The Washington State University Tri‑Cities GEAR UP program is the recipient of two $20 million grants that will support students in their quest to attend college and other post-secondary options.

Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs or GEAR UP is a federally-funded program that provides academic support for students in middle school through their first year of post-secondary education.

Students benefit from college readiness resources, mentorship, advising, professional development, tutoring and more.

“The WSU Tri‑Cities GEAR UP program has been very successful receiving new awards and preparing students for post-secondary opportunities,” said Silvia Clark, WSU Tri‑Cities GEAR UP One Vision Partnership director. “I am excited to partner with the same partners we have worked with throughout the last decade and a half. We have enjoyed working with teachers and administrators to make college and post-secondary dreams become a reality for so many students.”

One of the two new grants, the One Vision Partnership grant, totals $20 million and serves 13 middle schools and 13 high schools. The schools are located in the following school districts: Evergreen, Pasco, Kiona Benton, Prosser, Mabton, Finley, Columbia, Clarkston, North Franklin, and Ephrata. The new One Vision Partnership grant marks the first time that the WSU Tri‑Cities program will serve the Evergreen School District in Vancouver, Washington.

Participants in a Zoom call.
A student team, called Team Dynamite, participates in a discussion during the GEAR UP Virtual Leadership Retreat. More than 70 students participated in the three‑day camp virtually.

The other grant, known as the Harvest of Hope, totals $23 million and will serve 14 middle schools and 12 high schools. The schools are located in the following school districts: College Place, Dayton, Kennewick, Moses Lake, Othello, Prescott, Soap Lake, Touchet, Walla Walla and Warden.

For students like Maria Yepez Perez, an undocumented student and the first in her family to attend college, the GEAR UP program provided opportunities to further her future that she never could have imagined.

“GEAR UP not only set me up for success for college, but I was able to grow as a leader, thanks to this program,” she said. “Within the program, I was able to take on leadership roles, which helped me increase speaking in public and be a resource for my community. The staff at GEAR UP were not only our mentors setting us up to apply for colleges and universities, but were also our support system as many of us came from different backgrounds.”

Michelle Parvinen, director of the Harvest of Hope WSU Tri‑Cities GEAR UP cohort, said working in the GEAR UP program is incredibly rewarding.

“Upon learning what I do for work, people say, ‘Oh, you have a feel good job,’” she said. “I do. Education is the great equalizer. It is also about opening students’ eyes to opportunities beyond what they see in their community and helping them figure out how they can get there.”