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June 30, 2011

IDHS’ GEAR UP/Steps AHEAD program to triple scholarship funding for low-income youth in 2011
Program also raises awareness of college options, costs and requirements

SPRINGFIELD, Illinois – The Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) anticipates awarding post-secondary scholarships totaling approximately $1.25 million to more than 200 low-income high school graduates this summer through the GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs)/Illinois Steps AHEAD (Attaining Higher Education through Academic Development) program.  Last year, the program awarded approximately $386,000 to 61 students.
“This program offers a great opportunity for a truly dedicated group of students, and we are pleased that DHS is able help them fulfill their dream of higher education,” said IDHS Secretary Michelle R.B. Saddler. 

The objective of GEAR UP/Illinois Steps AHEAD (ISA) is to increase the number of low-income students who are academically prepared and ready to succeed in post secondary education.  The tripling in both scholarship funding and student recipients is possible through GEAR UP, an initiative of the U.S. Department of Education.  IDHS has been implementing the program grant for the past six years, and youth who began participating in GEAR UP/ISA as middle-school students are now in a position to fulfill their dream of attending college.

As part of the program evaluation, participating students and parents are surveyed every two years.  Students report that they have learned to set goals (91%), feel they are more prepared to attend college (91%), and have better academic skills (89%).  Parents have increased their knowledge of Illinois college costs, especially over the past four years (59% are confident in their knowledge in 2011, compared to 36% in 2007).

For more information about GEAR UP/ISA, contact Viola Gray at IDHS’ Bureau of Youth Services & Delinquency Prevention at (312) 793-4639, (217) 557-2943 or viola.gray@illinois.gov.


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