By Maegan Murray

Once a month, a class of 12 education students at Washington State University Tri-Cities welcomes more than 20 clients from The Arc of Tri-Cities where all eat lunch with one another, interact socially, as well as play games and complete crafts.

peer-lunch-club-6The effort is part of the university’s new peer lunch club, which pairs the education students with several individuals with disabilities as a means to develop friendships, as well as to develop one another’s’ social and professional skills.

“My manager told me that WSU Tri-Cities students were wanting to learn more about and get to know the people in our community at The Arc,” Arc VIP Coordinator BreAnna Vaughn said. “For my guys, this is a great way for them to make some friends and get to know people outside of their families and outside from us at The Arc. The benefit for the students at WSU Tri-Cities is that they get to know people in this community and learn how they can help these individuals prosper in their future roles as teachers.”

As an organization, The Arc of Tri-Cities assists persons with developmental disabilities in choosing and realizing where and how they learn, live, work and play. The WSU Tri-Cities peer lunch club provides an added opportunity for Arc clients to bond and socialize with individuals in a college setting while WSU Tri-Cities students have the opportunity to get to know a group of individuals whose learning challenges may be peer-lunch-club-1unfamiliar to them.

“I believe it is a good experience for our students who are in education because nowadays, with current trends in inclusive education, they will have students with disabilities in their classroom,” said Yun-Ju Hsiao, an assistant professor of special education at WSU Tri-Cities and co-organizer of the lunch club. “It provides our students with a good start in learning how to interact with these individuals and what strategies will work best for their learning, in addition to allowing them to make some new friends.”

Value added for all

The Arc participants said they love being able to come WSU Tri-Cities as they are making new friends while participating in hands-on activities. During their last lunch club meeting, the group made paper snowflakes, which they used to decorate The Arc facility for the holiday season.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” Arc client Grady Horvath said. “I’ve made lots of friends so far.”

Arc client Spencer Pidcock said his favorite parts of the experience have been bonding with his new friends over common interests such as movies, of which his favorite are from the Fast and the Furious franchise. He said also enjoys the activities they’ve completed with the WSU Tri-Cities students.

“It’s been really fun,” he said. “Making the snowflakes has probably been one of my favorite activities so far.”

peer-lunch-club-2WSU Tri-Cities students said they have enjoyed the opportunity, not only because they have been able to put some of the skills they’re learning at WSU Tri-Cities to use in working with individuals with developmental disabilities, but also because they are developing close friendships.

“It is like an eye-opener because you see people with disabilities and you generally don’t know how to act with them at first,” WSU Tri-Cities student Maria Admani said. “At first, it is kind of awkward, mainly because you’re putting this pressure on yourself to behave a certain way. But you start talking with them and you realize they are just like you. You have the same likes and dislikes. You don’t have to behave a specific way. They’re people like you and me.”

WSU Tri-Cities student Karli Korten said they’ve developed jokes with some of The Arc clients just as they would their closest friends growing up.

“I remember I brought up the Venus Razors commercials,” she said, referencing a conversation she was having with some of The Arc clients. “I started singing ‘I’m your Venus, I’m your fire,’ and Grady finished it with ‘Your desire.’ It was just so funny. We’re developing these friendships that we never would have had otherwise.”

Korten said as the lunches continue, they sit with the same people each lunch meet-up and that both groups become more and more comfortable with one another each time.

“We ask them questions about our previous activities, or about what is coming up new in their life and you realize they have the same thoughts about life and the same anxieties,” she said.

From social to professional

WSU Tri-Cities student Carrie Stewart said she will definitely use the experience in her future career as a teacher.peer-lunch-club-3

“I think it will help a lot,” she said. “To see individuals with disabilities in this environment, it is almost like a classroom environment. Knowing how to relate to them is a huge thing, as well as developing a personal relationship. This is a great way to allow us to learn how to build bonds, which will help us help them be successful in their own lives.”

Student Kimberlee Moon said they can also use the opportunity to improve the educational experience for all students.

“You get to know them just as you would any other kid in the classroom,” she said. “You can incorporate their interests just as you would any student. You may have to use different strategies, but those strategies you use for students with disabilities will also work for every student in the classroom.”

By Maegan Murray

Before the age of 20, Gordan Gavric was already working on technology that continues to change the world of security.

