Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP)
Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Program (GEAR UP) is a highly innovative college access program designed to significantly increase the number of students from low-income communities who stay in school and are prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education.
GEAR UP differs from other college access programs by:
- Raising the academic aspiration of entire cohorts- not just selected individuals- and cultivating the motivation, knowledge and skills needed to succeed along the pathway to college.
- Serving children early in their academic careers, beginning in 7th grade.
- Serving cohorts of students all the way through high school.
- Enlisting the involvement of parents, teachers, guidance counselors and school administrators- as well as community groups.
Because the GEAR UP cohort approach ensures that all students in particular grades are served, the program is a natural vehicle for systemic change.
AZ GEAR UP is a federal grant that has been awarded to NAU since 1999.
The design of AZ GEAR UP 2012-19 has three project components:
- In-School Partnerships, serving 4,000 students in 30 rural schools in six AZ counties;
- Middle Grade Initiative, impacting 200+ schools / 40,000+ students statewide; and
- Local and State Collaborations, advancing broader and shared aims with multiple entities.
Additionally, AZ GEAR UP 2012-19 embraces the importance of evaluation and research through an Initiative on the Study of College and Career Readiness, and is a member of the multi-state GEAR UP College and Career Readiness Evaluation Consortium.
GEAR UP is a federally-funded college-access program started in 1999, authorized under the Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA), now in 47 states. The purpose of GEAR UP is to significantly increase the number of students from low-income communities who graduate from high school prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education.
State GEAR UP office
NAU AZ GEAR UP StaffRead more
Daniel L. Kain
Northern Arizona University
Dr. Daniel Kain is the Vice Provost for Academic Personnel at Northern Arizona University and Principal Investigator (PI) for Arizona GEAR UP 2012-19; his role as PI spans three grant cycles and a decade. In addition to overall project oversight, Dr. Kain brings expertise in curriculum and research-based instructional strategies to GEAR UP. He served as Principal Investigator on the 2010-12 research study of the Arizona GEAR UP intervention, academic mentoring. Dr. Kain is the former Dean of the College of Education at Northern Arizona University, and a leading academic authority for middle school professional development with a specialty in problem-based learning.
Teena Olszewski, M.Ed., serves as Arizona GEAR UP Executive Director and has provided leadership to the Arizona GEAR UP Office since 2002. She is responsible for ensuring compliance with programmatic, administrative and fiscal requirements of the project; creating and expanding partnerships to meet grant objectives; representing Arizona GEAR UP to constituents; and initiating actions to increase preparation for, access to, and retention in postsecondary education. She brings more than 25 years of executive-level administrative, management and leadership experience in government, education and non-profit environments to the position. Prior to joining Arizona GEAR UP, Teena served for ten years as Chief Administrator of the Attorney General's Office of Victim Services. Teena obtained her bachelor's degree in justice administration from Indiana University and a master's degree in educational leadership from Northern Arizona University.
Stephen R. Hart
Stephen Hart, Ed.D., is responsible for all financial operations as it relates to Arizona GEAR UP. He received his bachelor's degree in economics at Arizona State University (ASU), a Master's of Public Administration from ASU, and doctorate in Educational Leadership from NAU. He came to Arizona GEAR UP in 2004 from the Arizona Community Foundation, where he was administering the Arizona GEAR UP Scholarship Program. Prior to that, Steve served Colorado College as its Director of Advancement Services, overseeing the department's donor records and major prospects database. Steve is excited to be part of Arizona GEAR UP.
Data Management & Program Effectiveness
Data Management & Program Effectiveness
Barbara Soby is responsible for all data-related matters -- promoting data-informed continuous improvement, ensuring reporting compliance, and supporting rigorous annual evaluations of the project. Barbara received her M.S. in Child Development from the University of California at Davis and her bachelor's degree in Psychology from Boston State College. For over 30 years, her career and research has focused on support for, and empowerment of, disadvantaged and disenfranchised populations. She has a strong belief in prevention and early intervention for addressing social problems and improving the quality of life at both the individual and community levels.
Data Input Operator
Jan Wenning provides direction and leadership to ensure effective student services and compliance with grant requirements at schools in fourteen school districts across the state. She directly supervised two Site Support Specialists, and together they provide consultation and guidance for 16 full-time GEAR UP Coordinators at the school sites. Jan received her M.Ed. in special education from the University of Maryland at College Park. Her career has focused on prevention and early intervention for disadvantaged children and their families with an emphasis on collaborative efforts. These efforts have taken place in her work with Head Start programs in Maryland and Arizona, and as Director of the Arizona Governor's Division for Children, where she was responsible for administering federal grants for early care/education and for Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
Rhae Lynne Clawson
Site Support Specialist
Rhae Lynne Clawson provides direction, guidance, support and
feedback to nine GEAR UP school-based Coordinators and their site-based Task
Force members to develop/implement and execute annual performance based work
plans. She assists with continuous assessment and evaluation of work plan
progress and student participation in GEAR UP activities. Rhae Lynne received her Bachelor’s Degree in
Secondary Education-History and Social Studies from Northern Arizona
University. She is currently in process of earning a Master’s of Secondary
Education at Northern Arizona University. Rhae Lynne came to GEAR UP in 2012
from the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Scottsdale (BGCS) where she served as a
branch Education Director, and worked to develop and implement a college
readiness program across the organization. Prior to working with BGCS, Rhae
Lynne taught 6-8th grade Science and Social Studies in the
Pendergast school district for 6 years.
