Contacts:  Stephanie Carnahan, GEAR UP Director, 541-346-5761,

Dana Beck, GEAR UP Program Manager – Communications Specialist, 541-346-5727,

College readiness program has prepared more than 32,000 students for college since 2002

Portland, May 30, 2013 – Since 2002, the Oregon GEAR UP program has encouraged 32,000 underserved students across the state in 83 middle and high schools to consider college in their future. Oregon GEAR UP -- which is an acronym for Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs -- is a federally funded college access and success program that increases the number of low-income students who are prepared academically and in other ways to enter and succeed in colleges and universities.

Administered by the Oregon University System, Oregon GEAR UP works with cohorts of middle and high school students over a period of six years to meet their specific educational needs. Services and activities include academic tutoring, financial literacy, FAFSA completion, college tours, and parent engagement programs, among others. GEAR UP serves students starting in 7th grade, and follows them through high school graduation.

GEAR UP’s influence continues even after the six years of funding, as schools focus on preparing students holistically for college and career. "GEAR UP has given us a platform to pull together many resources to provide better support for our student as they pursue higher education," says Roger Berger, the business education teacher at Hermiston High School, one of the original GEAR UP schools from 2002-08. "We have been able to maintain almost all of the projects we started with the help of GEAR UP." 

The first cohort of schools to go through the program continues to show increases in high school graduation rates, with several schools showing dramatic gains, such as Roosevelt High School’s Arts, Communication and Technology School in Portland, which has experienced a 28% increase in high school graduation since 2009. College enrollment rates have also been on the rise, with an average increase of 3% across the first cohort of schools, according to the National Student Clearinghouse.

Individual students help tell the story of GEAR UP’s impact as well. Erika Sanchez, now on track to graduate from Oregon Health & Science University School of Nursing in Klamath Falls next year, decided to be a nurse when she was in 8th grade at Chiloquin Junior High School. In 2005, as part of the “My Story Project” that remains an integral part of the Chiloquin’s GEAR UP program, she wrote, “I especially like caring for children. I know I will need to go to college to realize my dreams.” Looking back on the experience now, Sanchez says, “GEAR UP showed how realistic it was to go to college. I really enjoyed the opportunity to set goals starting in 8th grade.”

Currently serving more than 6,000 students in 36 schools across the state, Oregon GEAR UP remains committed to student access and success. “Our schools continue to shine in supporting students, parents and educators with the necessary tools to prepare for postsecondary education and training,” says Stephanie Carnahan, GEAR UP director. “We look forward to another ten years of GEAR UP, which will be instrumental in helping Oregon meet its 40-40-20 educational attainment goal.”

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Oregon GEAR UP is a federally-funded program designed to increase the number of low-income students who are prepared to enroll and succeed in college. The program is administered by the Oregon University System. Currently, the Oregon GEAR UP program sponsors middle and high schools in 22 communities: Aurora, Brookings, Camas Valley, Coquille, Cottage Grove, Drain, Elkton, Glendale, Grants Pass, Irrigon, La Pine, Lincoln City, Merrill, Myrtle Creek/Canyonville, Myrtle Point, Reedsport, Roseburg, Port Orford/Langlois, Powers, Stanfield, Sweet Home and Yoncalla. For more information go to:

The Oregon University System (OUS) makes college a reality for Oregonians statewide by keeping higher education accessible, affordable and high quality. We integrate Oregon’s public universities with the entire PreK-20 education system to ensure student success.  OUS’ higher education offerings meet the needs of Oregon’s economy today and in the future, contributing to the vitality of the state and the success of more than 20,000 graduates a year.