Fitchburg’s School Committee recognized the MWCC/Fitchburg High School GEAR UP partnership during its Nov. 3 meeting. Front row, left to right, GEAR UP Director Andrew Goodwin, GEAR UP 2016/2017 students Keanu Bouthsarath, Sabrina Hyvarinen, Crystal Ocasio, Stephanie Ocasio; back row, Timothy Harkin, Vice President of External Affairs, Communications and K-12 Partnerships Lea Ann Scales, and GEAR UP Assistant Director Victor Rojas.
Mount Wachusett Community College and Fitchburg High School are being recognized with a 2014 Gateway Cities Innovation Award from the MassINC Gateway Innovation Institute for the GEAR UP program, a 15-year-old partnership between the two institutions.
Each year, the MassINC recognizes organizations and individuals that utilize innovative models to grow the economies of the Commonwealth’s Gateway Cities. The 2014 awards will be presented at the Institute’s annual event on Nov. 13.
Through GEAR UP, which stands for Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs, MWCC’s Division of Access and Transition provides academic support and early college-awareness activities to Fitchburg High School students.
“This year’s awards celebrate leaders who have advanced educational excellence in their communities,” said Ben Forman, executive director of the Gateway Cities Innovation Institute. “They each achieved this by working collaboratively to build new learning models that take advantage of unique Gateway City educational opportunities.”
In 2010, MWCC’s Division of Access and Transition received a $3.6-million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to expand the college’s partnership with Fitchburg Public Schools. The grant allowed MWCC to offer college-preparation services to every student entering sixth and seventh grades, lasting until their respective graduations in 2016 and 2017.
“We wish to thank the MassINC Gateways Innovation Institute for identifying GEAR UP as one of five model partnerships,” said MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino. “Fitchburg is a critically important city in our service area, and we are proud of the bond we have developed with Fitchburg High School. GEAR UP has allowed us to foster increased access to higher education for students, which has long been one of our fundamental goals at MWCC.”
“The GEAR Up program with Mount Wachusett Community College is one of the longest-sustained educational partnerships we have had as a school district,” said Fitchburg Public Schools Superintendent Andre Ravenelle. “This collaboration has brought not only an institutional commitment to the Fitchburg Public Schools, but more importantly a one-on-one commitment of MWCC staff to hundreds of FHS students, helping them navigate the challenges in life to eventual academic success.”
“Fitchburg High School is honored to be recognized with our partner, MWCC, for this MassINC Innovation Award,” said Fitchburg High School Principal Jeremy Roche. “GEAR UP is a driving force in our school setting because it truly reflects our mission to help prepare students for college through high expectations and strong supports. Our children and faculty are fortunate to be working with the GEAR UP team, which is comprised of individuals committed to helping students achieve post-secondary success.”
Specifically, GEAR UP students receive academic counseling, tutoring, homework support, MCAS and PSAT/SAT preparation and college admissions assistance. GEAR UP also offers after-school academic and social activities, workshops on college awareness and financial aid, and access to internships, as well as professional-development seminars for faculty and staff.
Similarly, the program also exists to provide public school districts sustainable curricula in science, math, technology, engineering and math (STEM), with the goal of improving instruction and knowledge acquisition in these areas.
Additional 2014 Gateway Cities Innovation Award winners are Holyoke Early Literacy Initiative, Greater Lawrence Advanced Manufacturing Academy, Revere High Advisory Program and the Worcester Arts Magnet School.
“These award winners exemplify the creativity and dedication Gateway Cities have shown in attempting to build new learning modules that respond to the needs of students and families in our changing economy,” said Forman. “The time has come to take a hard look at how we change funding models developed two decades ago to better position leaders to bring effective new learning models to scale.”
The Fitchburg School Committee announced the recognition at its Nov. 3 meeting.