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Georgia Southern is helping high school students GEAR UP

Georgia Southern University’s College of Education (COE) faculty are making a difference for at-risk high school students by participating in the Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Program (GEAR UP) Georgia. The statewide project provides supportive services to help students complete their high school diplomas and prepare them for post-secondary education.

First funded in 2016, the grant is being issued by the U.S. Department of Education to the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia by and on behalf of Georgia Institute of Technology. The award, administered over seven years, will total $21 million dollars and serves more than 12,000 high-need students in more than 40 schools throughout Georgia.

Georgia Southern Professor of Middle Grades and Secondary Education Robert Mayes, Ph.D., and members of the COE’s Institute for Interdisciplinary STEM Education (i2STEMe) worked with the University System of Georgia starting in 2015 to submit the proposal.

The COE is now taking an active role in the project by offering professional development for 8th and 9th grade teachers. The training provides teachers with engaging curriculum and activities for teaching interdisciplinary STEM within science and mathematics classes as well as strategies to enrich curriculum so it is culturally relevant to their students.

Mayes, who serves as the lead for the Georgia Southern professional development team, noted that they aim to serve underrepresented populations of students in Georgia and, ultimately, encourage those students to pursue STEM careers.

“These students can be future scientists, computer technicians, engineers and mathematicians,” said Mayes. “It is our hope that we instill within the science and mathematics teachers we are working with the authentic teaching strategies to engage students in STEM. We want to give their students the desire to stay in STEM areas through engagement in real-world learning opportunities.”

Teachers participating in the specialized training are from six Georgia school districts, including Savannah-Chatham, Clayton, DeKalb, Grady, Muscogee and Thomas counties.

The COE offered the first development workshop for educators in summer 2017. Forty-eight 8th grade science and mathematics teachers from the partnering schools attended the three-day workshop including sessions on culturally sensitive pedagogy, authentic teaching strategies, model-based reasoning, mathematics and science projects, quantitative reasoning and learning model planning.

The Georgia Southern GEAR Up team includes University faculty Mayes, Lacey Huffling, Ph.D., Kania Greer, Ed.D., Alma Stevenson, Ph.D., Lisa Stueve, Ed.D., and psychology doctoral candidate student Bryon Gallant.

Since the summer workshop, the Georgia Southern team has offered online workshops to the teachers and conducted observations of those who attended the summer workshop. During the spring, the team is scheduled to conduct additional observations and will offer a second summer workshop in Macon.

“We are encouraged and dedicated to this project because it serves some of the most high-need, underrepresented population of students in Georgia,” said Mayes. “We want to help these students go from high school to technical colleges and universities and succeed.”

For more information on GEAR UP Georgia, visit

Georgia Southern University, a public Carnegie Doctoral/Research institution founded in 1906, offers 142 degree programs serving more than 27,000 students through nine colleges on three campuses in Savannah, Statesboro, Hinesville and online instruction. A leader in higher education in southeast Georgia, the University provides a diverse student population with expert faculty, world-class scholarship and hands-on learning opportunities. Georgia Southern creates lifelong learners who serve as responsible scholars, leaders and stewards in their communities. Visit


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