Gavric started as an electrical engineering intern at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) in the High School Student Research Internship program the summer of his high school junior year working for the Atom Probe group in (define EMSL). Now a junior at Washington State University Tri-Cities, Gavric has transitioned into working in 30784625972_0822818cec_zthe Engineering Development Lab at PNNL, where he works with the creators of the millimeter wave imaging technologies used in body scanners that are deployed in airports across the world.
“It’s been pretty amazing,” Gavric said. “How many other interns get to work on this stuff? I started with PNNL my freshman year and I’ve been with them ever since. I’ve done everything from Python language programming, to circuit development, to building up and testing antennas using some very expensive, very cool pieces of hardware.”

The opportunities he was presented with through PNNL were the primary reason why he chose to attend Washington State University Tri-Cities.

“I think it was probably the best thing I could have done in terms of school and work,” he said. “I was interested in another university because their electrical engineering program was more based in radio and signal processing. But since then, I’ve taken classes here that are more oriented toward digital signal processing. I’ve received one of the best educations because I’m learning from the people that are actually doing it and they do it well.”

30599606060_48bf9994ca_zThrough his current position at PNNL, Gavric is using Python to develop a software application for nuclear security. He developed what is called a graphical user interface, or a GUI, that allows engineers to tweak parameters in real-time to better set instruments to protect a nuclear source. He is also working with millimeter wave antennas that are used in airport and security body scanners.

“Seeing some of crazy concepts behind it and the engineering required to develop that technology and the creativity that was facilitated has been incredible,” he said. “It was not like we were just designing circuits. You got the sense that you could be really creative in the way you solve the big problems in the world with engineering. It has been amazing to see that type of things being done right here in Richland.”

Gavric said his position uniquely allows him to be exposed to engineering concepts and materials first at PNNL, which he then learns about in detail at WSU Tri-Cities.

“Last summer, I was tasked with building a resonant filter and I spent close to two days figuring out everything I could about it at PNNL,” he said. “Then today, in electronics class, we talked about a similar design and learned how to apply it a little differently. I get to first see it applied and then learn more about it. It definitely enriches me because I’m exposed in a real-world experience and then I dive into the details of it in class.”

Gavric said the combination of his WSU Tri-Cities education and his real-world experience at PNNL has poised him with unique experiences that he will continue to use throughout his career in engineering.

“I like that everything correlates really well,” he said. “Everything I learn in class, I see at my job. My teammates at PNNL are like, ‘Have you learned about x? Oh, you learned it last week, OK cool.’ It helps me bond with them.”30268543804_0d4bd8094a_z

Gavric said he has also applied his experience at PNNL and what he is learning in the classroom at WSU Tri-Cities for external projects and leadership opportunities at the university. He and a couple of classmates started the robotics club on campus. He also is the chief justice for the Associated Students of Washington State University where he oversees the student government’s bylaws and judicial procedure.

“One of my favorite things about WSU and PNNL are the opportunities you are presented with,” he said. “WSU Tri-Cities is one of those places where if you have a will to do something, like starting an engineering club, you can. You can make the most out of anything. At PNNL, I’ve been provided with opportunities to advance in my career, like learning new engineering concepts and furthering my skillset.”

Plus, three of the five people on his team at PNNL either taught at or attended WSU Tri-Cities.

“I’m surrounded by fellow alumni,” he said. “It’s been pretty great.”

Interested in a career in electrical engineering? Visit

According to a survey completed by psychology students at Washington State University Tri-Cities, wearing a hat may have no impact on initial likability of a person, which opposes general procedure in personality studies.

Senior students Grace Taylor and Bertha Zanotti said hats are regularly removed from personality studies in order to prevent them from distracting or distorting the perception of a person’s personality. In other words, they are believed to have an impact, whether that be positive or negative, on a person’s likability upon first impression and may create a bias for that person.

hat-student-study-1“We actually figured hats would make a person more likeable,” Taylor said. “That didn’t end up being the case.”

For their study, the students selected three photos of models and used Photoshop to digitally place hats onto each of the models. In contrast, they also presented the same three photos of models, but without hats. They then had 43 participants complete a survey rating their general likability of each model. Some of the statements survey participants rated included “This individual talks to a lot of different people at parties” and “This individual starts conversations.”

“We found that hats had no correlation with likability, whether that be positive or negative,” Taylor said. “Our results were found to be non-statistically significant either way, meaning the models wearing hats were not liked any better or worse than the same models not wearing hats.”

Taylor said there currently isn’t a lot of other research investigating the impact that hats may have on likability of a person. She said she would love to investigate the matter further by completing the same study on a larger scale.

