The auditorium at Edward Stone Middle School hummed with excitement Jan. 11 as the Burlington High School Class of 2029 gathered there to learn about what’s in store for them over the next seven years.

“No other class but you are part of this, just your class,” Supervisor of Grants and Outreach Cassie Gerst told the crowd of about 250 seventh-graders. “You are the class of 2029!”

Mrs. Gerst was referring to the Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) initiative, one of the largest and most effective programs focused on increasing college and career readiness of students nationwide.

Burlington is among 13 districts in the state to have been selected for the GEAR UP Iowa 3.0 program via Iowa College Aid. During the course of the seven-year grant, students will receive a variety of services aimed at preparing students and their families academically, financially and inspirationally to enroll and succeed in postsecondary education pathways. To be a part of this cohort, students who will graduate in 2029 must be enrolled at BHS by the beginning of their freshman year.

“You’re going to get academic support, you’re going to get career days, you’re going to get college visits, and you’re going to get money,” Mrs. Gerst explained to the seventh-graders.

That money comes in the form of $750 postsecondary education scholarships that GEAR UP Iowa students are eligible for so long as they meet the GEAR UP Iowa Scholarship criteria.

As Mrs. Gerst razzed up the crowd, Ivy Tranter stood near the stage, her eyes taking in the faces of the students she will be helping over the next seven years as they plot their course for life after high school.

Ivy Tranter is BCSD’s GEAR UP Iowa coach. She has a well-rounded background in human services and looks forward to helping students navigate the path to success in post-secondary education.
Ivy Tranter is BCSD’s GEAR UP Iowa coach. She has a well-rounded background in human services and looks forward to helping students navigate the path to success in post-secondary education.

Ms. Tranter is the GEAR UP Iowa coach, and she’s excited to see the impact this program will have on the class.

“What I’m most looking forward to is just seeing how (the students) progress and where they decide they want to go in life and seeing how I can support that, whether that’s going to college or getting into an apprenticeship program or something like that,” Ms. Tranter said after the assembly. “I think it’ll be really great to see them mature and become who they will be after graduation.”

Ms. Tranter has a passion for helping people.

She graduated magna cum laude from Kennesaw State University in Georgia in December 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in human services concentrated in non-profit management and has worked in a variety of services.

“In between sorting out where I wanted to be and what I wanted to do while getting my degree, I also worked in foster care,” Ms. Tranter said. “After I graduated, I worked with homeless during the COVID crisis, and then I also did an internship volunteering with a pregnancy crisis center, so I have kind of a varied experience with human services.”

She also has experience in schools, having also studied secondary education, during which time she worked in the multicultural services office of The Lovett School and student taught at The Westminster Schools. Both Lovett and Westminster are private schools in Atlanta.

“I really liked education, but I learned during student teaching that I didn’t really want to be a teacher,” Ms. Tranter said. “My goal is more to help people personally get where they want to go, which is what I really like about the GEAR UP program. I get to help them shape their lives.”

Ms. Tranter has been spending her first weeks on the job working with Mrs. Gerst to get the program off the ground, laying the groundwork for academic after-school tutoring, and planning for career visits that will allow students to see up close different career pathways they may want to consider.

“I want to cater it to their interests,” Ms. Tranter said of the program, explaining she plans to get feedback from students on what kinds of careers they want to explore.

Tutoring available to seventh- and eighth-graders

Free GEAR UP Tutoring is available to students from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays at Ed Stone in rooms 3107 and 3109.

During those times, certified teachers will be available to provide homework help, assist students in getting caught up on missing assignments, and offer general tutoring.

Those wanting to utilize the tutoring can sign up here.

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