AUGUST 2, 2006

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Eastern garners near $7 million USDE grant

Nearly $7 million dollars in federal educational funds will be directed toward southeast Oklahoma through Eastern Oklahoma State College to help pre-college students succeed with their postsecondary education.

Officials at Eastern Oklahoma State College were notified today by U.S. Rep. Dan Boren that the Wilburton college would receive a substantial grant from the U.S. Department of Education through the GEAR UP Program designed to increase the number of low-income students who are prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education.

More than $6.7 million will be coming from the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) throughout the next 6 years to be used by Eastern to “address severe gaps in services and resources” at 19 schools in five southeastern Oklahoma counties surrounding Eastern within the Choctaw Nation where the majority of incoming freshman to the college originate.

Boren said the federal funding will give many area students, who wouldn't otherwise have the opportunity, a chance to prepare for a college education.

“This grant is an important tool we can provide educators to help prepare students for a good job and a bright future,” Boren said.

Eastern President Dr. Richard Bernard was quick to place credit for receiving the grant on Eastern grant application writers.

“Thanks to Eastern Project Director Linda Morgan and Enrollment Management Director Leah Miller who authored the grant application, area students will become better prepared to enter college.

“All the studies tell us that the one single most important factor to a successful college experience is initial academic preparation,” Bernard said.

“This will represent a considerable contribution to local communities in our area to be a good neighbor and partner with our schools to prepare students for college.”

GEAR UP – Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs – is a discretionary grant program designed to increase the number of low-income students who are prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education. GEAR UP provides grants to states and partnerships to provide services at high-poverty middle and high schools.

Grant recipients serve an entire cohort of students, beginning no later than the seventh grade, and continuing with follow-up through high school graduation.

USDE initially will fund the grant for the 2006-2007 academic year for $1, 129,600 which state Rep. R.C. Pruett, Antlers, said will “only help the young people of our area succeed in life.

“This is a ‘make sense’ federal program and can only help our region. Southeast Oklahoma is a low per capita area and this grant will help us overcome many problems.

“These funds will come directly to southeast Oklahoma and no one is more capable than Eastern to help our pre-college students prepare for their future.

“I have had an opportunity to work with Dr. Bernard and his staff in the past and no one does a better job in getting things done than they.

“This grant can do nothing but help the future of our kids,” he said.

Eastern’s “Brighter Tomorrow GEAR UP Project” is designed to improve academic performance and preparation for college, increase graduation rates and participation in college through awareness.

“The grant is designed to increase students; and their families’ knowledge of college options and financing beginning with 6th and 7th graders totaling 1,412 students currently,” Miller said.

“Some of the project services include mentoring, tutoring, cultural field trips, the 21st Century Scholar Certificate Awards Event and summer camps.

“Other activities include college and career advisement for students and parents, access to multimedia computers and online interactive educational materials. Some of the schools in our area don’t even have libraries,” she said.

The mentoring portion of the grant will give area school children and their parents an opportunity for information they otherwise would find difficult to acquire Sen. Richard Lerblance, Hartshorne, said.

“Many students in our region simply lack the knowledge necessary to prepare for college.

“These federal dollars entering southeastern Oklahoma through Eastern will go a long way toward a successful postsecondary education and their career,” Lerblance said.

“Early preparation for college will lead to a successful postsecondary education,” he said.

In addition to the 19 school partners included in the grant, a major partner will be the Choctaw Nation providing cultural activities and American Indian mentors.

Miller said the Choctaw Nation has officially endorsed the project and committed the Nation as an exclusive partner to provide a “Brighter Tomorrow” to economically disadvantaged youth in southeastern Oklahoma.

“Through the leadership of Assistant Choctaw Nation Chief Mike Bailey and Executive Director of Education Joy Culbreath, personnel will visit partner schools, help support the tutoring and mentoring component and career exploration portions of the grant,” Miller said.

Nine new staff for the project will include four educational site coordinators, two professional development coordinators, a web/computer technology specialist, data analyst and an office assistant.

According to Miller incentives will be provided to students to encourage greater student engagement in learning and persistence.

Area businesses committing resources and partnering with Eastern on the project include AmericInn of McAlester, First National Bank and Trust of McAlester, KESC Enterprises LPC, NARCONON, Roy’s Cardinal Foods and Sonic Drive-In of Wilburton.

Contact: Hank Mooney, 918.465.1804