The students completed the study as part of their “research methods” psychology course at WSU Tri-Cities. They presented their results during WSU Tri-Cities’ Undergraduate Research Symposium and Art Exhibition this week, which features more than 100 student research and art projects. Today, Dec. 15, marks the last day of the symposium. For more information on the symposium, visit

By Maegan Murray

Ryan Wagstaff struggled to find his path in high school.

He felt ahead of his fellow classmates mentally and intellectually and was ready for an academic experience that was more challenging.

“I wanted to get more involved and wanted more opportunities to network and meet new people,” he said.

30569074280_af920d22e2_zAs a high school sophomore, one of his friends mentioned running start as an option. Shortly after, he found out about the program at Washington State University Tri-Cities, which welcomes high school juniors and seniors to take university courses at no cost.

“I found it put me at ease,” he said. “It has been a really good fit for me. I’ve gotten a lot more involved, I’ve taken on leadership roles and I’ve put my best foot forward as a future professional.”

Wagstaff, now a high school senior and in his second year of the running start program at WSU Tri-Cities, is well on his way of pursuing a degree in psychology. He takes on a full course-load while working as the student manager of the campus’ Hospitality Café, in addition to leading up other developments around campus.

Wagstaff and classmates Yesenia Alcaraz and Madison Stredwick founded the Queer and Allies Club, which provides resources and support for those who associate with and support the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. He is also a member of the psychology club on campus, which provides resources for students based in psychological methods, as well as networking connections and resources for students studying psychology. Additionally, Wagstaff has spoken as part of several student panels for various events, as well as serving as one of the speakers for the running start program’s one-year anniversary at WSU Tri-Cities last year.

“It has been a great platform to really develop myself as a professional,” he said. “Being a running start student, at first you have this perception that people will treat you differently as a high school student, but no one really knows that. I’ve had a really great experience with the program.”

Wagstaff said the professors take the time to get to know their students and provide every resource they can for ensuring students are successful and that they have every opportunity to develop their leadership potential.27240104466_401d9c4bb3_z

“The people here are like my number one thing,” he said. “The professors are all kind and accepting people. Working at the café, I have the flexibility and affordability to interact with my classmates and professors here on campus while on the job. I also get to go to all these cool events, meet new people and generally grow as a person in a mature environment.”

Wagstaff said the program, however, has rigorous standards that interested students must take into account. He said the program is geared towards students who are college-ready, with the academic and social skills to keep up with the rigorous college lifestyle.

“It’s a step up from regular high school classes, for sure,” he said. “I recommend it for students who are diligent, prepared and are performing at least a 3.5 grade-point average in high school.”

Looking toward the future, Wagstaff said he has already applied to WSU Tri-Cities as a possible choice for the remainder of his bachelor’s degree. His ultimate goal, he said, is to become a psychiatrist so that he can help a wide variety of people through medicine.

RICHLAND, Wash. – Researchers at Washington State University Tri-Cities have been awarded a National Science Foundation I-Corps grant to explore the market potential of their biojet fuel research.

Bin Yang, associate professor of biological systems engineering and principal investigator for the grant, and his team have spent several years developing a process for transforming lignin, a polymer that makes plants woody and rigid, and currently a waste product in the biofuels production process, into hydrocarbon molecules that can one-day be certified as jet fuel.

Libing Zhang

Libing Zhang

Yang said by leveraging research results from projects funded by the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, the Department of Transportation, the Joint Center for Aerospace Technology Innovation and The Boeing Company, he and his team have successfully demonstrated a new, water-based process for deconstructing and recovering lignin from biomass and converting it into jet fuel-range hydrocarbons that may be certified as jet fuel in the near future. Yang currently holds a patent on the process.

“Our ultimate goal is to demonstrate a flexible catalytic process that selectively converts all the carbon in the lignin into jet fuel-range hydrocarbons at minimal cost,” he said.

Libing Zhang, a WSU Tri-Cities postdoctoral research associate and the entrepreneurial lead of the project, said currently commercial airlines are facing pressure to reduce emissions, which is why they may have an interest in seeing a lignin-derived alternative fuel brought to market.

“The airlines see alternative jet fuel as a strategic need, helping guarantee smooth business operations and a long-term and sustainable jet fuel supply,” Zhang said. “Our conversion process can potentially reduce jet fuel cost to end users by using lignin waste from refineries and less expensive catalytic upgrading to jet fuel.”

