Montana GEAR UP schools receive a sub-grant from the state office to implement their plan and services. Utilizing school specific data, each school evaluates their unique strengths and develops an implementation plan of services connected to GEAR UP goals. To maximize the benefit and effectiveness of GEAR UP, a local school management team consisting of at least a school administrator, counselor, GEAR UP liaison, core content teacher, student, parent, and School Improvement Grant (SIG) personnel (if applicable) will develop the school's tailored program in collaboration with the Montana GEAR UP school grant manager.

GEAR UP Programs in Schools

  • Arlee Public Schools
  • Box Elder Public Schools
  • Browning Middle School
  • Browning High School
  • Hardin Middle School
  • Hardin High School
  • Lame Deer Public Schools
  • Libby Public Schools
  • Lodge Grass Public Schools
  • Pryor Public Schools
  • Rocky Boy Public Schools
  • St. Ignatius Public Schools
  • St. Regis Public Schools
  • Superior Public Schools
  • Thompson Falls Public Schools
  • Troy Public Schools
  • *Flathead Valley Community College

  • *Montana State University

  • *Montana State University - Billings

  • *University of Montana

  • *Salish Kootenai College

*First Year Services

Montana GEAR UP uses a cohort model, meaning it provides services to students in 7-year cycles, starting when students are in 7th grade, providing supports through their first year in college. GEAR UP selects schools once every seven years based on the most current conditions statewide. Criteria for selection include the number of students qualifying for free or reduced lunch, average family income, and regional unemployment rates. Please send inquiries on how to have your school considered for the next grant cycle to GEAR UP Director Jeannie Origbo.

The kinds of services GEAR UP provides in a school are locally decided based on a school’s situation. However, all expenditures must align with the three main objectives:

  1. To prepare students academically to take college level classes without the need for remediation. To help meet this objective, GEAR UP funds services like dual enrollment classes, STEM exploration, academic assessments, academic competitions, and professional development for school staff.
  2. To increase high school graduation levels and college enrollment. To help meet this objective, GEAR UP funds services like academic tutoring and remediation, orientations for students entering 7th and 9th grade, College Application Week, and senior portfolio development.
  3. To increase parent and student knowledge of post-secondary options, including affordability. To help meet this objective, GEAR UP funds services like career fairs, academic advising, financial literacy, FAFSA assistance, campus visits, and college student panels.

Montana GEAR UP also manages contracts with Fullmind/iTutor and Student Success Agency (SSA) for tutoring and mentoring services for GEAR UP students. The iTutor partnership provides access for GEAR UP schools to online tutoring services for grades 7-12. The SSA partnership provides remote mentoring services for GEAR UP students in grades 9-12. To learn more about these services and how your school may access them, please contact John Kilgour at 

GEAR UP funds cannot be used to pay for anything the school district is required to provide due to licensing or state and federal regulations. It can supplement what a school is doing, but not supplant. GEAR UP funds cannot be used on anything deemed entertainment, career and technical education supplies or fund resources that only benefits one student. Requests must be reasonable, allowable, and allocable. Commonly supported expenditures include technology beyond the school’s ability to support (robotics, chrome books, other equipment), software licensing to help students get caught up, campus visits, etc.

Each school is required to have a GEAR UP Liaison and a local GEAR UP team. The team sets priority services based on an analysis of students’ academic performance, school needs, and leveraging of resources.

If you would like to help GEAR UP at your school, volunteer to be a local team member, help with GEAR UP activities and talk with students and their caregivers about why education is needed after high school. Displaying posters that encourage students to graduate and pursue higher education and inviting guest speakers who can talk about how their education is used in their career can help students connect classroom learning with higher education. 

How to Help Seniors Transition to College

As students are preparing to go off to college, preparation may ease the transition and set students up for success after high school. While not all of these ideas may be possible or the right fit for your school, you might explore these options for your high school seniors:

  • Conduct a workshop, set aside class time, and/or have dedicated counseling time to cover important topics, such as: support services on college campuses, choosing classes and academics in college, budgeting and money management, getting involved and finding friends, homesickness, and what to bring.
  • Have a senior night where students can meet with alumni from the college they will attend, if possible, and ask them questions. Invite representatives from the schools to attend.
  • Host a summer send off picnic or BBQ.
  • Plan first-month-of-school visits to campuses where multiple former students are enrolled. Host a dinner or other event at which your alumni can reconnect and share their experiences. As your cadre of college students grows, develop a program to have on-campus “buddies,” pairing a first-year student with sophomores, juniors, or seniors who graduated from your high school. Bonus ideas: collect college addresses and send care packages with an encouraging note.
  • Conduct a Senior Exit Survey to determine what plans your seniors have for life after high school. Also, use this as an opportunity to collect contact information.
  • Create a “class of 20XX” group on Facebook in which students can engage their friends and you can offer encouragement, tips, and reminders.
  • Send monthly post cards containing study skill tips & tricks or pertinent reminders and an encouraging note from high school students and/or staff.
  • Assign a counselor or volunteer mentor (based at the high school) to all first year college students. This person is responsible for touching base with the student at regular intervals, potentially with a task-oriented purpose.
  • Extend existing mentoring programs into the first year of college.
  • Develop a “Friends of XX School” program in communities where several of your students attend college. Assign these adult “friends” to your alumni and task them with being someone the student can turn to when in need of assistance, support, or advice.
  • When on campus visits, invite alumni to share a meal with middle/high school students. Gather a group of 3-5 alumni and ask them to host a panel discussion about life as a college student.
  • Invite alumni to return to the middle/high school during their fall/winter/spring breaks. They can offer informational sessions, sit on a panel about college life, or visit a class to talk about their experiences.
  • Host a holiday party for recent alumni at the start of winter break. Include a celebration of success after the students’ first finals. Invite alumni from 5- 10 years out to talk about their current lives/careers. Use this as an opportunity to build connections based on career interests.
  • Organize a Homecoming Tailgate specifically for recent alumni, especially those who are attending college. Celebrate community and provide a forum for alumni to talk about their experiences – include talking about challenges and possible solutions.
  • Send care packages curated and packed by current students, parent organizations, or the alumni association to college freshmen. Include something to remind them of home, something to help them with their studies, a fun treat they can share and an encouraging note.
  • Develop a parents’ group that brings together parents of seniors and first-year college students; encourage an agenda that provides support for both.
  • Send parent newsletters with information about how to help support students while they are away.
  • Host parent workshops at key points in a student’s transition to college to help parents deal with the changes in their children – first weeks away, coming home for break, etc. 

First Year Services

First Year Services (a student's 7th and final year in a GEAR UP program) are vital to the success of GEAR UP students. GEAR UP  has First Year Services at Flathead Valley Community College, Montana State University, Montana State University Billings, Salish Kootenai College, and University of Montana. Visit the GEAR UP Practitioners page for First Year Service Coordinator contact info.


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