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U.S. Department of Education Awards CSUF $7.9 Million

GEAR UP Program Grant Is Largest in University History

Cal State Fullerton has been awarded a $7.9 million federal grant — the largest in the university’s history — for a six-year program to guide seventh-grade students at two Anaheim schools on a pathway to higher education.

Funded by the U.S. Department of Education, GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) provides six-year grants to states and partnerships to provide educational services at middle and high schools with a high number of disadvantaged students to help them prepare for and pursue a college education.

The university is expected to receive more than $1.3 million each year of the program, which will be launched this fall at South and Sycamore junior high schools. The program is a collaborative effort among Cal State Fullerton, the Anaheim Union High School District, and local business and community partners.

“The GEAR UP program gives Cal State Fullerton the opportunity to work closely with a school district and to significantly increase the number of low-income and underrepresented students who are academically prepared to enter and succeed in higher education,” said Silas H. Abrego, Cal State Fullerton’s associate vice president for student affairs.

“We’re hoping that through this grant, we can help the district create a college-going culture and ensure that college is within reach for these students.”

GEAR UP-Anaheim will be offered to all seventh-graders — more than 1,600 students — at the two junior high schools and will follow them through graduation from Anaheim and Katella high schools. The program will provide students and their parents with a range of support and academic services to increase their educational success in junior high, high school and beyond.

“The goal is to increase retention and graduation rates, as well as improve their academic

performance in A-G college preparatory course requirements,” said Mark Kamimura-Jiménez, Cal State Fullerton’s director of educational partnerships who is also overseeing program. “By reaching out and creating a clear path to college six years in advance, we’ll be able to ensure readiness for college entry.”

Services will include tutoring, academic counseling, workshops, a summer program focusing on college preparatory courses, educational and cultural enrichment activities, tours of universities and colleges and parent outreach, plus professional development for math and English teachers at the two junior high schools.

The Anaheim schools were selected for GEAR UP because students face a number of challenges, including poor English proficiency, low academic achievement, lack of opportunity for higher education and high levels of poverty, Abrego said. “The majority of students at these schools do not become college-eligible and do not pursue higher education,” he noted. “Eighty-eight percent of the graduates at these schools do not complete course work required for matriculation to the California State University and University of California systems.”

The effort will be led by a program director, in addition to two academic counselors and a parent coordinator to serve as a liaison to parents of students. Additionally, teachers will be offered professional development workshops to enhance their students’ math and English skills.

For this effort, a coordinator for English will join the program, to work with David L. Pagni, Cal State Fullerton professor of mathematics, serving as math coordinator. He will assist the district’s teachers to improve math instruction.

“We’ll be working with teachers to encourage them to work together in a ‘learning community’ to solve problems of student achievement and share effective practices,” Pagni said.

Recipient of the 2005 Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering and more than $22 million in grants for programs that help educators and students, Pagni will draw upon his experience directing such efforts as Students Using Math Successfully, the Orange County Mathematics Project, Mathematics Diagnostic Testing Program and Mathematics Intensive Summer Session (Project MISS).

Cal State Fullerton students also will tutor program participants in math and English and serve as role models and mentors, Pagni explained. Efforts will be made to match the students with college tutors who attended the same junior high and high schools.

“Our tutors can paint a realistic picture of what it means to aspire to go to college,” he said. “By matching students with tutors who came from those schools, it will help these young students to see that if they put in the effort and work hard, college is attainable.”

Cal State Fullerton previously received funding for GEAR UP in 1999. That six-year program, which ended in 2005, followed students from Sycamore Junior High School through Anaheim High School. Pagni, who had served as the program director, noted that 24 students who started in that program in seventh grade are currently attending Cal State Fullerton.

“This program gives students the opportunity to realize their potential,” he said. “GEAR UP has life-changing potential because it helps students to learn that college is an option.”

To ensure success of GEAR UP-Anaheim, the program’s goals are to:

• improve math, science and English proficiencies; increase retention, completion of college preparatory curriculum and high school graduation, as well as the number of students who apply for postsecondary education;

• provide students and their parents with information about college options, admissions requirements and financing; promote parent participation in school planning; and

• raise expectations for attaining higher education among both students and their families.

The new grant also calls for the university and its community partners to provide an additional 40 percent — about $528,000 each year or $3.2 million over the six-year life of the program.

The program’s partners, including the Anaheim Union High School District, city of Anaheim and such community agencies as the Tiger Woods Learning Center, the College Board and Santiago Canyon College will provide matching support, Kamimura-Jiménez said. These partners will give mostly in-kind contributions, such as staff time to provide program support and access to facilities for workshops and other planned events.

Additionally, GEAR UP-Anaheim will augment the Collaborative for Higher Education partnership between Cal State Fullerton and the Anaheim Union High School District.

As part of this pact formed in May, Cal State Fullerton will guarantee admission to students from the district schools who meet the university’s entrance requirements. Under this collaboration, students in seventh through 12th grades will receive academic support and access to other university resources to help them attain their goal of earning a college degree.

Media Contacts:
Silas H. Abrego, Student Affairs, 657-278-2486 or
Mark Kamimura-Jiménez, Educational Partnerships, 657-278-5579 or
Debra Cano Ramos, Public Affairs, 657-278-4027 or