$25M grant to ASU aims to improve lives of Montgomery Public School students

Published: Oct. 6, 2021 at 12:20 PM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Alabama State University has been awarded what it says is one of the largest ‘single’ grants in its history. The money will go toward improving students’ lives in the Montgomery Public Schools System, up to and beyond high school graduation.

On Wednesday, ASU officials announced that the U.S. Department of Education had awarded it a $24.7 million federal discretionary grant toward a program aimed at significantly increasing the number of low-income MPS students who are prepared for higher education.

The Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs, or GEAR UP, the grant will span a seven-year period, ASU said. By 2028, the final year of the grant, the university will have provided academic preparation services to more than 26,000 MPS students.

“This is another opportunity for Montgomery Public Schools, and I always see all of those opportunities that we offer to our students as opportunities also for the community to grow and to thrive,” said MPS Superintendent Dr. Ann Roy Moore.

ASU President Dr. Quinton Ross Jr. calls the program the grant funds “CommUniversity,” which involves diverse segments of Montgomery’s community working together with the university.

“The ASU program will involve collaborations with more than 12 community partners and institutions, such as Auburn University, Tuskegee University, Wallace Community College-Selma, Coastal Alabama Community College, Southern Union State Community College, Boys and Girls Club of the River Region, the YMCA of Greater Montgomery, and five of ASU’s colleges to provide MPS students with services to improve their academic performance, increase graduation rates and promote college exploration,” Ross said.

Dr. Carl S. Pettis, ASU’s provost and vice president for Academic Affairs and the grant’s principal investigator, said the project provides services to high-poverty, middle, and high school students. The program will begin with sixth and seventh-grade, a cohort of 4,495 students who study within all ten MPS middle schools. The grant will continue to provide services to the cohort as they enter MPS high schools.

“Through this endeavor, ASU will collectively work with Montgomery Public Schools to be change agents for the academic well-being and continued growth of our MPS students and scholars,” Pettis explained.

“We’re always trying to increase our graduation rate. We’re trying to increase the number of students who go to college. We’re trying to increase those who are ready for careers outside of college,” Moore said. “This gives them an opportunity to be exposed to the different avenues of accomplishing those goals.”

The project aims to increase participating MPS students’ academic performance and prepare them for postsecondary education, increase high school graduation rates and post-secondary education participation, and increase the educational expectations of participating students and their knowledge of higher education options.

“Helping students succeed is what education is all about, and GEAR UP at ASU has the potential of impacting the lives and educational opportunities for thousands of area students over the next seven years,” Ross added.

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