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July 28, 2006
CONTACT: Ward Mullens

EMU receives $3.4 million grant from U.S. Department of Education to help middle school students make college 'dream' more attainable

YPSILANTI - Eastern Michigan University will be helping prepare middle school students for college as part of a six-year, $3.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The program is called  “GEAR-UP” and helps low-income middle school students raise educational achievement and promote college enrollment.

“The scope of participation in this grant demonstrates the strong relationship between EMU and the Ypsilanti community,” said John A. Fallon, president of EMU. “To witness this kind commitment to students makes me proud to be part of the education system in Michigan.”

             “This really is the perfect project for us,” said Russell Olwell, professor of history and philosophy at EMU and project director. “We have a long standing investment in the community and we have a good relationship with the schools. Our faculty have expertise in educational issues, and our students will have the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of these middle schoolers."

EMU will receive $572,000 per year, or 50 percent of the total funding, for the length of the grant. EMU and its partners will provide matching funds for the remaining 50 percent.

EMU will partner with Wayne-Westland Community Schools, Willow Run Community Schools and Ypsilanti Public Schools to provide academic support for students, information and help for families of students, and professional development for teachers and administrators to increase post secondary enrollment and success rates.

Students in each of these districts face significant hurdles to high school graduation and college enrollment, Olwell said. These include low academic expectations, failure to take rigorous coursework that leads to college success, and a lack of knowledge about the college application and enrollment process.

The three objectives of the program are:

• to increase the educational aspirations of low-income seventh-grade students and their parents;

• to increase the number of low-income students who are prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education;

• and to increase the number of low-income students who apply to and enroll in postsecondary education.

 The project also includes a partnership with the local business and nonprofit communities including such local companies as Pfizer, United Parcel Service, and Altarum, and such nonprofits as the Ypsilanti Chamber of Commerce, Big Brothers/Big Sisters and the Ypsilanti District Library. These partners have committed time and resources to this effort to help the communities and their students.

            Participating schools include: East and West middle schools in Ypsilanti; Willow Run Middle School; and Franklin and Adams middle schools in the Wayne-Westland School District.

            Olwell said that every student in the seventh grade is eligible for the program and that there is no application process. Students will receive more information from their teachers.

            The grant will impact approximately 1,200 students, said Olwell.

            “This grant really represents what we care about – getting kids into college and, more importantly, building academic skills so that they can persist and succeed,” said Olwell. “We want to change going to college from a remote dream for these students to a realistic goal that can be achieved.”

Eastern Michigan University is a public, comprehensive university that offers programs in the arts, sciences and professions. EMU prepares students with the intellectual skills and practical experiences to succeed in their career and lives, and to be better citizens.

Editor's Note: Looking for an expert source for a story? Check out EMU's Eastern Experts online at www.emich.edu/univcomm/easternexperts.

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