The Center for Community Career Education celebrates its 35th anniversary in 2015, while two of its programs, Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Program (GEAR UP) and Upward Bound Math Science (UBMS), celebrated their 15th anniversaries in 2014.
Since its founding in 1980, The Center has helped the University fulfill its mission, providing outreach services and programming that engages the University, Hamilton County public schools, and the greater Chattanooga community.
“Since its beginning, the Center’s mission has been dedicated to educate, support and inspire individuals to achieve their potential. Thousands have been provided with services that have enriched their lives and provided them with opportunities and skills to achieve goals,” said Sandy Cole, Director of The Center.
Both UBMS and GEAR UP focus on college awareness and preparation for low-income students. UTC faculty and staff support these programs, while UTC students serve as tutors and volunteers within the programs.
“These programs do an enormous amount of good in our community and their services have impacted thousands of youths. The time and talent that the staff give these students, their families, and the schools is enormous. The passion that the directors of these two programs, Hunter Huckabee and Twyler Boykin, and their staffs have are remarkable. We’ve been in these schools for 15 years because of that, and we’ll be there another 15 years because of that focus, that attention, that love of those kids they’re working with,” Cole said.
UBMS focuses on preparing low-income and first-generation college bound high school students for success in higher education, particularly in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. The program recruits students from Brainerd High School and Howard High School, working closely with math and science teachers, as well as guidance counselors, to find out which students are interested in math and science.
“Our main focus is preparing students for STEM degrees, so we want kids who really enjoy math and science classes. Even if they are struggling in school, if they really enjoy those subjects, those are the ones we want in the program,” said Kristina McClure, Project Specialist for UBMS.
During the academic school year, UBMS goes to the schools twice per week to work with students. Also offered are tutoring, test preparation courses, and classes for students and their families to learn more about the college admissions and financial aid processes. As a part of the summer portion of the program, students participate in an academic camp, living on campus and taking classes to simulate a college experience. After graduation, students participate in a bridge program to assist in preparing for life as a college student.
“We’ve been trying to increase our use of technology in the program. These students often have less exposure to technology are less likely to have internet at home. So, we’re trying to level the playing field in that important area,” said Twyler Boykin, Program Director of UBMS.
UBMS has served 245 kids to date; 45 percent have gone on to graduate.
GEAR UP is a seven year college readiness program for middle and high school students in local urban schools, including The Howard High School and Brainerd High School.
“GEAR UP serves students who attend schools that traditionally do not send their students to college in very great numbers,” said Dr. Hunter Huckabay, the program’s director. “Only 18 percent of students who attended GEAR UP schools graduated from high school and entered college. Fifty-one percent of ninth-graders in Hamilton County graduated from high school and enrolled in college. That’s the gap we are trying to address.”
The program begins with sixth-graders and follows them through their senior year of high school. Program employees and volunteers offer in-class tutoring, after-school programs, and summer camps focusing on academic preparation for college. The added presence of UTC students in the classroom also cuts the student-teacher ratio in half, allowing increased focus on those students who need extra help.
“The growth, the support, and the leadership we’ve seen at the University, that’s what makes these programs successful. We can’t stand alone, we need the support of everyone on campus – the Chancellor, Housing, Student Services, faculty, staff, students – it has taken everyone to make this program successful, and we are so appreciative of that,” said Cole.
For more information about UBMS, GEAR UP, and other programs at UTC, visit The Center for Community Career Education.