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Oregon rural youth gain college prep skills at 3-day Monmouth event

Contact: Kristin Strommer, GEAR UP: Cell – 541-224-2348; Work: 541-346-5730

Source: Stephanie Carnahan, GEAR UP Project Director: Cell – 541-359-6755; Work: 541-346-5761     

GEAR UP Student Leadership Event engaged rural middle school students from across Oregon

Monmouth, August 20, 2009 -- Rural middle school students from across Oregon gained pre-college leadership skills this week through the 2009 GEAR UP Student Leadership Event. The three-day training, held at Western Oregon University in Monmouth, Oregon, was sponsored by the federally-funded Oregon GEAR UP program and helped student attendees prepare for college attendance and success.  

While most of these middle school students’ peers are still savoring the last days of summer vacation, event participants have already turned their attention toward academics – developing the kind of leadership, learning and communication skills that will enhance their academic success when they return to school in the fall. More than 100 students from six low-income serving middle schools attended the event, held August 17 through 19 at Western Oregon University. The schools participating in this year’s Leadership Event include: Coffenberry Middle School (Myrtle Creek), Glendale Junior/Senior High School, Irrigon Junior/Senior High School, Lincoln Middle School (Cottage Grove), Stanfield Secondary School, and Taft 7-12 School (Lincoln City).  

“The Leadership Event is designed to provide students with specific tools that they can use in school and in life, helping them overcome obstacles and succeed both interpersonally and academically,” said Oregon GEAR UP project director Stephanie Carnahan. The Oregon GEAR UP team works with staff in public middle and high schools across Oregon to enhance college-readiness among low-income youth. Oregon GEAR UP is administered by the Oregon University System through a 6-year federal grant. This is the second 6-year grant that Oregon has received to offer GEAR UP to students in designated low-income communities across the state.    

During the event, students engaged in a dynamic series of activities and trainings led by Quantum Learning, a company that provides learning and life skills programs to students and educators globally. “Quantum Learning uses a variety of innovative techniques that have been shown to increase students’ motivation and improve educational outcomes for even the most challenged students,” said Carnahan. “We want GEAR UP students to go back and act as leaders and peer mentors in their schools using their newfound skills”.

According to Coffenberry Middle School principal Doug Park, the event represents a unique opportunity for students: “They’ll interact with other students on a college campus, learn leadership skills, and enhance their self-esteem and study skills.”

In addition to the Quantum Learning trainings, students took advantage of the opportunity to explore the WOU campus and learn what it’s like at college – including eating in the dining halls, sleeping in the dorms, and hearing from a variety of campus representatives about the college experience. Western’s Office of Admissions hosted a campus tour, a scavenger hunt, and a panel presentation by current WOU students. “It’s a double benefit to have the students exposed to a college campus while participating in the event,” says Carnahan, “They are all from rural areas, and many of them have never been on a college campus before this year. It’s a great opportunity for them to see what campus life is all about and what they need to do now and in future years to be academically and otherwise ready for college.”

“I’m really looking forward to learning more about college and how to prepare,” said one student from Taft 7-12 School.

The students aren’t the only ones gaining new skills in Monmouth this week. More than twenty teachers from eight Oregon schools attended a concurrent Quantum Learning educator workshop, also sponsored by the GEAR UP program. The workshop focuses on “brain-friendly” instruction, an approach to teaching academic content based on cutting-edge research on effective student engagement. Participating teachers will return to their schools this fall with a new arsenal of activities to use in the classroom and share with their colleagues.

GEAR UP – which stands for Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs – is a federally-funded program designed to increase the number of low-income students who are prepared to enroll and succeed in college. More information about the Oregon GEAR UP program is available online at gearup.ous.edu.

Oregon University System comprises seven distinguished public universities, reaching more than one million people each year through on-campus classes, statewide public services and lifelong learning. For additional information, go to www.ous.edu

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