Zhang said the NSF I-Corps program helps leading researchers develop a business platform for their research and technology that could one-day change the world, while not trying to “reinvent the wheel” by recreating processes and strategies that are already working well within the industry.

For the NSF I-Corps grant, Yang and his team are working under the mentorship of Terri L. Butler from the University of Washington for the business aspects of the project.

“The NSF I-Corps program encourages researchers to step out of the academic environment and listen to the needs of industry,” Butler said. “The researchers can then determine if their technology solves an important problem or if their research efforts should head in a different direction. This is the approach our team has taken as we work on possible business models for our biojet fuel technology while considering the needs of customer segments, key partners, cost structures and revenue streams.”

WSU is leading the nation in biofuel production. In November, Alaska Airlines made the first commercial flight using alternative jet fuel from forest residuals produced through WSU-led Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance. Read more here.

WSU also has an NSF I-Corps site led by the Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture that provides training and funding to find commercial applications of new business ideas and technologies. The free site program promotes entrepreneurism of faculty, student and staff by preparing participants for submission of a proposal to NSF to become an I-Corps team. Learn more here.


News media contacts:
Bin Yang, WSU Tri-Cities biological systems engineering, 509-372-7640,
Libing Zhang, WSU Tri-Cities postdoctoral research associate,
Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities public relations, 509-372-7333,

By Maegan Murray

Shiloh Penland, director of TRIO Student Support Services at Washington State University Tri-Cities, knows first-hand how difficult it can be for first-generation, low-income students to navigate the college completion process because she was one of those students.

Penland received her education in Washington state, but the schools she attended didn’t have a program like TRIO in place at the time. That is why she plans to use her new leadership role as president of the Washington State TRIO Association to help students across the state receive support through TRIO Student Support Services. Keri Lobdell, WSU Tri-Cities TRIO retention counselor and advisor and former TRIO participant, will also now serve as the eastern Washington representative for the state TRIO association.

27732527325_da68197a08_z“We know what it was like to be a first-generation, low income student in college, so we understand the struggles that many of these students go through,” Penland said. “I can see, first-hand, how this program helps our students.”

Through the TRIO program, students who are low-income, first-generation, and/or have a documented disability are provided with resources including one-on-one tutoring, help with academic advising, help in the financial aid and scholarship process, financial literacy support, student success workshops, cultural enrichment trips and activities and help applying to graduate or professional school.

“Many of these students may be working full-time or they may be single parents or even caring for their own parents,” Penland said. “These students typically have a lot of responsibilities outside of school and they also may not have the support of individuals who know how to navigate the educational system. We can provide that guidance, education and support as people who have been through the process.”

Penland will serve as president-elect until October of next year before taking on the full presidency role, which she will serve in for a year. She will then serve as “past president,” where she will mentor and guide the incoming president the following year.

As president-elect, Penland will serve as the vice chairman of the board of directors, chair of the membership committee, advisory member to all committees and will assume the duties and responsibilities of the sitting president in the event that they are absent.

In her new role as president, Penland said one of her priorities will be establishing a mentoring system for new TRIO staff across the state.trio-director-shiloh-penland

“Coming in new to the position three years ago, myself, I had my grant award notification sitting on my desk my first day and my budget for the year was due in two weeks to the Department of Education,” she said. “I was new to the position, so I wasn’t well-versed in those large first steps. There are a lot of new staff that come in overwhelmed and are challenged to understand the federal legislation in these roles. It is helpful to have somebody who has been doing it for a while to guide you through and answer your questions.”

There are currently 67 TRIO programs across Washington that serve nearly 16,000 students and bring in more than $19 million in federal funding. WSU Tri-Cities serves 140 students in its own program each year.

“Our goal is to get our students to graduation and that journey looks different for every student,” Penland said. “We have the opportunity to guide students through the educational system to help them be successful.”

RICHLAND, Wash. – Washington State University Tri-Cities announced today that it has earned the 2017 Military Friendly School designation from Victory Media, publisher of G.I. Jobs, STEM Jobs and Military Spouse.

First published in 2009, Military Friendly Schools is the most comprehensive resource for veterans selecting a college, university or trade school to receive education and training to pursue a civilian career. WSU Tri-Cities will be showcased along with other schools in the annual Guide to Military Friendly Schools, special education issues of G.I. Jobs and Military Spouse magazines and at

NMilitary Friendly School 2017_designationine percent veteran students

Of WSU Tri-Cities’ student population of approximately 1,800, nine percent are veterans.

