Hundreds of high school juniors from across Kentucky earned $1,000 academic scholarships in the “Drive the Dream” program, sponsored by GEAR UP Kentucky and the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority.

A total of 536 students earned the scholarships and were recognized during a ceremony last Friday at Western Kentucky University’s Knicely Conference Center in Bowling Green.  Scholarship recipients were members of the 2008 cohort of GEAR UP Kentucky. Their eligibility for the scholarships was based on reaching the benchmark in at least two of the subject areas of the 2010 PLAN assessments.

GEAR UP, Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs, works with Kentucky schools, colleges, business, communities, and non-profit organizations to mentor and improve the skills of middle school and high school students with the result of making them college and career ready.

”These are among our best students, but it is a bittersweet moment for me, because this is the last in this series honoring scholarship winners,” said Yvonne Lovell, executive director of GEAR UP Kentucky. “Today represents the culminating event for this GEAR UP program. Although this program is concluding, another will begin, serving a new group of more than 10,000 students across the state.”

To be eligible for the scholarship, students must attend a school in the GEAR UP Kentucky program, participated in all the EXPLORE and PLAN assessments. They also needed to maintain at least a 2.5 grade point average, and submit an essay and references.  Students will receive the scholarships when they enroll in an accredited Kentucky college or university.

Part of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, GEAR UP is a federally funded program that works with schools and families to create college-going cultures in communities where more than 50 percent of the enrolled students come from low-income backgrounds.  GEAR UP Kentucky has sites hosted by partners in seven regions across Kentucky, including Fayette County, Hazard Community and Technical College, University of Louisville, Morehead State University, Murray State University, Northern Kentucky Council of Education partners and Western Kentucky University.

A list of the all the scholarship recipients by county can be found here.