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UNG Upward Bound grant to change lives in Gilmer County

UNG Upward Bound grant to change lives in Gilmer County
UNG President Bonita Jacobs, left, and Gilmer County Charter Schools Superintendent Shanna Wilkes at the Upward Bound signing ceremony July 27.

Change is coming to Gilmer County.

 It is change in the form of an academic lifeline, for students who previously could only imagine an education beyond high school. In addition to creating opportunity for students, area leaders believe it will strengthen the community’s workforce and economy.

 The University of North Georgia (UNG) and Gilmer County Charter Schools believe Upward Bound will change lives in Gilmer County.

 "The University of North Georgia began a Regional Education and Economic Development – REED – initiative a couple of years ago to increase educational attainment and help strengthen our community and regional economies," UNG President Bonita Jacobs said at the July 27 signing event for the program. "In alignment with our goals, the Upward Bound program will open doors to college and career opportunities by providing a path to high school graduation and college access for first-generation students in Gilmer County."

The ceremony was held at the Administration & Technology Office at the Gilmer County Charter Schools offices in Ellijay, Georgia. Attending were officials and students from UNG, county school district representatives, members of the local chamber of commerce, and representatives from area businesses.

 "We are excited to strengthen our partnership with the University of North Georgia's offer of support and post-secondary opportunity for some of our students," said Superintendent of Gilmer County Charter Schools Shanna Wilkes. "This grant will dramatically alter the future for some of our underserved students by providing needed additional services to help eligible students obtain a high school diploma and a college degree, and this will help break the cycle of poverty for deserving students in our district."

 Upward Bound is a federally funded program designed to provide academic, cultural and social experiences for eligible students, enabling them to develop the skills, attitudes and motivation necessary to enter and succeed in college.

 UNG has been awarded a total of $1.285 million over five years from the U.S. Department of Education to help promising low-income high school students in Gilmer County prepare for college. Sixty Gilmer high school students, grades 9-12, are enrolled in the program and will begin attending classes Sept. 1. Two full-time staff members will be on-site at Gilmer County High School during the academic year and work with the students during summer break.

 "This was a wonderful collaboration between UNG and the school system," said Sandy Ott, director of the Blue Ridge Campus. "The resources and opportunities the Upward Bound grant provides will give these students a chance to see how a college campus culture can influence their lives."

 UNG's Blue Ridge Campus opened in 2015, establishing a foothold in an area previously underserved by higher education.

By 2025, more than 60 percent of Georgia jobs will require some college education, whether an associate degree or bachelor's degree. Today, only 45 percent of the state's young adults qualify. In Gilmer County, 16.7 percent of the population has a bachelor's degree or higher, compared to the national average of 29.8 percent. Individuals who attain higher levels of education typically have greater lifetime earnings potential, too. According to a 2011 report by the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University, those who hold a bachelor’s degree earn 31 percent more than those with an associate degree and 84 percent more than those with just a high school diploma.

 UNG offers a number of pathways for high school and incoming freshmen students, including dual enrollment and programs in high-demand area career opportunities for degree seekers. Courses are also available for adult learners either beginning their college career or returning to finish a degree, and a range of continuing and professional education programs for advancement in a career or personal growth. The Blue Ridge campus also offers eCore, where students can complete their first two years of college online.

 Through Upward Bound, UNG will provide mentoring, parent engagement, state assessment preparation, career exploration, cultural experiences, and college visits to each high school participant of the program.

 "This grant will have a huge impact in these students' lives," Ott said. "It has the chance to change the life of every student who participates."

 The Upward Bound grant Gilmer County received from UNG was part of a larger $2.6 million, five-year grant to help underserved high school students in Gilmer and Hall counties prepare for college.





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