GEAR UP Early College graduation group photo
GEAR UP early college graduation.

The U.S. Department of Education recently awarded the University of Hawaiʻi–West Oʻahu a $2.7 million federal GEAR UP partnership grant that will help more than 500 students prepare for and succeed in postsecondary education in the Waiʻanae Coast area. The grant is the college’s second consecutive, multi-year GEAR UP partnership grant award.

GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs), is a federally-funded grant program that is one of the largest and most effective programs focused on increasing the college and career readiness of low-income and underserved students in communities nationwide.

The seven-year grant supports a collaborative effort of public institutions and community partners that will provide academic readiness and college access services to students in participating schools on the Waiʻanae Coast. Students will receive tutoring, career guidance, comprehensive college advising, financial literacy, dual-credit course opportunities and mentoring from the seventh grade through their first year of college. Services are anticipated to begin in spring 2018 for the Class of 2023 cohort.

UH West Oʻahu previously obtained a GEAR UP grant in 2011 named Holomua: GEAR UP on the Leeward Coast, to increase the number of students from the economically depressed Waiʻanae Coast who will be prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education. The Holomua: GEAR UP grant helped provide service to more than 600 students from Nānākuli High and Intermediate School, Waiʻanae Intermediate, and Waiʻanae High School. Its results included:

  • A record 20 valedictorians were among the 414 Holomua GEAR UP students who received their diplomas from Waiʻanae High School in May 2017. The students were at the top of their class, with grade point averages pushed above 4.0 by taking college courses.
  • Holomua: GEAR UP initiated a partnership between Waiʻanae High School Searider Productions and UH West Oʻahu Academy of Creative Media to create a seamless pathway from high school through UH West Oʻahu and into the workforce. The pathway was implemented in summer 2017 to increase student success and leverage existing resources to help sustain the early college initiative.
  • UH West Oʻahu conducted summer bridge programs to help ease students into college life for graduates of Nānākuli High and Intermediate School and Waiʻanae High School.
  • The Holomua: GEAR UP cohort from Waiʻanae High School and Nānākuli High and Intermediate School had an increase in enrollment to UH West Oʻahu. The enrollment rate from both high schools doubled in fall 2017 semester from Fall 2016.

UH West Oʻahu will administer the new grant in partnership with the State of Hawaiʻi Department of Education Nānākuli-Waiʻanae Complex Area, Waiʻanae Intermediate School (grades 7–8), Waiʻanae High School (grades 9–12), Nānākuli High and Intermediate School (grades 7–12), Kamehameha Schools, DimensionU, Hawaiian Community Assets, Bank of Hawaiʻi and partnering community colleges.

—By Leila Wai Shimokawa