“We feel a great sense of pride both educating and providing a welcoming university atmosphere for our veteran students returning to civilian life,” said Nancy Roe, WSU Tri-Cities coordinator of veterans affairs.

“I don’t think there is a school that is more accepting and more supportive of its veterans,” said Manny Bonilla, WSU Tri-Cities computer science student and member of the U.S. Air Force reserves. “I love this school and it has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.”

Criteria, ratings methods

Institutions earning the Military Friendly School designation were evaluated using both public data sources and responses from Victory Media’s proprietary survey. More than 1,600 schools participated in the 2017 survey and 1,160 were awarded the designation.

Ratings methodology, criteria and weightings were determined by Victory Media with input from the Military Friendly Advisory Council of independent leaders in the higher education and military recruitment community. Final ratings were determined by combining the institution’s survey scores with the assessment of the institution’s ability to meet thresholds for student retention, graduation, job placement, loan repayment, persistence and loan default rates for all students and, specifically, for student veterans.

For more information about WSU Tri-Cities’ commitment to attracting and supporting military students, visit

For Emmanuel “Manny” Bonilla, Veterans Day holds a special significance.

The son of undocumented immigrant parents, and formerly an undocumented individual himself, he joined the United States Air Force at 27 as a means to improve life for himself and his family.

manny-bonilla-3“I signed up at 27 for two reasons: one, I was an illegal immigrant and I wanted to get citizenship, and one of my other dreams was to use it as a way to finish college,” he said.

The military would help him accomplish both. Bonilla is now a U.S. citizen. He is also currently pursuing his dream major of computer science at Washington State University Tri-Cities. Now, he and his fellow veterans at WSU Tri-Cities are giving back to the veteran community through a tribute at the university, as well as a drive that will send donated items to military members overseas.

The WSU Tri-Cities Veterans Center held a ribbon event his week, where campus and community members were invited to write the name of loved ones that served in the military on a ribbon, which were then hung and displayed throughout the week on the Hero Tree near the entrance to the East Building on campus. The group is also holding a package drive where they are taking donations of toiletries, food items, games and miscellaneous items that will be packed and sent to active duty servicemen overseas as part of Operation Thank You.

“The purpose of Veterans Day is to honor all of our past and current soldiers, airmen, sailors and other current and 30727073692_48a5985c50_zformer members of our branches,” he said. “One of the things we are trying to do is show respect to all of our servicemen who are currently out there right now or who have already served. We noticed a lot of students came out, grandparents who served, friends of people who are currently out there right now. It means a lot for us to honor them.”

Bonilla said the university holds veteran students in high regard, and truly supports its students’ transition back to civilian life by preparing them for the next stages in their career.

“I don’t think there is a school that is more accepting and more supportive of its veterans,” he said. “I love this school and it has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.”

Bonilla’s story

Bonilla enlisted in the U.S. Air Force more than five years ago and served in two tours overseas at seven months each: one in Oman and one in the United Arab Emirates.

“The fun parts were honor guard, I got to see the world and I also got to meet lots of outstanding individuals in the military,” he said.

manny-bonilla-2The tours overseas and training regimens that kept him away from his family throughout the years, however, were what made him consider a career change. Growing up in the Tri-Cities, Bonilla said he always saw WSU Tri-Cities as a natural fit, especially for veterans. He also feels comfortable serving in the U.S. Air Force Reserves while working on a full-course load at WSU Tri-Cities because of the support system in place.

“It is like hitting the brakes in a car going 60 miles an hour,” he said of transitioning from military life to civilian life. “It is a complete shock. A lot of us have a lot of problems with that. You are so used to structure. Every day, you know what you’re going to do. You wake up early every morning. Once I got to school at WSU, it really helped with the transition.”

Bonilla said the university, from the teachers to the administration, are always willing to work with his schedule in the reserves and make accommodations for his classwork.manny-bonilla

“They are always willing to work with me, especially when I have to go the Air Force base for training and other requirements for the reserves,” he said. “Some topics are hard to talk about for us veterans and they understand.”

“TRIO student support services at WSU Tri-Cities was also a crucial tool for me,” he said. “From the tutoring to the individual support they provide, they were so valuable. It’s been a great environment for veterans.”

Looking toward the future

Bonilla said he reaps the benefits of the challenging coursework at WSU Tri-Cities with industry connections, especially in his specific degree field of computer science.

