Clyburn announces $3.5 Million GEAR UP grant

COLUMBIA, SC Sixth District Congressman and House Assistant Democratic Leader James E. Clyburn today announced that the U.S. Department of Education has awarded a $3.5 million Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) Program to provide partnerships and services at high-poverty middle schools mostly along the I-95 corridor.  The South Carolina Commission for Higher Education will administer the grant that is designed to increase the number of low-income students who are prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education.

"Education provides the best opportunity for students to succeed in life.  This grant will open up those doors of opportunity for students in persistent poverty areas who have the most to gain by improving their educational attainment," Congressman Clyburn said.  "This program targets middle school students and works with them through graduation and into their first year of higher education to maintain the level of support that will lead to successful outcomes."

The South Carolina GEAR UP program will serve 3,623 7th graders in 24 targeted schools:

  • Whale Branch Middle
  • Johnakin Middle
  • Lee Central Middle
  • Haut Gap Middle
  • Robert Smalls Middle
  • Palmetto School
  • Loris Middle
  • Carver-Edisto Middle
  • Colleton County Middle
  • Creek Bridge Middle
  • Scott's Branch Middle
  • CE Murray Middle
  • Ridgeland Middle
  • Williams Middle
  • Clay Hill Middle
  • Hemingway Middle
  • Hardeeville Middle
  • Spaulding Jr. High
  • St. George Middle
  • Kingstree Jr. High
  • Estill Middle
  • Darlington Middle
  • Military Magnet Middle
  • J.V. Martin Jr. High Schools

Eighty-five percent of these schools are along the I-95 Corridor in the area that a 2005 documentary dubbed the Corridor of Shame.

The demographics of the schools participating in the GEAR UP program are 70 percent minority population, which compares to a state average of 36 percent.  Eighty-one percent of the students are on free or reduced lunch when the state average is 60 percent.  Only half, 50 percent, of students in the target schools transition from high school to college versus 66 percent statewide.

The GEAR UP program is aimed at addressing the systemic problems that plague the targeted schools.    The programs and services provided by the GEAR UP grant will address gaps in students' academic performance, and seek to increase the number of students prepared to enter and succeed in higher education and the knowledge of students and their families about higher education options and financing.    The grant will support: service coordination, college/financial aid counseling, school/business /community partnerships, professional development/curriculum improvement, mentoring, tutoring, summer programs, and program evaluation.