U.S. Rep. Tom Cole, Oklahoma's 4th District congressman, is joining more than 260 state higher education leaders and public school educators in Oklahoma City today. The group is convening to learn more about college readiness and academic preparation during Oklahoma's fifth annual Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) State Conference.
Cole, who serves on the House Education and Workforce Committee, the committee in the House of Representatives that is charged with reauthorizing the Higher Education Act and the GEAR UP program, is slated to speak during the conference's closing general session at 2:15 p.m. today in the Century Ballroom of the Oklahoma City Westin Hotel, One North Broadway.
John Antonetti, senior consultant for Learning 24/7 and the National School Conference Institute (NSCI), will also speak to the GEAR UP group during a luncheon session on experiential education. He will discuss the importance of ensuring that all experiences for students are designed to produce the best person in heart, mind and soul.
The John Wesley Charter School Choir of Oklahoma City will also give a 10-minute performance during the luncheon session.
The GEAR UP conference is designed to help participants learn innovative approaches for student and program success. In addition, it serves as a forum for discussion of specific strategies local schools can use to help students achieve their potential through the GEAR UP initiative.
Throughout the day, concurrent sessions will be held covering a variety of issues designed to strengthen and support the 144 district-level GEAR UP programs. Topics include: grant writing tips and strategies for sustaining local GEAR UP programs through partnerships and additional funding opportunities; using letter exchanges between college and elementary students to develop strong writing skills; using math for service learning projects; and tips for better communication and success at parent-teacher conferences.
Other sessions will explore the importance of including cultural diversity in curriculum; teaching successful life skills using financial education programming; and tips for making student transitions from elementary and middle school easier.
GEAR UP, a federal program administered by the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, is designed to help middle and high school students better prepare for college. In August 1999, the
U.S. Department of Education awarded Oklahoma a five-year grant totaling $20.5 million to implement GEAR UP activities across the state, including scholarships, academic preparation programs and college awareness activities for students and their families. Oklahoma recently received $4.45 million in additional federal funds to continue statewide college awareness and preparation activities in 2004-2005.
Additionally, 11 Oklahoma school districts and four Oklahoma
colleges have received more than $41.5 million in partnership grants over
six years to expand statewide preparation activities locally.
Throughout the past five years, GEAR UP has helped Oklahoma schools move aggressively in expanding the range of programs and services offered to upper elementary, middle and high school students to better prepare them for college.
GEAR UP provides Oklahoma public schools with support that helps district-level educators and administrators better assess their needs in curriculum, provide professional development and parental involvement, as well as implement strategies to improve performance in these areas that are commonly problematic.
“Oklahoma higher education remains committed to helping K-12 schools' efforts to educate and produce students who are ready for college,” said Chancellor Paul G. Risser. “Through GEAR UP and partnerships with businesses and communities, we can reach more students through innovative methods and help them realize their educational dreams.”
Download a complete listing of conference sessions, activities and room locations here. (PDF, 37k)
The U.S. Department of Education awarded Oklahoma with a state GEAR UP grant totaling $20.5 million in August 1999. The grant has been matched by more than $25 million from state and partner resources. With the addition of year six federal funding, Oklahoma's GEAR UP program has received approximately $25 million in federal funds since 1999. GEAR UP receives 50 percent of total funding from the federal government and 50 percent from other organizations.