PITTSFIELD, Ill. -- An annual federal grant awarded to Pikeland Unit School District promises to help prepare low-income students for the next step after high school.
Through the Illinois Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) grant, Pikeland Community School was recently able to purchase two Chromebook carts.
"You'd be surprised how many students we have that don't have internet access at home," said Lisa Jockisch, Pikeland Community School principal. "We can't expect students to complete online studies at home."
Jockisch said one of the goals the school has for the grant funds is to provide one-to-one computer access for students.
"They will use that technology in whatever postsecondary school or training they choose," Jockisch said. "Now we can better prepare them for that."
The annual $20,000 grant is designed to increase the number of low-income students who are prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education. According to the Illinois Report Card for the 2016-2017 school year, just over half of the District's student body is considered low income.
GEAR UP is a six-year grant, with a provision for a possible seventh year depending on the results of the programs it funds. The state will regularly track the progress and effectiveness of the grant.
Jockisch said the school also hopes to use the grant money to enrich curriculum and student-to-student programs, to provide educational field trips for students and professional development for staff members, and online and after-school tutoring.
All seventh-graders will receive services, and the program will follow the first cohort of seventh-grade students through their first year of college. As soon as the first cohort transitions to high school, the high school will begin to receive services under the program. Each year, the next class of seventh-graders will be added to the program and receive services for the duration of the grant period.
The grant also funds the salary of two specially-trained employees -- one in the middle school and the other in the high school -- who will work directly with students to help prepare them for postsecondary education. As five different classes will be affected by the grant, Jockisch said more than 500 students could be impacted over the years.
"The middle school has always done what we can with what he have. For us, this is a lot of money," Jockisch said. "I truly think that allowing the students to see what they could have and where they could go creates endless opportunities."