It is a rare educational innovation that both endures and remains relevant for 50 years. Ask any person under 55 years old from Juneau about their elementary school memories and they will say, “Sea Week.” At first it was called Sea Week, but it grew exponentially to Sea Month. Sea Week is a Juneau school and community success story.
The Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) initiative is one of the largest national programs for increasing the college and career readiness of low-income students in the U.S. Focused on middle and high school students, GEAR UP helps empower local partnerships comprised of K-12 schools, institutions of higher education, state agencies, and community organizations to achieve three strategic goals: (1) increasing the postsecondary expectations and readiness of students; (2) improving high school graduation and postsecondary enrollment rates; and (3) raising the knowledge of postsecondary options, preparation, and financing among students and families.
The Rural Alaska GEAR UP Partnership serves students in Alaska’s two largest rural school districts; Bering Strait (BSSD) and Lower Kuskokwim (LKSD) in western Alaska. The partnership is supported by the Alaska Staff Development Network (ASDN). ASDN’s founder Kelly Tonsmeire serves as the Rural Alaska GEAR UP Partnership Project Director.
The Bering Strait School District (BSSD) serves 15 village communities, the majority of which are only accessible by plane or, in the case of Diomede, by helicopter. The district is geographically one of the largest in the United States, encompassing an area of 80,000 square miles. BSSD’s GEAR UP program serves a cohort of 556 students in grades 6-9 and prides itself that their program is highly responsive the needs and ambitions of its students. Continue reading ‘Inspiring a Passion for STEM on the Western Edge of Alaska: The GEAR UP Program in BSSD’ by Sam Jordan at ASDN