Fayetteville State University will receive $8.2 million over the next seven years for Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs.
The programs, known as GEAR UP, are funded by the United States Department of Education and aim to prepare middle and high school students for college through academic preparation. GEAR UP begins working with students in the sixth and seventh grades and continues to support them through their high school graduation.
Teresa Thompson-Pinckney, executive director of College Access and Success Programs at FSU, said in a statement the national initiative’s goal is to encourage more American youth to have high expectations, stay in school, study hard and take the right courses to prepare for college.
“Through this project, Fayetteville State University, along with our partners, is demonstrating our commitment to youth living in Cumberland County by leveraging resources for us to invest in student success and create a culture that helps all young people achieve,” she said.
Thompson-Pinckney said in an interview that the goal is to begin to work with students at an early age and develop a culture of going to college, support them until they graduate from high school and help them with the college application process.
“Basically, we actually have four target schools in Cumberland County that we will be serving students who begin in the sixth and seventh grade,” she said. “It works from a cohort approach where we basically provide academic support — so we’ll be providing tutoring to students after school, we’ll be providing academic workshops during the day to supplement test-taking strategies, study skills and things of that sort.”
Thompson-Pinckney described the other two components of the programs: parental involvement, which consists of getting parents engaged and answering questions about ensuring success throughout their education, and professional development, which consists of making funds available to teachers to grow professionally.
“The schools that were targeted are schools that are lower-performing schools, as well as schools that have high free and reduced lunch rates,” she said. “So there’s an established need in the schools for more support.”
Thompson-Pinckney said GEAR UP is not a new program for FSU, and that the last time FSU had GEAR UP, 85 percent of the seniors still in the program graduated high school and enrolled in college. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in Cumberland County the percentage of individuals below the poverty level stands at 17.5 percent, while the number of individuals that graduated high school or higher is at 90 percent.
According to Thompson-Pinckney, FSU’s GEAR UP programs will be fully functional in Cumberland County schools by January of next year.
“We’re just excited about having this opportunity to give to this community and support the students who may not have the opportunity to go to college,' she said. "And we just appreciate having the opportunity to support them in their effort to be successful in school and have access to college and have the knowledge to get there."