“I have been a geek since I was born,” he said with a laugh. “I’ve always liked computers and electronics. So that was naturally what I saw myself drawn to as a future career option.”30727074532_4c8be159ee_z

Bonilla said growing up with all of his family members working in the field, they didn’t have money to purchase new electronics, so he learned to fix broken pieces of equipment for his and his family’s use. He said he feels privileged to now turn his past into a forward-thinking career at a university with so many industry connections.

“My computer science courses here at WSU are definitely hands-on,” he said. “Our professors here work with all of their students to start slowly and then we build on what we learn through each course and each lesson. That certainly doesn’t mean it is easy, but I like the challenge. That coursework then applies directly into internships, which are held in plenty in the Tri-Cities.”

Bonilla is working to secure a computer science internship at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. After graduation, he said he would love to eventually work for Microsoft as a computer programmer.

“That’s the dream,” he said. “I feel honored that I got the chance to serve my country and had the privilege of putting on the uniform and completing some of the things that my brothers and I did. Now, I’m lucky enough to pursue a different dream. Some of our friends didn’t make it, that is all the more reason why what I am doing is so important. I have to take advantage of these opportunities because some of my brothers don’t have that luxury.”

WSU Tri-Cities holds the designation of “Veteran Supportive Campus.” The designation is declared by the Washington State Department of Veteran Affairs based on the university’s ability to meet individual veteran needs, its supply of potential benefits for veterans and its assistance in helping veterans obtain internal and external benefits and care.

For more information on resources available to veterans or to see how you can donate for the Operation Thank You drive at WSU Tri-Cities, visit or contact the WSU Tri-Cities Veterans Center at 509-372-7364.

RICHLAND, Wash. – When Ashlee Iverson went fishing with her dad recently on a remote stretch of the Yakima River, the last thing they expected was company. They were surprised to find a homeless man named Brett living by the river.

“He was friendly and well-mannered but living pretty far away from civilization,” said Iverson, a Washington State University nursing student. “We were at least 10 miles upriver from West Richland. That is a long walk to town.”

Nursing student Ashlee Iverson at WSU Tri-Cities.

She and her father found that Brett had lost a good job before becoming homeless. She immediately felt a desire to assist him.

“As a nursing student, we learn empathy and altruism. I couldn’t just walk away without helping,” Iverson said.

She and her father provided Brett with a warm jacket, sleeping bag, cleaning and hygiene supplies and more. She mentioned his needs to her nursing class and the students were happy to help.

“I’m so proud of my classmates,” Iverson said. “The students at the nursing school took up a collection of clothing, food and supplies for Brett.”

She and her father check on Brett every few days.

“He mostly stays in West Richland,” she said. “We’ve talked to him about going to the mission in Pasco, but he is uncomfortable with that right now. We can tell he has had a hard time and we want to support his well-being and safety.

“I try to keep in mind that one kind gesture done for someone else can make a huge difference in their life, whether it’s a simple smile to show you care or offering someone something they need at that time,” she said.

RICHLAND, Wash. – Washington State University Tri-Cities recently received a $25 million seven-year GEAR UP grant to prepare students in low-income schools to enter and succeed in post-secondary education.

The Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs project will hire close to 100 new employees to work with students in middle schools.

This is the seventh U.S. Department of Education GEAR UP grant received by WSU Tri-Cities since 2002. Earlier awards have helped the university serve more than 25,000 students in middle and high schools.

Low-income, rural partnerships

The grant goals are to improve academic performance, completion of rigorous courses, knowledge of financial aid and post-secondary education, on-time graduation and post-secondary enrollment.

The grant “will raise student awareness and readiness for post-secondary education and career opportunities,” said Chuck Hallsted, GEAR UP director. “It will really make a difference in our communities, especially for first generation and underrepresented populations.”

The program serves 4,500 students in 10 partner districts: Walla Walla, College Place, Dayton, Prescott, Touchet, Kennewick, Othello, Warden, Moses Lake and Soap Lake.

New staff will provide individual guidance

WSU Tri-Cities GEAR UP staff will assist students beginning in the sixth and seventh grades in the districts’ 14 middle schools. Staff will follow the students through high school and into their first year of post-secondary education, which includes four-year colleges, community colleges and vocational technology schools.

Staff will serve students via in-class tutoring, mentoring, college trips, career exploration, after school programs, summer programs, technology, skill development for success and professional development for teachers.

Staff will work collaboratively with school district partners to ensure an effective team approach, Hallsted said.