Senator John Cornyn dropped by Lufkin High School Tuesday afternoon.
There he met with educators, administrators and students regarding federal GEAR UP grants which Lufkin has been a part of for 20 years.
GEAR UP is a federal discretionary grant program that supports efforts to increase the number of low-income students that obtain a secondary school diploma and prepare for and succeed in postsecondary education.
“This is one area where I think the federal government can play a really important role in making sure these GEAR UP funds are available to seventh graders all the way through high school and I guess even into college,” said US Senator John Cornyn.
Senator Cornyn was able to hear from others how GEAR UP has worked for them over the years including Bobbie Davis from SFA who has been there since the beginning in 1999
“I will tell you, senator, from when it started in 99 it was all about opportunity, that we were going to encourage students to go to college,” said Bobbie Davis, Director of GEAR UP at SFA. ” As the grant competitions became more and more competitive we realized, from a grant running standpoint, we had to require more of the schools and more of the students.”
Higher expectations for the students lead to them achieving more.
This is one of the reasons Senator Cornyn has introduced legislation to improve the program.
Among the improvements was the one to one match requirement.
“What we’re going to try to do is reduce that to 50 cents on the dollar in terms of the match which will hopefully make it more widely available,” said Senator Cornyn. “Then also give as much flexibility as we can to how the money is spent for the students.”
The senator was able to see what some of the gear up students had been working on, robots programmed to survey the surface of the Moon and Mars.
“One of the things I’ve noticed about the GEAR UP program, for the students, is they have a lot of confidence than I think I had at that age because they have a better idea about what they need to do and they’re told that you can succeed and you must succeed,” said Senator Cornyn.
Since 1999 3,000 Lufkin ISD students benefited from GEAR UP, the hope is for more students to be helped in the next 20 years.