OGDEN -- The Ogden School District has been selected for a GEAR UP grant of $799,100 for use in the next year to help low-income students prepare for post-secondary education.
The federal grant money is expected to continue coming for six additional years, according to a letter the Office of Legislation and Congress Affairs sent to Utah Rep. Rob Bishop and forwarded to the Ogden district.
"The program only has enough money for 15 awards in the nation," said Kate Bideaux, Ogden School District federal grants specialist.
"I looked at the list of those going to apply, and there were at least 300 on the list. I am so excited for this group of kids. This is a lot of money, every year for seven years."
The new Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs grant will help 1,000 low-income seventh-graders in the Ogden School District receive special academic assistance through high school and one year into college.
The district received a similar grant in 2008 that has provided extra support to 850 students.
Funds from the combined 2008 and 2011 GEAR UP grants will help a total of 1,850 children who attend four district junior highs and three high schools, along with students from the Ogden Preparatory Academy, which partnered with the Ogden district for the most recent application process.
The money, which must be matched dollar for dollar by community partners as a condition of eligibility, provides students with special tutoring and mentoring, field trips to area colleges and information about available education opportunities.
The program also educates students and parents about budgeting and saving, scholarships and education loans.
Students are also shown how to open a bank account because, Bideaux said, "kids are much more likely to go to college if they have their own savings account set up."
All students eligible for GEAR UP funds live in poverty. Collectively, 69 percent of students in the program qualify for free or reduced lunch.
Students are encouraged to take Advanced Placement classes and to participate in the district's new International Baccalaureate diploma program.
"We have put huge effort into finding kids who were lost and stopped coming to school, and catching them before they fell off the grid," Bideaux said of the currently enrolled 10th-graders.
Bideaux said she thinks part of the reason the district won the GEAR UP grant was the strong community support provided by program partners.
Among the groups donating time, resources and energy to the cause are Weber State University, the Ogden-Weber Applied Technology College, Ogden city, the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Youth Impact, and Cottages of Hope.