Ann Connelly Is Manager of the EXPLORE Program, an early college and career awareness/preparation Program. GEAR UP offers the ACT –EXPLORE to all 8th graders throughout the State of Arizona and funds schools that have a 50% free and reduced lunch rate. The EXPLORE is a curriculum-based assessment designed for 8th graders that assesses students’ academic progress, provides early measurement of college readiness, and helps students understand and begin to explore career options. Ann has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from Colorado State University and a Master of Education – School Counseling degree from Northern Arizona University. She has worked in education for more than 15 years, with her career focused on advocating for early college and career awareness, including preparation of post-secondary plans aimed at preparing students for college, career and life.
Research & Evaluation
Thomas G. Fetsco
Director of Research
Thomas Fetsco is the Director of Research for the Initiative on the Study of College and Career Readiness. He has served as served as program evaluator for both state and partnership GEAR UP grants for nine years. Dr. Fetsco was the lead researcher on a study of the Arizona GEAR UP intervention, academic mentoring in 2010-12 and represents Arizona on the multi-state GEAR UP College and Career Readiness Evaluation Consortium. Dr. Fetsco is a professor of Educational Psychology at Northern Arizona University, and has thirty years of experience in the preparation of educational professionals at both the undergraduate and graduate level.
Christine Totura, Ph.D.
Christine Totura, Ph.D., is a Research Associate with the Initiative on the Study of College and Career Readiness in the College of Education at Northern Arizona University. She received her doctorate in Clinical Psychology from the University of South Florida and has more than a decade of experience in school-based research and practice. Her major research interests include examination of school and community contextual factors influencing youth social-emotional and behavioral development and implementation of youth prevention programs, policies, and environmental strategies.
Wenjie Tang is the Research Associate for the Initiative on
the Study of College and Career Readiness. She enjoys exploring data and
stories behind the data. Her research interest includes contextual and personal
factors that influence college-readiness of minority and first-generation
students. Before joining ISCCR, she
worked as program evaluators for non-profit organizations in California, Washington,
D.C., and New York in the fields of education and social services. Wenjie received her M.A. in Applied Social
Psychology and Evaluation from Claremont Graduate University and her B.S. in
Psychology from Zhejiang University in China.
She is a member of American Evaluation Association and Arizona
Benefits of GEAR UPRead more
GEAR UP Site Directors examine why students miss class and then implement programs - both proactive and reactive - to encourage students to attend their classes. Creating interventions that address the reasons for absenteeism is the key to solving the problem.
Through tutoring, mentoring, improved attendance, academic enrichment activities, and the encouragement and inspiration they receive from their Site Directors, GEAR UP students do better in school, and their grades reflect this. Between the first and third years of the Program, the percentage of NAU-GEAR UP students getting grades of B or better in mathematics and language arts increased.
A fundamental GEAR UP premise is that children will live up to, or down to, the expectations that are held for them by others. GEAR UP sponsors training for site staff, faculty and administration, parents, and mentors on the Power of High Expectations. As a result, GEAR UP students regularly and consistently hear that they will graduate from high school, that they are capable of succeeding in college, and are made aware that they have the support they need to do so. Because parents and students alike are provided information about the cost of college and the availability of financial aid and scholarships, they learn that money does not have to be a barrier to post secondary education.
Higher enrollment in college prerequisite courses
Through one-on-one academic counseling, GEAR UP Site Directors ensure that students are enrolling and succeeding in classes beyond those required for high school graduation, and which are required for college admission.
Increased scores on standardized tests
Through tutoring, mentoring, improved attendance, academic enrichment activities, and the encouragement and inspiration they receive from their Site Directors, GEAR UP students can do better on standardized tests like the AIMS.
Enhanced knowledge of the value and cost of college
GEAR UP-sponsored Financial Aid and College Preparation workshops, one-on-one counseling and numerous written communiqués to parents (in both English and Spanish) give parents and students a more realistic picture of how much college costs and how much financial aid is available. Assistance in finding and applying for scholarships provides concrete financial assistance. Job shadowing and career workshops let students experience first-hand the kinds of careers that will be available to them if they succeed in college.
Increased High School Graduation Rates
With improved attendance and grades, inspired and encouraged by mentors and their Site Directors, and motivated by the expectation of going to college and the possibility of a rewarding career, it is anticipated that the drop out rate among GEAR UP students will be lower than the drop out rate of comparable non-GEAR UP students.
Increased college admission rates
Because of the broad range of interventions and enrichment activities provided to GEAR UP students over five years, in 2012, NAU GEAR UP students graduated from high school at a rate of 83%; 72% verified college-enrollment in the fall.
Outcomes/Evidence of successRead more
- Class of 2006:
- 82 percent graduation rate (67 percent for state)
- 75 percent college-going rate* (31 percent for state)
- Class of 2009
- 95 percent graduation rate
- 69 percent college-going rate*
- Class of 2010
- 94 percent graduation rate
- 81 percent college-going rate*
- Class of 2011
- 82 percent graduation rate
*Each student’s actual attendance in college was verified in the fall of the year they graduated.
State GEAR UP Office
Northern Arizona University
15601 N. 28th Ave., #136
Phoenix, AZ 85053
Phone: (602) 776-4616
Fax: (602) 776-4619