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CSULB Partners with LBUSD on $22 Million GEAR UP Project

CSULB is partnering with the Long Beach Unified School District (LBUSD) on a $22.4 million federally funded project that will begin working with nearly 4,000 sixth graders at 13 area middle schools this year to boost their college readiness over the next six years.

The Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Education (GEAR UP) funding will also be used to improve teacher training, academic counseling and parent awareness of postsecondary options, preparation and financing.

Authorized by Congress in 1998, GEAR UP is designed to increase the college-going rate of lower income students.

"This is a wonderful opportunity that complements a growing number of college prep efforts in our schools," said LBUSD Superintendent Christopher J. Steinhauser. "The GEAR UP grant will help make the dream of a college education a reality for thousands of youngsters."

Beginning in sixth grade, students and their parents will participate in annual conferences with their counselor to discuss academic progress, set achievement goals and plan to meet postsecondary requirements. Parents will also participate in several institutes and meetings to learn more about preparing their children for college.

Teachers will receive additional training in math and literacy with the help of math and English coaches. Counselors will receive additional training on high school and college requirements, financial aid and college admission information. The counselor training will be coordinated with the Los Angeles County Office of Education and CSULB.

"The College of Engineering, the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics and the College of Education are involved with this project," said Linda Tiggs-Taylor, executive director for K-12 partnerships in science, technology, engineering and math whois serving as the CSULB coordinator for the GEAR UP project."We are working to support the Long Beach Unified School District's goals and objectives by lending our faculty and students to support the instructional mission of the district. We will be collaborating on the professional development of teachers, and the MESA program will be implemented at 13 new middle school sites."

Part of the project includes students participating in MESA (Mathematics, Engineering and Science Achievement), a statewide program that promotes academic achievement in math-related fields through tutoring, small-group activities, participation in regional events, curriculum training for teachers, field trips to science facilities and other activities that introduce students to math and science professionals.

Locally, MESA is administered by the CSULB College of Engineering. Two-week summer camps will also be offered at CSULB in math, science, writing and technology.

"What is important to us and what we're really focused on is increasing the number of students coming through the pipeline who are interested in science, math, engineering and technology," Tiggs-Taylor pointed out. "There is just a tremendous need to increase the number of students who are interested and prepared to take on college level academic work. So, our aim is to get those students interested and, more than anything, prepared so that when they come here, they are ready to take on college academic work in those areas."

Valerie Bordeaux, CSULB's director of university outreach and school relations,will provide outreach activities as part of the project.

LBUSD middle and K-8 schools participating in the grant are Butler, DeMille, Franklin, Hamilton, Hill, Jefferson, Lindbergh, Marshall, Powell, Robinson, Stephens, Lindsey and Washington. Implementation of the program started with the beginning of this school year. More than 75 percent of students at each of the local schools participating in the grant are eligible to receive free lunches.

"We attribute our success in winning this grant to the Long Beach Education Partnership that we enjoy with the Long Beach Unified School District and Long Beach City College," Tiggs-Taylor said. "We've had a long relationship with the district and now it is expanding to more of its middle schools."

Tiggs-Taylor thanked the deans of the participating colleges who provided assigned time matching support to the grant project, faculty in those colleges who helped organize components for the campus' portion of the project, and also the director of the MESA program, Saba Yohannes-Reda, for her cooperation.

"There were a lot of other campus administrators and staff who helped pull this together, and I'm very appreciative," she noted. "We're very excited about our involvement in this project, and we look forward to seeing many of these students at Cal State Long Beach six years from now."