GEAR UP serves students amidst pandemic

GEAR UP continues to serve students amidst pandemic
Posted on 07/31/2020

Morganton, NC – Thursday July 30, 2020


Students within Burke County Public Schools are still being served by GEAR UP, which is a grant-based program out of Appalachian State University that gives students opportunities to learn about educational options after high school. GEAR UP stands for Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs. Jessica Stockham and Kim Logan, GEAR UP coordinators for BCPS, work with students on completing the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), applying for college and scholarships and much more.

During the pandemic, those services have not stopped, but have just been administered in a different way. Most activities that happened before the school closure were able to turn virtual, including Lunch n’ Learns with Work in Burke for students looking for job opportunities in Burke County. They also participated in virtual college tours with colleges and universities throughout North Carolina, including North Carolina State University.

At BCPS graduation ceremonies, GEAR UP presented graduates with tote bags with high school logos on the front. Inside were college and scholarship resources and a book entitled “Orientation to Graduation” written by Austin Helms and Savannah Putnam, two BCPS alumni. The book gives insight and advice from two students about their college journey from freshman to college graduates. 

The 2020 graduates who have been served  by GEAR UP since the sixth grade will still have access to the benefits of the program for a year after their high school graduation. Logan said, “We will follow them to their first year in college, and we are working on ways to still connect with these students to help them in anyway we can.

Logan and Stockham serve students but also work to get the word out to parents. Logan said many parents don’t realize their high schoolers are automatically eligible for GEAR UP. She said, “When we tell parents of all the opportunities that GEAR UP provides they respond by saying ‘well I don’t think my child is in the program.’ Many of them do not realize there are no eligibility requirements to be a part of GEAR UP and their students are part of it already.”

Come fall, GEAR UP will be looking into different, innovative ways to provide the same opportunities to students as they have in the past. For example, GEAR UP is offering to 11th and 12th graders an ACT Boot Camp on Aug. 4 and a SAT Boot Camp on Aug. 6 both from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. The camps will cover content and strategies designed to help juniors and seniors boost their scores and prepare to take these two tests. Rising seniors and juniors are asked to check their BCPS student email for instructions on how to sign up.

Stockham said, “It is 100% virtual. It is not a zoom call, but on a similar platform that will allow the students to be virtually paired and work individually with the instructor. Tuesday’s camp is focused on the ACT and Thursday’s camp is focused on the SAT. It is a four hour long session with breaks included. It is recorded and students will have access to the recording for up to 6 months after the event. Students can sign up for either camp or both.” 

They encourage parents and students to check their email at least once a week and to follow GEAR UP on social media on Instagram and Facebook.

Stockham said, “We are not trying to send them homework, but just some exciting materials that will spark their interest in thinking about the future. We even want parents to follow us so they can see what we are doing and putting out so they can encourage their students to be thinking about their futures.”

BCPS Superintendent Dr. Larry Putnam said, “In a time where there is so much uncertainty, I am grateful our school system continues to provide service to our students including the GEAR UP program. It is so important that students are still given the opportunity to explore pathways to higher education. Thank you to Mrs. Logan and Mrs. Stockham for continuing to put our students first.” 

For more information about GEAR UP, visit their Facebook page at

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