TRI-CITIES, Wash. — Washington State University Tri-Cities has received a five-year, $7.68 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to increase the number of students prepared to enter college.

The grant to WSU’s Harvest of Hope project is part of the DOE’s Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Program (GEAR UP).

Yolanda Flores–Niemann, WSU Tri–Cities Director of Latina/o Outreach Programs, said the project will serve middle and high school students in seven rural school districts along Washington state’s agricultural crescent in the lower southeast quadrant of the state.

WSU and its partners will provide a Web-based writing program, in school and after school tutoring, online assessment and specialized curricula and after-school learning opportunities. Flores–Niemann said they also will provide special outreach to migrants, including course tracking and semi-independent course curricular and parent outreach that includes activities, events, information and workgroups.

WSU’s partners in the project include the school districts in Prescott, Touchet, Walla Walla, College Place, Moses Lake, Soap Lake and Warden, and Big Bend and Walla Walla community colleges. Collaborating on the effort will be the Columbia Basin Boys & Girls Club of Moses Lake, Broetje Orchards, the Northwest Learning and Achievement Group of Wapato, the American College Testing Program (ACT), the Strategic Learning Center and the state Office of Secondary Education for Migrant Youth.

The Harvest of Hope project was announced at a Wednesday news conference on WSU’s Richland campus and U.S. Senator Patty Murray made remarks via video. “This program will help young people, who might not otherwise consider attending college, get the support and preparation they need,” she said. “GEAR-UP is an investment, not just in the future of these students, but also in the future of our country.”

“We can’t afford to let a generation of students miss out on a college education. It’s their best chance to get the skills they need to reach their full potential. Over the years, I’ve worked in the Senate to support GEAR-UP, and the Washington State University Harvest of Hope project is just the type of effort I had in mind,” Washington’s senior senator said.

Harvest of Hope is expected to improve and accelerate students’ academic achievement so they are prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education, said Larry James, dean of the WSU Tri–Cities campus. “It will educate students and their parents about postsecondary education and help them learn to plan to participate in educational opportunities,” he said.

WSU units working on the project include the colleges of Education and Liberal Arts, Multicultural Student Services and WSU Summer Programs.

The project also hopes to improve the motivation and capacity of teachers to help diverse and economically deprived students achieve high-learning standards, said Alton Jamison, WSU’s associate vice president for educational development, who co-wrote the grant proposal for the Harvest of Hope project.

“Our aims include providing specially designed information workgroups on college. We’ll also provide campus visits and special event trips, college student tutors and mentors, summer camp programs and college outreach programs to the schools,” Jamison said. “Educators, too, will be offered in-school training workshops and professional development,” he said.