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Middle School Students GEAR UP for College Now

Hamilton and Jefferson middle schools are stepping up the college prep efforts of hundreds of their students. At the schools, two recent events capped the observance of America Goes Back to School, a nationwide push to encourage more family and community involvement in education. At Hamilton, 125 seventh graders received 21st Century Scholars Certificates signed by President Bill Clinton and U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Riley. The certificates encourage the students to "go to college, make a better living and make a better world." The back of each certificate lists sources for up to $22,000 in federal college aid for which each student can apply. Hundreds of Hamilton parents and students also heard from Karl Anatol, senior vice president of Academic Affairs at California State University Long Beach, who emphasized the importance of staying in school. At Jefferson, CSULB President Bob Maxson addressed more than 400 students. "Some people will tell you college isn't for everyone. But many times when people say that, they're talking about other people's kids," Maxson said. "Don't listen to them." Visits by the university leaders were coordinated by the school district's GEAR UP Office. The acronym stands for Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs. GEAR UP is now in the second year of its five-year federal grant benefiting students at Jefferson, Marshall and Hamilton. The grant offers this year's seventh graders specialized curriculum, mentoring and parent involvement to prepare them for college. Students learn about the cost of college, financial aid and academic requirements. Only 23 California school districts received a GEAR UP grant.