SH schools receive grants of more than $100K for technology, college programs

Scott Swanson

The GEAR-Up programs at Sweet Home High School and Junior High have received a total of more than $100,000 in federally funded grants that have resulted in new computers, video message boards for the high school and more.

The most recent grant is a $51,506 award to expand the district’s ASPIRE program, which aims to increase college preparedness, awareness and access for high school students. It follows three $25,000 technology grants the district has received over the last two years, after the initial $40,000 award of federal funds that allowed it to set up its original six-year college preparedness programs for high school and junior high students.

Kristin Adams, the district’s GEAR UP-ASPIRE coordinator, watched recently as students eyed one of the message video monitors that played a recruitment video for athletics and other activities at the high school. She said the monitor, installed over the library window, visible from the high school’s main entrance, and another that will be installed in the Commons, will post announcements and other information for students, as well as photographs and other media.

She and Assistant Principal Keith Winslow said some of the federal money may be used to put a message board in front of the high school to help raise community awareness of activities that are going on in the school.

The high school also has gotten 10 new computers and licenses that will allow students to take on-line classes.

At the junior high, computer projectors have been installed in nearly every classroom, along with document cameras, which allow teachers to project a book or other object onto a screen.

She said computers will be purchased to supplement the computer lab at the junior high.

Adams said the district received word nearly two weeks ago that it was being awarded the $51,506 ASPIRE program grant. She said the money will be used in partnership with Oregon State University to establish a “Making Dreams Happen” project that will include tutoring, pre-college preparedness, summer camps at OSU, college visits, career planning and helping students transition to college life.

The project would include steps toward increasing local awareness of Linn-Benton Community College through LBCC participation in parent workshops, campus visits and help with career planning. Project goals include increasing participation in ASPIRE at the high school and GEAR-UP at the junior high.

“I feel a little overwhelmed,” Adam said of the largesse. “It’s a great thing for Sweet Home. Our whole focus is to really change the culture in Sweet Home to where education is valued. This really helps the process.”

She said the money from the latest grant will also be used to give parents more opportunities to learn about college —_not only for their children but for themselves.

“Part of the process of trying to change the culture is to focus not just on the students but on all the citizens,” Adams said. “We’re getting them familiar with scholarships and financial aid so they realize they can go to school without it costing thousands of dollars.”