OGDEN — Ogden School District’s class of 2024 will have extra support to help them graduate from high school and prepare for college.

In October 2018, the district was awarded a federal GEAR UP grant (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) that will provide extra supports — like tutoring, college visits, college prep classes, ACT prep, family nights and after-school programs — to the district’s current eighth graders across the district’s three junior highs: Highland, Mound Fort and Mount Ogden.

The district’s eighth grade class fluctuates between 850 to 900 students, said Carrie Maxson, supervisor in the district’s equity and access department. All students in the cohort will receive support through the GEAR UP grant funding.

This past week was GEAR UP week across the country, celebrating the federal program that began in 1999. As part of this week, each of the schools had kick-off events acquainting students with some of the supports they’ll be receiving.

The events involved community partners, like YMCA and Boys and Girls Club, so students could learn more about the services partner organizations offer.

The district’s grant application included 18 supporting community partners, Maxson said.

Two kick-offs were evening events featuring food like tacos and a FiiZ trailer, attracting the participation of students’ families.

“This is our third grant,” Maxson said. “It’s not common for a small district like ours to get this award, but we’ve been fortunate enough to get it three times.”

The grant is significant — $800 per student per year, or $720,000 a year for a fully enrolled class of 900 students. The full award totals $4,757,600, which would span more than six years.

“That’s a big responsibility,” Maxson said, “so we’re very determined to show progress. We have outcome measures. Everything aligns to our district’s Nexus Elevated strategic plan.”

The two previous grants, which served the classes of 2014 and 2017, were able to fund a position that followed the students through their first year of college and provided tutors at Weber State for members of the class who attended there.

“... Not only do we want to boost graduation rates,” Maxson continued, “but we want to make sure (graduates) are college ready, so they are not in developmental classes (in college), they can take the right level of courses and be more successful.”

But the supports the grant offers aren’t separate from regular operating procedures at the schools.

They’re integrated, including college and career readiness teacher specialists who teach a class called AVID, which stands for Advancement Via Individual Determination.

AVID is a course during the school day that helps students succeed academically and prepare for college. Not all students in the cohort are enrolled in AVID, but there are currently seven AVID courses across the three junior high schools.

“(The teacher specialists are) licensed teachers, so that they’re more embedded in the faculty, and they can teach AVID,” Maxson said. “... I don’t know of any other GEAR UP grant across the country that hires licensed teachers.”

Weber State is a partner in Ogden’s GEAR UP program, but it also runs a GEAR UP program at the Davis Campus that is funded by a state grant. This program supports select students at some junior high and high schools in Davis and Weber school districts.

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