Libby’s GEAR UP program: preparing the future for success

Submitted by  Elizabeth Marty


The GEAR UP program at Libby Middle High School, serving seventh through twelfth grade students and previous year graduates, has seen an exciting start to the 2018-19 school year. We would like to share an overview of the many events we’ve held so far—most having around 80% student participation.

Montana GEAR UP’s mission is to prepare students for post-secondary education and career readiness by increasing their academic preparedness, postsecondary planning, and financial aid knowledge. We work to accomplish this in several ways.

In September, juniors and seniors attended the college fair at Flathead High School and eighth graders visited the University of Montana (U of M). About 70% of eighth graders said that the trip helped them understand how to better prepare academically for college, and 73% thought the U of M was a good fit for them.

In October, we participated in college application week and held a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) event in which we assisted seniors in submitting their FAFSA and college applications. Last year, our student FAFSA submission rate of 55% was significantly higher than the state’s overall 48%.

In October, the seventh grade class visited North Idaho College in Coeur d’Alene and sophomores visited Eastern Washington University in Cheney. The freshman class visited FVCC in early November, and even learned to extract strawberry DNA.

GEAR UP has more to offer when it comes to introducing students to college life. As juniors and seniors tend to have more individualized interests in post-secondary options, we have mileage and hotel reimbursement plans for those who visit a campus with their parent(s)/guardian(s). Some have already taken advantage of this.

Students are also making use of our mentoring program. Participating seventh graders have been matched with sophomores/juniors who, under supervision, work with them on homework and social and life skills. Current students aren’t our only focus, however.

Several graduates from last year who are now attending college will soon be receiving care packages of support from our GEAR UP team.

More is yet to come. Keep an eye out for future updates and feel free to follow us on Twitter @LIBBYGEARUP or contact Deanna Malyevac or Liz Marty at the high school for more information

Students hold up We      Gear Up signs in front of Libby High School. Bottom: Eighth grade students visit University of Montana. Photos courtesy of Gear Up.