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June 13, 2006
Section: Local News

More Canton City graduates are college-bound

CANTON - At one time, Charlene Jackson didn’t think college was an option.
She struggled with low self-esteem, and she was dealing with too much at home — “more than any 11-year-old should ever have to deal with,” Jackson told the Board of Education at its meeting Monday night.

But then she was named a recipient of the Minnie Hopkins Scholarship, and college was not an untouchable dream.

On Saturday, Jackson graduated with honors from the University of Cincinnati, and has plans to begin grad school at Kent State University in the fall.

She was one of the few Canton City Schools’ graduates going on to college. But now she’s part of the majority.

The college-going rate for the district is up to 65 percent — an increase from 30 percent just three years ago, said Superintendent Dianne Talarico.

More than 300 of this year’s graduating seniors have already been accepted to colleges, she said. Twenty-six have plans to enter the military, and, when included in the college-going rate, the number of students who have set plans after high school rises to more than 70 percent.

Talarico attributes the district’s success to not only its educators, but to programs such as the Hopkins scholarship and G.E.A.R. UP — Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs.

“We owe a great deal of appreciation and thanks to our G.E.A.R. UP partners,” she said. “You own that data as much as we do. We can’t thank you enough for investing in our children and investing in our future.”

The staff at G.E.A.R. UP serve all students in the district, but began as a way to help low-income and minority students.

Paralee Compton, the program’s coordinator, said G.E.A.R. UP has served more than 1,200 students in the past five years with its federal grant. Students in the district begin tutoring, credit recovery, summer school, help with college financial aid and other support services as early as the sixth grade.

Much of G.E.A.R. UP’s success can be attributed to its partners, which were honored by the board, and include Kent State University, Heartbeats to the City, Project Wheelbarrow, Stark Education Partnership, YMCA of Central Stark County and Youth Development at “Peel” Coleman Center. The board also acknowledged Ironrock Capital and Fishers Foods, which support the Hopkins scholarship.

Budget cuts pushed by the Bush administration threaten to put an end to G.E.A.R. UP and other such programs, and Compton has plans to testify before Congress next month about the program’s effect, which she said is evident in the increase of the city’s college-going students.

Reach Repository writer Melissa Griffy Seeton at (330) 580-8318 or e-mail:

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