WSU grant will help local middle school students

RICHLAND – The Early Outreach Program based at WSU Tri-Cities worked with 17 school districts and 19 community partners in the region to receive $23.2 million in the form of two six-year competitive grants from the U.S. Department of Education under the Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP).
GEAR UP helps middle school students receive guidance and assistance to prepare for and pursue a college education.
“We are fortunate in these rural communities to receive such large grants to help more students achieve their dreams of going to college,” said Genoveva Morales-Ledesma, Early Outreach director. The WSU Tri-Cities Early Outreach program employs about 150 people who are based at schools throughout south-central Washington.
The U.S. Department of Education Partnership projects must include at least one middle school that meets the free and reduced lunch eligibility factor, one college or university, and two community or business organizations. Partners work together to provide all students at a particular grade level and their families a range of support services needed to prepare for college, such as higher level coursework, summer academies, mentoring, counseling and help with the college application process.
Grantees must match federal funding and partners may contribute in-kind services for their match, Morales-Ledesma explained. “The local contribution for the programs will be $23 million; therefore the Department of Education considers the actual funding award to be $46 million.”
The first GEAR UP six-year grant of $9.9 million is in partnership with the seven school districts of College Place, Dayton, Moses Lake, Prescott, Soap Lake, Touchet, and Walla Walla. This “Harvest of Hope GEAR UP” will begin serving 2,072 sixth- and seventh-grade students and follow this group until high school graduation.
The second GEAR UP six-year grant of $13.3 million is a partnership with the 10 school districts of Clarkston, Columbia, Endicott-St. John, Ephrata, Finley, Kiona-Benton, North Franklin, Pasco, Paterson, and Walla Walla. This “One Vision Partnership GEAR UP” will begin serving 2,792 sixth- and seventh-grade students and follow them until high school graduation.
The GEAR UP Program will offer a range of services and activities to prepare students to enter and succeed in college. These services will include enhanced academic support, college planning, summer/after-school programs, tutoring for ACT/SAT preparation, financial planning, college visits, career exploration, parent training, student leadership activities and teacher professional development.

The grants also include the community partners of Digital Learning Commons, Mano y Mano, Puget Sound Center for Teaching, Learning & Technology, Texas Instruments, Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, Parametric Technology Corporation, Northwest Education Loan Association, Abriendo Puertas (Texas A&M University), and RGI Corporation. These partners bring additional expertise and resources to help prepare students for college.
“For many families, especially those whose roots are in another culture, higher education appears inaccessible. Early Outreach helps these families see the value and envision the path, leading to a brighter future for their children,” said James R. “Dick” Pratt, vice chancellor for academic affairs at WSU-Tri-Cites. “We are pleased that the U.S. Department of Education has invested in our region, providing significant resources for Early Outreach to prepare more students to enter college.”
For more details on the WSU Early Outreach programs, visit More information about GEAR UP nationwide is available at

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