Gear Up Iowa making college an attainable goal for students

Walking into the auditorium at Ottumwa High School on Thursday morning, it felt like a rap concert. However in actuality it was an assembly about college preparedness but in a more fun way.

These motivational speakers that double as rappers were brought in through Gear Up Iowa.

So what is Gear Up Iowa?

â??Itâ??s a federal grant program in Iowa. Iowa received a Gear Up grant in 2008 to serve 7,000 students around the state who were in 7th grade that year, follow them through graduation in 2016 and do some extra things to prepare them and their families for success in post secondary education,â?? said John Gilman, Gear Up Iowa Project Coordinator.

That group now are the juniors at Ottumwa High School. One of the incentives for them to graduate is $2,600 a year once they enter college for all four years.

This is helping give students the chance to afford college who may not have otherwise been able to.

â??The Gear Up gives them an opportunity to see that there are other opportunities out there. Through the Gear Up theyâ??re able to go on college visits and Gear Up will pay for them to go on college visits. Iâ??ve had a couple students that have already made some visits to Florida, of course here in Iowa so theyâ??re really starting to expand their idea of where they can go to college,â?? said Steve Zimmerman, Guidance Counselor at Ottumwa High School.

What many people are wondering, especially parents of sophomores and seniors at OHS, is why just one specific group of students are being focused on.

â??The Gear Up model is that you pick a cohort of students and try to make a systemic change with that cohort of students so basically all of those services that we provide are just for those students. However we hope that we will have some sustainable programming that districts that weâ??re working with and schools that weâ??re working with decide they want to share with other students who have fallen behind or even pick up to students who are ahead of them I guess on the path,â?? said Gilman.