CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa -- High school seniors are in the home stretch as graduation day draws near.
In Cedar Rapids, a special program that started in 2008 is helping ensure more students from the class of 2014 are geared up for life after high school.
The seniors who are part of the GEAR UP program at Jefferson High School and at the city's other high schools were selected when they were in seventh grade. They were chosen because they attended middle schools in lower income areas. Each year since, their schools receive federal grant money to help them reach their dreams, despite their financial struggles.
"The most important thing is to try and reduce barriers that kids might encounter when trying to be successful in school," said Michael Panoch, facilitator at Jefferson High School.
GEAR UP pays for things like calculators, computers, and ACT exams.
They also take students on college visits and help them pay tuition after they graduate.
For Christine Ridenour, having the support of GEAR UP has opened her eyes to the opportunities that are available to her. When we first met Christine back in 2010 as part of a Show You Care Special on the Gear Up program, she was getting tutoring from GEAR UP and wanted to attend Iowa State to be a veterinarian. Thanks to the program, her dream will soon be a reality
"It's a big help because financially it's a struggle," Ridenour said. "
"College is more expensive than it used to be. It makes you want to go to college more because if you didn't have that money you probably wouldn't have gone."
Students can use GEAR UP money for any post-secondary training, whether it's community college or trade school. Because it's federal money, it goes with the student, so even students who transferred out of the district after being selected for the program can still access it.
The grant only paid for this select group that is soon to graduate as part of the class of 2014, so the program ends when those students get their diplomas.