||Schofield Hall 218|
||Eau Claire, WI 54702-4004|
UW-Eau Claire Among Those
Awarded Federal Gear Up Grant
MAILED: Sept. 8, 1999|
Hundreds of students at the Lac du Flambeau Public School will get new resources and encouragement to help them pursue a post-secondary education thanks to a federal grant recently awarded to the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and eight partners.
Between $12,000 and $320,000 will be awarded to the program annually for a total of $1.4 million over five years under the Gear Up Partnership Grant awarded by the federal Department of Education. The Gear Up fund was created in 1998, with the first round of recipients named this summer.
"It's an ambitious program that must coordinate a number of activities," said Joseph Hisrich, associate director of Academic and Career Services at UW-Eau Claire and co-writer of the grant proposal. "But it has a lot of potential. It's really an innovative proposal that could serve as an example nationally."
The grant dollars will fund students services such as a tutorial center, a mentoring program, a student advocate who will work with students through graduation and pre-college programs on university campuses, Hisrich said, noting that information also will be provided about college admissions processes, and career and financial aid services.
Parents also will receive support in forming an active parent group, as well as information on college and financial aid resources. School teachers and support staff will receive in-service training, including training to incorporate Wisconsin's Model Academic Standards into classroom curriculum and programming.
"In order to understand the importance of the mentors, tutors and advocate, you must remember that there has been long-standing distrust of education in the Lac du Flambeau community," said Chris Rencontre, education director at the Lac du Flambeau Tribal Education Office. "It dates back to the boarding school era when Indian children were taken from their homes, forced to speak English and become assimilated to the non-Indian culture, and in the process, lost their own language and cultural identity."
The Gear Up grants are designed to serve low-income public school districts in which a majority of students are eligible to receive free or reduced priced lunches. At the Lac du Flambeau Public School, more than 80 percent of students are eligible for free or reduced price lunch; the school is located within an Enterprise Community; and the high school graduation rate hovers between 50 and 60 percent. Ninety-four percent of the students are Native American.
Since students often begin disengaging from their education by the third-grade, UW-Eau Claire's proposal addresses the needs of students beginning in the third-grade and adds a new third-grade class each year. The program then follows each targeted class through the 12th grade.
"By providing early college preparation and awareness services to students, a change in the expectation level should result in a commitment to graduation and enrollment in post-secondary education," Hisrich said, adding that helping students and their families understand how the student might attain a post-secondary education is an important goal of the program.
Hisrich said a liaison who will facilitate communication among students, parents and the school will play a key role in helping students and their families feel connected to the school. School data shows that retention rates drop sharply when students move into the Lakeland Union High School. To change that trend, the student advocate must establish relationships with students, their families and teachers in elementary and middle school which continue through high school, Hisrich said.
"The grant will focus on facilitating the success of our students," Rencontre said. "This facilitation will do several things: bring attention to students' needs, give positive reinforcement to students to be successful academically, and give parents support and opportunities to work with neutral parties to correct any issues that his/her child may be having in school."
Support also will be provided to teachers to help them identify the skills students will need to pass state competencies exams and to create curriculum to help students develop those skills, Hisrich said, adding that in-service programs also will be designed to help teachers understand culturally compatible learning styles.
Developing such a comprehensive program to help meet the needs of the Lac du Flambeau School was possible because of the work that UW-Eau Claire's Human Development Center has been doing with the Lac du Flambeau schools and community for years, Hisrich said. It was that relationship, and the research that has been done about that community by HDC, that made the grant proposal such a strong one, he said.
The Gear Up Partnership Grant will be overseen by a Partnership Council, with UW-Eau Claire serving as the fiscal agent. Partners include UW-Eau Claire, Nicolet Area Technical College, the Lac du Flambeau Public School, the Lakeland Union High School, the Lac du Flambeau Tribal council, the Tribal Family Resource Center, UW-Eau Claire's Human Development Center, Microsoft and the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.
"All the partners could see the validity of the model," Hisrich said. "The problems facing that school aren't something that any one agency can address. It's going to be a challenge but at the same time it's exciting."
Janice B. Wisner
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Updated: Sept. 8, 1999