Gov. Janet Napolitano and Northern Arizona University President John Haeger will launch the next wave of students into a successful program that increases high-school graduation and college access in Arizona.

The “Arizona GEAR UP Kick-off” will begin at 10 a.m. Jan. 30 on the lawn of the House of Representatives at the State Capitol.

Arizona GEAR UP—which stands for Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs—is a six-year, $34 million program directed by NAU’s College of Education with the support of the state of Arizona and the U.S. Department of Education. It serves Arizona students through partnerships with 18 Arizona schools.

Napolitano has issued a proclamation declaring Jan. 30 as Arizona GEAR UP Day.

“Our future lies in a knowledge-based economy,” Haeger said. “And GEAR UP helps promising students attain their educational dreams for a brighter tomorrow.”

The GEAR UP program develops a group of students at schools in economically disadvantaged communities across the state. The students start in GEAR UP in seventh grade and remain through high school, receiving mentoring, intensive academic advising for college, community partnerships, summer enrichment programs and more.

The initial GEAR UP program, also under NAU’s leadership, worked with students from 2000 to 2006.

The results were impressive. GEAR UP participants saw high school graduation rates of 82 percent, well above the statewide rate.

More than 2,600 students graduated from high schools in Flagstaff, Kingman, Mesa, Phoenix, Tucson, Patagonia, Nogales, Pinon and Yuma. Additionally, about 500 GEAR UP students received $9 million in college scholarships.

“We are very excited to be able to join with Gov. Napolitano and the many partners of Arizona GEAR UP in celebrating our past achievements and the expansion of this proven program for student success,” said Dan Kain, dean of NAU’s College of Education. “Arizona GEAR UP has already helped hundreds of Arizona students achieve their educational goals, and as this kickoff event will show, the future is incredibly bright.”

Arizona GEAR UP works in partnership with Arizona State University, as well as the Arizona College Scholarship Foundation, the Arizona Commission for Postsecondary Education, the Arizona Department of Education, The Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust and school districts in Coolidge, Flagstaff, Globe, Miami, Phoenix and Yuma. Additional GEAR UP grantees in Arizona include the University of Arizona, Dysart Unified School District and Santa Cruz County Schools.

For information on the event, call (602) 776-4616.