SAISD and HISD partner, secure $27 million grant for college readiness

SAISD and HISD partner, secure $27 million grant for college readiness

October 3, 2011 – The San Antonio Independent School District, in partnership with the Harlandale Independent School District, has been awarded a seven-year, $27.1 million federal grant to promote college readiness and awareness.

The funding for the GEAR UP program, formally known as Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs, will help provide a tight support network for all of this year’s seventh-graders (Class of 2017) – all the way through the students’ first year of college. The grant will pay for a host of services and activities, including college readiness coaches, academic support, test preparation, mentoring, case management, parental engagement and college visits.

SAISD will receive $21.5 million of the awarded amount over the seven years, and Harlandale ISD will receive $5.6 million over the same time period.

“The GEAR UP program will have a life-changing impact on these students,” said Dr. Robert Durón, SAISD superintendent. “This comprehensive program provides them with the guidance, support, resources, experiences, skills and motivation to be successful in college and beyond.”

“From summer enrichment camps to overnight college visits, starting in middle school, the funding will go a long way in helping us in our mission to graduate college-ready students,” Durón said.

This is the second GEAR UP grant for SAISD, which was awarded $18 million by the

U.S. Department of Education in 2005 to implement the program for the Class of 2012, this year’s seniors. District data show that a greater percentage of those GEAR UP students passed state tests and took more advanced math and science courses than students in the Class of 2011.

SAISD and Harlandale were among 47 partnership applicants in the nation, out of a pool of 262, to receive a GEAR UP grant. SAISD and Harlandale will share with each other successful strategies in the areas of parental involvement and college readiness.

"We are truly honored to be receiving the GEAR UP grant in partnership with the San Antonio ISD,” Harlandale Superintendent Robert Jaklich said. “The grant will help our students make a successful transition from high school to their post-secondary education. It also will allow us the opportunity to monitor data and choose the right resources so that all our children succeed."

Each seventh-grader this year will be assigned a college readiness “coach,” who will get to know assigned students and their parents on a personal basis and continue with the student over the seven years. The coach’s role is one of advocate and will include helping students remove educational barriers and seeing them through the college application and financial aid process, along with taking students and their parents on overnight college visits to give them a taste of college life. The visits range from in-state college visits to Ivy League visits on the East Coast.

That individualized attention will be combined with a strong academic component, including the implementation of a science, technology, engineering and math focus in middle schools. Students will also participate in “bridge” programs, between the eighth and ninth grade years and during the summer after graduation, which will help pave a smoother transition for what are the most challenging transitional years. 

“The GEAR UP program represents a fully comprehensive and integrated approach to preparing our students with the skills and experience they need to succeed in post-secondary education and eventually the globally competitive marketplace,” San Antonio Congressman Charlie Gonzalez said.

“This program not only invests in the success of thousands of local students over the course of several years, but it also includes strong parental involvement to create a better understanding of post-secondary education options and financing. I was honored to support the Districts’ application because I know that given the proper resources and encouragement, San Antonio’s students will be the leaders of tomorrow’s economy. Congratulations to the San Antonio and Harlandale Independent School districts for your commitment to your students’ future and for this well-deserved award,” Gonzalez said.

Mayor Julián Castro, whose SA 2020 initiative includes city-wide goals for improved education, also expressed his support for the program.

"This grant is great news for the San Antonio and Harlandale Independent School Districts because it goes to the heart of the aspirations we have for our city," Mayor Castro said. "By focusing on seventh-graders today, more of them will realize their dreams in the future by graduating from high school with a sense of hope and expectation to attend college."