The Johnson County School System has been awarded a $443,625 grant from the Tennessee Higher Education Commission to support college access and success efforts.
As part of the grant, Johnson County High School and Johnson County Middle School will join with Northeast State Community College and other community partners to design activities that cultivate a college-going culture for students and families.
The funding is part of the U.S. Department of Education’s Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) grant program, which aims to increase enrollment and success in postsecondary education.
Students who are currently seventh-graders will form a cohort that receives services through middle school, high school, and the first year of college. In addition, each senior class at Johnson County High School will participate in programs designed to help them with academics, career and college decisions, and navigating college enrollment.
Johnson County, Northeast State, and other community partners will begin work immediately to map out initiatives, which will be approved by THEC. Cohort activities are expected to commence in January 2013. The grant also funds a site coordinator who will implement the programs and mentor students.
“Johnson County is unique in that there is only one middle school and one high school and this will allow the students and mentors to work very closely to build a college-going culture,” said Erika Adams, director of College Access Programs at Northeast State.
Adams also noted the early seventh-grade start will give students an edge on making college and career plans.
“Starting with a seventh-grade cohort gives us so much more opportunity to work with them on career development and defining their goals,” Adams said. “If we can do that kind of work in the seventh and eighth grades, they’ll go into their freshman year of college with a much more clearly defined idea of who they are and what they want to be.”
Increasing college attainment is central to the state’s Complete College Tennessee Act of 2010, a statewide master plan with the goal of bringing the state up to the national average for undergraduate degree attainment by 2025. GEAR UP TN will provide support to the state’s public agenda for higher education through its targeted intervention and assistance approaches.
GEAR UP TN will serve a cohort of 7,500 students in the Class of 2018, along with 5,000 graduating seniors each year through 2019. A total of over 37,500 students at 83 schools will be directly served during the seven years of federal funding. Each GEAR UP TN collaborative includes at least one priority high school, one middle school, a higher education institution, the local board of education, and at least two community-based partners.
The collaboratives are located in the following 16 counties: Anderson, Bradley, Campbell, Claiborne, Davidson (Metro Nashville Public Schools), Grainger, Hancock, Hardeman, Haywood, Henderson, Johnson, McNairy, Robertson, Shelby (Memphis City Schools), Union and Wayne.
The collaboratives were chosen through a competitive grant proposal process. Award amounts were determined by the number of students to be served in each direct service school.
GEAR UP TN, through the collaboratives, provides students with direct services, including mentoring, tutoring, college visits, and financial aid counseling. The collaboratives are required to fully match federal funds in the sixth and seventh year of the grant to ensure long-term sustainability of the local GEAR UP TN programs.
Tennessee was also the recipient of a 2005 GEAR UP grant and during the six years of that grant, college-going rates in targeted counties increased by 22.8 percent in nine participating districts.