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7/12/2010 - Jackson, Miss.

In August, 9th graders in Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) across the state will begin to learn what it means to be college ready.

But before the first bell rings in the new school year, GEAR UP site coordinators and college coaches will get some training of their own.

A mandatory orientation will be held for the group from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 14, at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Ridgeland. About 50 site coordinators and 16 GEAR UP college coaches are expected to attend.

"This year, because our students are beginning high school, GEAR UP will have a much stronger focus on ensuring the transition to a postsecondary institution is seamless. We plan to talk through that mission during this training," said Nira Coleman-Johnson, director of GEAR UP Mississippi.

Students in GEAR UP MS cohorts at the 41 schools and 20 districts that have applied to participate will enter the ninth grade this fall. The federal college access program has tracked these students since their seventh grade year and will continue through graduation day. Participating districts must have at least 50 percent of students on free and reduced lunch.

The orientation planned for this week is the third in a series of annual GEAR UP training sessions. The first two were held for school administrators and Youth Advisory Council (YAC) sponsors, the leadership component of the program. Participants in all sessions receive an introduction to GEAR UP goals and an overview of services provided to students and families.

"We have the major responsibility of highlighting graduation and college admissions requirements, financial aid information, ACT/SAT – all those issues that specifically relate to going to college – in order to prepare our students early in their high school career for the next step," Coleman-Johnson said. "GEAR UP is definitely up to the challenge."


GEAR UP Mississippi operates as part of the Institutions of Higher Learning, Office of Academic and Student Affairs, in collaboration with the Mississippi Department of Education, State Board for Community and Junior Colleges and community and national partners.

GEAR UP actively encourages students to set high academic expectations, stay in school, study hard, and take courses that will prepare them to enter and succeed in college. The program provides educational support services to our partner schools throughout Mississippi.

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