Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College Celebrates GEAR UP Week

This week, thousands of students in 10 West Virginia counties are celebrating a program that helps them prepare for postsecondary education.

GEAR UP, which stands for Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs, is a federally funded program that helps to promote a college-going culture among schools all throughout the United States. In the Mountain State, the West Virginia GEAR UP program serves more than 5,000 students through activities that encourage and assist them in planning for and pursuing an education or training beyond high school. These activities include college visits, tutoring, mentoring, test preparation workshops, academic camps, financial aid workshops and career academies.

Elizabeth Manuel is the College Access and Success Program Director for the Division of Student Affairs that oversees the WV GEAR UP project. She has been with the program since its inception. During that time, she has worked closely with Southern as a college partner to implement various college Access initiatives aimed at preparing students for postsecondary training opportunities.

“Partnerships are vital to the work that we do through the WV GEAR UP project,” Manuel said. “These partnerships allow us to extend our reach, and in the end, help more West Virginia families. West Virginia GEAR UP aims to create a culture of college readiness in the schools and communities we serve. Having colleges like Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College in the center of the schools we serve is an asset to the work we do. I believe because of the WV GEAR UP grant and the partnership with Southern, we have helped prepare more students for education and training beyond high school.”

During the 2016-17 academic year, West Virginia GEAR UP students spent more than 30,000 hours engaged in activities that promote academic achievement, career awareness and interest, college awareness and ultimately increased participation in postsecondary education. Approximately 63 percent of GEAR UP seniors in the Mountain State filed a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, exceeding the statewide 60 percent completion goal for 2016-17. GEAR UP students are more likely than their peers to speak to someone in their school about college entrance requirements, and 83 percent of GEAR UP sophomores reported that they aspire to obtain at least a two-year degree.