WASHINGTON, Sept. 29 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- From a charter school near the Capitol to Pennsylvania, Deep South Texas, California and even American Samoa, the celebration of National GEAR UP Day today --September 29 -- is in full swing.
Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP), created and guided into law by Congressman Chaka Fattah (D-PA), continues to reach new milestones. Twelve million students, most of them low-income children of color, have been served by the GEAR UP mix of opportunity and preparedness. About $3 billion in federal education dollars have fueled these programs in 49 states, the District of Columbia and overseas American territories since September 1999, and the GEAR UP model has been adopted in other countries.
Fattah joined U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan – and an online interactive audience across the nation – to celebrate GEAR UP's 11th anniversary this morning from the Smart Lab at Friendship's Collegiate Academy in Washington, D.C.
Duncan stressed the importance of GEAR UP readiness programs for students beginning in sixth grade as the pathway to a college education and economic opportunity.
"If you don't have that college dream, life can be very tough," Duncan said. "There's nothing more important; that's why I'm such a big fan of GEAR UP."
He also said, "We don't have a better champion in everything we're trying to do than Congressman Chaka Fattah."
Fattah cited his visits to GEAR UP programs across the country, including Colorado, New York, California and a trip to Oklahoma this year where he observed a GEAR UP center that had adapted computer games into "life games" on GEAR UP themes. He praised the GEAR UP leaders and instructors everywhere, such as those participating in today's ceremonies: Program Manager Diane Hasan in Harrisburg, PA; Julia Fisher at the University of North Carolina; and Project Director Martha Cantu at the University of Texas Pan American.
"GEAR UP in 11 years has achieved all we envisioned and more," Fattah said. "GEAR UP prepares our most underserved students and creates awareness from sixth grade on up that it's okay to be dreaming big dreams of college and lifetime opportunity – and that the hard work of preparedness starts now.
"The value of GEAR UP is evident to educators, parents and students everywhere," Fattah said. "So it is appropriate to pause – just for a moment – and salute all this effort with the National GEAR UP Day celebration."
GEAR UP Day has generated proclamations from governors' offices from Maine to American Samoa. Programs in some states have extended beyond today's official celebration, including the State of California where dozens of GEAR UP centers are participating in GEAR UP Week through Friday.
GEAR UP, signed into law by President Clinton as part of the 1998 Higher Education Act, was launched in school systems in September 1999. Many of the states where GEAR UP is currently serving students will have celebrations tomorrow or Thursday. Some states, including California, began GEAR UP Week on Monday. "GEAR UP is our most successful national program for preparing students as young as sixth grade for the rigors and opportunities of a college education that they might otherwise not even consider," Fattah said. "GEAR UP is now an international model, and here at home it continues to grow and innovate."
Fattah, an eight-term legislator from Philadelphia who is chairman of the Congressional Urban Caucus and Pennsylvania's senior member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, has added notable achievements in the 111th Congress to his resume of education reform initiatives.
He was chief sponsor of The American Opportunity Tax Credit Act, incorporated into the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which provides $14 billion in the form of a $2,500 tax credit for tuition and other expenses for college students or their parents. The AOTC is expected to assist 3.7 million students meet their college expenses.
In Philadelphia, under a $22.9 million six-year grant, the Philadelphia GEAR UP Partnership is reaching nearly 5,000 students in 29 low-income K-8 and middle schools, the entire cohort of students feeding into Audenreid, Edison, Frankford, Franklin, Olney East, Olney West, and University City High Schools. GEAR UP is also serving, under a six-year, $4.1 million grant through the State of Pennsylvania, about 1,700 students on track for Fels, Furness, Germantown and Overbrook High Schools in Philadelphia.
SOURCE Office of Congressman Chaka Fattah