GEAR UP Program

13 Years of GEAR UP

Clover Park Group Shot The GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) project at The Evergreen State College (TESC) ended September 2, 2015. Under the direction of Dr. Phyllis Lane, former Dean of Student and Academic Support Services, Evergreen was the recipient of two GEAR UP grants. Each grant was competitive and open to anyone to apply; they were non-continuation grants and you had to reapply if you wanted to continue receiving funding.  TESC GEAR UP was awarded about $5.8 million for each grant; for a total of $11.6 million. GEAR UP worked with one rural district (Oakville School District) and one urban district (Clover Park School District). The type of population served were highly mobile, Native, ELL (several languages) and military students. In Oakville, GEAR UP served a rural and large native population (Chehalis tribe). The grants were based on serving school districts that had at least 50% free and reduced lunches; our districts ranked from 75% to high 80%.

The first grant, 2002-2009, spent time on college awareness. The second grant, 2008-2015, moved more into continued college readiness. This meant a lot of emphasis and focus was on students’ ability to be successful after high school and in college. GEAR UP staff was able to help students develop skill sets and competencies in math, science and language arts. The grant spent considerable time in the area of professional development for teachers. They worked closely with district instructional staff and teachers that served these students. The professional development was guided by TESC Center which was under the direction of Dr. Magda Costantino and the MIT program under direction of Dr. Sherry Walton. Evergreen played a significant role in working with numerous district-wide initiatives at a very challenging and trouble time. The districts were involved in the No Child Left Behind, federally regulated law; if schools did not meet standards they could be taken over by the state. GEAR UP took a lead in providing support to the districts’ turnaround schools issues.

In addition to making this grant work, we had to develop partnerships. The GEAR UP grant was supported with federal dollars. In order to qualify for this grant, every federal dollar that was issued, TESC GEAR UP needed to have a matching in-kind dollar. Our partnerships grew from six to thirty-two partners over the 13-year period. That equates to about $20 million dollars of resources for these districts.

Evergreen benefited by GEAR UP supporting the college’s mission to be engaged in communities and to work with these student populations; an access issue for students. The grant created indirect dollars to Evergreen of about $880,000, benefitting everyone on the campus.


Highlights of the Grant

  • 1st grant - 2002-09 – over 4700 students impacted (starting with 6th, 7th and 8th graders):  3 HS cohorts graduated.
  • 2nd grant:  2008-15 - over 2200 students impacted (starting with 6th and 7th graders): class of 2014 and 2015 graduated.
  • The individuals impacted by this grant were students, parents, school staff and administrators, military and community partners.
  • GEAR UP helped change the mindset of staff at the Clover Park and Oakville school districts to believe that all students should be college ready and college worthy, thus creating a college going culture in the districts.
  • GEAR UP supported school administration to do things they could otherwise not have done, i.e., providing resources for professional development, funds, supplies, staff, technology, and training.
  • GEAR UP staff were big “cheerleaders” in getting students to attend Evergreen. Their hard work resulted in some students from GEAR UP schools completing their freshman year from TESC in 2014. In 2015, forty-five students applied to TESC and over twenty have registered to attend.
  • GEAR UP students from the 1st grant, have already graduated; some of them from Evergreen.

Services provided by the program

  • Helped create a college-going culture within the schools.
  • Supported students' intellectual, social and emotional development.
  • Supported students' academic achievement and helped address the specific needs of diverse student groups.
  • Helped students make connections between academic work and career preparation.
  • Fostered and enhanced sustainable student-to-student and parent-to-parent support systems.
  • Supported the IGNITE peer mentoring program that brought high school students into the middle schools and conducted peer to peer middle school to high school transition activities throughout the school year.
  • Initiated Parent to Parent Resource Groups that fostered early college readiness among parents, a college going culture within the schools, a college preparation support system for activities and events, and a voice for parent-community networking.
  • Implemented a College Student Leaders program (Student to Student Leadership Club). These students became the college experts amongst their peers.
  • GEAR UP staff provided students with college readiness information (Financial Aid, College Admission Process and Test Requirements), encouraged participation in GEAR UP college readiness related activities, and promoted a college going culture within the school.
  • Provided professional development for teachers consistent with district professional development and school improvement plans.
  • Built community partnerships to enhance the joint efforts of GEAR UP and school partner objectives in order to support early college preparation and awareness for helping increase the number of students who enter and succeed in postsecondary education.
  • Increased the number of students attending summer school. The first summer school in 2003 had 35 participants and GEAR UP increased the number to over 150.
  • Created college resource toolboxes for students and college resource folders for teachers to display in the classrooms.
  • Established, and the school sustained, a middle-to-high school transition program.  This included 8th-9th grade math teachers, counselors, and district staff meeting to discuss easy transition for students.
  • Provided all college readiness and awareness resources and workshops for students (FAFSA/WAFSA, college applications, scholarships, ACT).
  • Maintained a partnership with Joint Base Lewis-McChord School Liaison Office.
  • Provided parental support in the college readiness and preparation process.
  • Hosted several successful parent events.
  • Participated in college and career fairs and took students to visit colleges.
  • Provided one-on-one intensive academic advice to students and parents to track where they were academically, on track graduation status, post-secondary options.  Provided wraparound services to help them be successful.
  • Worked with students who were at-risk of graduating.  Students participated in a Collection of Evidence class or ACT test prep and 85% of these students graduated from high school in 2015.
  • Utilized the TESC TRIO program as a bridge to students that attended TESC.
  • Provided mentoring and afterschool and in-school tutoring.
  • Coordinated special events for non-English speaking parents.


GEAR UP arrived in the Clover Park and Oakville school districts in 2002.  These districts did not believe all students should be prepared to attend college.  GEAR UP turned their thinking around and advocated for all students and families; now the districts believe all students have the potential to be college and career ready and attend any post-secondary option they may choose.

The Evergreen State College, Tuition Waivers

Questions about the TESC Tuition Waivers should be referred to Michelle Eldhardt at or 360-867-6321. Only students who graduated in 2014 and 2015 from Oakville, Lakes and Clover Park high schools are eligible to apply for these waivers.

Other TRiO Programs at TESC

Evergreen has TRiO programs. These programs are two Upward Bound programs, in Clover Park and Tacoma school districts and a TRiO Student Success program located at the College. The contact person for these programs is Felix Braffith, Director. He can be reached at or 360-867-6507.

Contact Persons

If you have any questions about the program, contact one of the following people:

  • Dr. Wendy Endress, The Evergreen State College, 360-867-6296
  • Moureen David, Clover Park School District, 253-583-5166
  • Kathy Lorton, Oakville School District, 360-273-0171