TORRINGTON – Driving by Eastern Wyoming College this week, residents may have noticed thousands of red, white and blue flags adorning the campus’ front lawn. While some may assume the display is patriotic in nature – the flags actually represent the more than 4,000 students EWC’s GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) has served during the last 11 years and is in observance of National GEAR UP Week, which began Monday.
GEAR UP Wyoming’s information officer Chrissie Henschler said mentors with the state’s program served more than 2,300 junior high and high school students during the last academic school year.
“They go out to the schools and they work with these students,” says Henschler. “They help them with FAFSA completion. They talk them through ACT and grades – and they’re just really a good support system for these students.”
The federal program provides low-income families with support and resources for college success, according to a press release.
GEAR UP Wyoming is funded through a $3.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education and an additional $3.5 million in donations and scholarships.
The events around the state during National GEAR UP week are designed to educate the public and policymakers about the impacts of the program.
Through the years, the local group has hosted an anti-bullying campaign – including bringing in speaker Quinton Aaron, the actor who played Michael Oher in the movie “The Blind Side”; fun runs to benefit local charities; and sent members to the GEAR UP Alumni Leadership Academy.
KaylaRae Lawrence, of Riverton, was part of GEAR UP Wyoming and GEAR UP EWC for several years as a team leader, peer mentor and GEAR UP club co-president, vice president and sophomore student representative for the Vet Tech Club. She attended the national GEAR UP Alumni Leadership Academy in 2016.
“Without the GEAR UP program, I truly feel I would not have been able to achieve these successes, and I am so grateful to the GEAR UP staff that feels like a family who have helped me along the way,” Lawrence told the Telegram.
For more information about the EWC GEAR UP program, call the EWC GEAR UP Director Judy Brown (307) 532-8269.