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Granite Schools Have GEAR’ed UP to Help Students

Jeannine Huenemann


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Jesika Cooper and Melanie Moore in the USU STARS! office at Matheson.
Jesika Cooper and Melanie Moore at Matheson Jr. High. Credit J. Cooper.
Kennedy Jr High students as SEMA cuSTEM Car Experience.
Kennedy Jr. High students went to the SEMA cuSTEM Car Experience. Credit S. Drasutis.
Hunter Jr. High students learn about concurrent enrollment options at Granite Technical Institute.
Hunter Jr. High School AVID students visited Granite Technical Institute to learn about concurrent enrollment. Credit A Palomar.

Matheson, Kennedy, and Hunter are a few of the eight junior high schools in the Granite School District to have joined the Utah State University STARS! GEAR UP program this past fall. The program targets seventh-grade students this year, following them with services and support, through their first year of college. GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) is a nationally-funded program aimed at increasing the number of students who are prepared to enter and succeed in college.

“The school has GEAR’ed UP to help our students,” says Jesika Cooper, site coordinator at Matheson Junior High School. "We are supplementing programs that are already in place and expanding services to reach seventh-grade students in our school. Some upcoming services include access to tutors before the annual Readiness Improvement Success Empowerment (RISE) tests. We will also offer an academically-based summer program to help our students get ready for 8th grade, and a peer mentoring program, encouraging students to help their peers."

Cooper shared a success story on her recent visit to the Taylorsville campus of Salt Lake Community College. “We were also able to take a small group of Matheson students to the Taylorsville campus of Salt Lake Community College," says Cooper. “While there, students were able to participate in a short kickboxing demonstration using the actual class equipment! An administrator, Jan Meigs, walked the kids through the different kinds of degrees and programs offered by SLCC and patiently answered all of their questions.”

Stan Drasutis, site coordinator at Kennedy Jr. High School, is actively engaging his students in career exploration activities and field trips. On Mar. 22, 17 Kennedy students went to the CuS.T.E.M. Car Experience, sponsored by Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA), at the South Towne Expo Center in Sandy. This one-day STEM Innovators-in-Training-Challenge involves middle school students in manufacturing and design. Students were able to learn about custom car ideas and then work in teams to design their ideal ride. “Our students at Kennedy Jr. High were so excited about the SEMA cuSTEM Car Experience that they signed up to participate in it even though they were on their Spring Break,” said Drasutis.

In April, seventh grade AVID class students at Hunter Jr. High School visited Granite Technical Institute, and learned about the different career pathways they can explore when they start high school. The students learned that some classes can be taken concurrently, so they get both high school and college credits at the same time. They also learned that GTI offers hands-on classes where they get to do what they learned in class during lecture. “All students attending the GTI field trip did so because they were interested in the programs and pathways offered” said Ana Palomar site coordinator at Hunter Jr. High School. “They learned that it makes a difference when it is your choice to be there.” Here are some thoughts from the students that visited GTI.

USU STARS! GEAR UP is excited to hear more stories, as each of the eight participating Granite School District schools develop and expand their programs serving the graduating class of 2024.