Lead Story West Edition

GEAR UP grants provide new path for Compton students

By Dennis J. Freeman

Contributing Writer

COMPTON — The path toward a higher education for students in the Compton Unified School District is easier thanks to a couple of grants from the U.S. Department of Education.

Local students now will be tracked on their success and graduation rates from middle school through high school and on to college.

For the next seven years, the $10 million U.S. Department of Education GEAR UP Grants (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) awarded to the district will affect an estimated 1,800 students entering sixth and seventh grade with the goal of getting them on track for college success.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, 561,131 students nationwide will benefit from the grants. A total number of 161 awards were meted out with $350 million total being distributed. Compton was one of 11 districts in the state to be awarded grant monies.

“Today is truly a great day in Compton,” said Satra Zurita, vice president of the Compton school board. “In addition to the strong academic support students will receive, I am excited that this grant will help our students gain access to financial, academic and other supports that will, in essence, lock arms with them as they travel a path that leads them directly to success.”

What GEAR UP does is offer competitive state and partnership grants with educational agencies being in line providing early services for higher education preparedness for high-poverty schools and low-income students as a way to help get the programs needed to improve their chances of higher learning.

For Compton students, this pertains to two areas. The partnership between UC Irvine, Compton College and Gear Up was awarded $5,440,000. This alliance will reach Enterprise, Davis, Bunche and Willowbrook middle schools and measure students’ academic achievement as they matriculate to Compton and Centennial high schools. For the next seven years, 1,000 students from this project are expected to receive services.

The CUSD Gear Up program and Cal State Dominguez Hills were awarded $4,450,000 for seven years as well as they monitor and reach out to help 800 students from Whaley and Roosevelt middle schools and Dominguez High School.

“The GEAR Up grant will enable Compton Unified School District to not only continue its upward trajectory of improved graduation and college going rates, it will enable us to take a huge leap toward ensuring students successfully graduate college as well,” said district Superintendent Darin Brawley.

Some of the activities and services being provided to students include science, technology, engineering and math research, college readiness programs; tutoring and learning about economic literacy.

“Here at Compton Unified School District, we are intently focused on partnerships and initiatives that are innovative and game-changers for students,” said school board President Micah Ali, in a released statement. “We are grateful to the U.S. Department of Education and our collaborative partners for agreeing to take this bold step forward in firmly establishing a college-going and college-enabling culture in our district.”