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UW-Eau Claire GEAR UP Program Secures $50,000
Grant to Help Lac du Flambeau Public Schools

 MAILED:  Aug. 25, 2004

EAU CLAIRE — Middle school students at the Lac du Flambeau Public School will have a high-tech math and science lab thanks to a $50,000 SBC Foundation grant awarded to the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire's GEAR UP program.

"Native Americans are the least represented in professional careers in math and sciences," said Marge Hebbring, director of the GEAR UP program. "We hope this state-of-the-art lab will increase the number of Native American students who go into science and math-related fields. It will help us better prepare middle school students for the more advanced high school courses and will introduce them to careers in engineering and technology."

UW-Eau Claire's GEAR UP program — the Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Program — provides early college preparation and awareness services to students in low-income public school districts. The federally funded program offers tutorial centers, mentoring programs and student advocates who work with students through pre-college programs. UW-Eau Claire was awarded its first GEAR UP grant from the U.S. Department of Education in 1999.

The creation of a high-tech lab at Lac du Flambeau Public School will help increase math, science and technology scores for all the middle school students at the school, Hebbring said, adding that it also can be used for projects in courses in disciplines such as art. The school has long recognized the need for a high-tech lab but has not had the money to make it a reality, she said.

"With technology constantly changing, it's important that schools' technology education programs keep pace with the outside world," said Kimberly Barrett, associate vice chancellor for student development and diversity. "The need is great in this school for an updated technology and engineering lab where students can work on math, science and technology projects. This lab will encourage students to stretch beyond the first right answer."

GEAR UP, enacted as a result of Congress' passage of the Higher Education Amendment of 1998, encourages students in grades 6-12 to stay in school and apply for college. The program serves 1.2 million students nationwide. More than 2,000 organizations participate in GEAR UP partnerships.

UW-Eau Claire's involvement in GEAR UP is exactly the kind of thing a public regional university should do, Barrett said. "An important part of UW-Eau Claire's mission is helping meet the needs of our region and state," Barrett said. "Helping our state's youth — including those from low-income communities — succeed in middle and high school and prepare for college certainly benefits all of Wisconsin."

This spring the SBC Foundation — the philanthropic arm of SBC Communications Inc. — announced a $5 million grant to the National Council for Community and Education Partnerships. The grant came after research from the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research indicated that only 32 percent of all high-school students are ready for college. The grant was used to fund a competitive grant program for initiatives that promote college-readiness for low-income students.

"Most private donations go to programs for students already enrolled in college," said William Daley, president of SBC Communications Inc. "We believe it's just as important to help students get to college in the first place, so we decided to direct this grant money to GEAR UP to help fund programs that prepare low-income students to complete high school and succeed in a college or university setting."

The $5 million SBC Foundation grant will help train and assist teachers in the use of technology in the classroom; fund technology-based after-school programs to help students in math, science, reading and technology; measure student achievement and program impact; and establish new K-16 partnerships based on the GEAR UP model throughout the 13-state region.

"We're grateful that our project was among those selected for funding," Hebbring said. "We're excited for students to have additional tools to help them succeed."



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 Judy Berthiaume, Director
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
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Updated: August 26, 2004