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BC Awarded $17.2 Million to Prep Students

Berea College, in partnership with the Berea Community, Estill County, Jackson County, Lee County, Madison County and Rockcastle County school districts, has been awarded a GEAR UP grant for $17.2 million over six years to help school children prepare for and succeed in college.

BC was awarded a GEAR UP grant for $17.2 million over 6 years.

Berea’s was the 10th largest of the 98 programs funded nationwide by the U.S. Department of Education this year under the Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP).

In Kentucky, Berea’s GEAR UP partnership proposal was one of three funded and the only one awarded to a Kentucky college or university. Also partnering with the college and the school districts are Eastern Kentucky University, Forward in the Fifth, Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Association and several local community partners.

In 1999, Berea was awarded a GEAR UP grant (the first year of the GEAR UP program) to work with Rockcastle County schools that provided $1.9 million over six years. That partnership was successfully implemented and ended August 31. Dreama Gentry, Berea College GEAR UP director, says the new regional grant, which took effect September 1, provides the college with the opportunity to implement the effective intervention services from the Rockcastle County GEAR UP program on a regional basis.

“GEAR UP provides students with real-world experiences that result in the students having higher educational aspirations,” says Gentry. “We work with students to build the academic and social skills necessary for them to achieve these higher aspirations. As a result of GEAR UP we will see more of our students graduating from high school and attending and succeeding in college.”

The Berea College GEAR UP partnership will serve 3,575 students and their parents, 719 teachers and 14 schools. The overarching goal of project services is to direct the focus of teachers, administrators, parents and students to skills that prepare students for post-secondary education.

Major components of the grant will include direct services to students, parent engagement activities and whole school improvement. Programs for students include academic assessment and intervention, mentoring, college and career planning and exploration, cultural enrichment and college visits. Activities to engage parents include training and information concerning college and financial aid opportunities, workshops, parent-student college visits and parent-teacher programs. Quality professional development for teachers, curriculum development, creation of a college-going culture and College Centers in school libraries are aimed at whole school improvement.

Berea has been involved for more than 35 years with innovative programs to develop students’ potential and help them plan and prepare for college, beginning with its Torchlight Program in the 1960s. GEAR UP, which has a national goal to significantly increase the number of low-income students who are prepared to enter and succeed in post-secondary education, complements the TRIO college preparation programs at Berea which currently serve high school students.

Dreama Gentry, director of Berea’s Office of Special Programs, will administer the regional GEAR UP partnership program. For more information, contact Gentry at (859) 985-3853 or

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