition, the program staff is hosting college awareness events for students and parents at each of the schools.
Prospect Missionary Baptist Church is continuing its program by partnering with Oklahoma Centennial High School in Oklahoma City and Oklahoma City Community College for “Jeremiah Generation Project.” The project provides family events, ACT prep workshops, Oklahoma’s Promise and financial aid assistance sessions, and “Assemblies of Possibilities” to help students learn about opportunities for their futures. In addition, the subgrant funds are being used for college campus tours and fairs to inspire students to get a college degree. Also, grant funds are being used to host parent partnership days to educate parents about the benefits of higher education.
St. John Christian Care Center is continuing its program by partnering with Frederick Douglass High School and Northeast Academy in Oklahoma City, Rose State College and Langston University for “eXcell.” The eXcell project increases recruitment, enrollment and retention in Oklahoma’s Promise, specifically among 10th-grade students, through school and home visits, calls to parents and outreach events designed to generate parental support. Also, the project is hosting a retention activity called “OKPromise Hour” at the schools to motivate students and discuss college-planning topics. In addition, the subgrant monies help provide ACT test prep workshops, a tax preparation day, mentoring sessions, college fairs and financial aid workshops.
The Star Spencer High School Parent, Teacher, Student Association is partnering with Star Spencer High School, Rogers Middle School, Langston University, the University of Central Oklahoma, Advantage Bank, the Men’s Association of Oklahoma City, Lxe Counseling Services and local churches for “The Promise of Oklahoma.” The project provides outreach efforts to help eligible students and their parents enroll in Oklahoma’s Promise and offers mentoring sessions to ensure retention in the scholarship program. In addition, the subgrant funds are going toward college planning workshops, financial aid and scholarship seminars, ACT preparation classes, college campus tours and career exploration activities.
“This important work could not be done without our community partners.” said Johnson. “Their efforts in encouraging and helping students prepare for college is both valuable and commendable as we strive to create a greater future for our students and our state.”
One other CBO subgrant was awarded for the 2010-11 school year. It went to the Community Action Project of Tulsa County.
For more information on GEAR UP or Oklahoma’s Promise, visit www.okhighered.org or call (800) 858-1840.
View list of funded program descriptions.
The U.S. Department of Education awarded Oklahoma with state GEAR UP grants totaling $20.5 million in August 1999 and $20.6 million in August 2005. The grants have been matched by more than $47 million from state and partner resources. With the addition of the 2005 multi-year, federal grant, Oklahoma's GEAR UP program will ultimately receive more than $45.6 million in federal funds by 2011. GEAR UP receives 49 percent of total funding from the federal government and 51 percent from other organizations.