Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Washington State GEAR-UP Kickoff
December 9, 1999

Thank you, Marc Gaspard. I'd like to offer a special welcome to our visitors from the U. S. Department of Education. We hope you enjoy your stay in the "other Washington" and come back soon.

It is my pleasure to be here today as we formally launch GEAR-UP. I am excited by the promise of these new ventures. And I'm especially grateful that you're here today to discuss how we can make college a reality for more of our young people.

At the close of the 20th century, we have much to be proud of in the state of Washington. We live in a beautiful natural environment. We have abundant resources and plenty of good jobs for skilled workers. In recent years we have experienced unprecedented economic prosperity.

But we are also a state where one in seven children is poor, where more than 18,000 high school students drop out every year, and where individuals without a high school diploma have a 46 percent chance of living in poverty.

We have to change this. Higher education, and the prosperity that accompanies it, must be within the reach of every citizen.

GEAR-UP offers us a landmark opportunity to do so. With GEAR-UP, we can begin to ensure that all our students - regardless of their backgrounds, their neighborhoods, or their family incomes - will have access to rigorous coursework and quality teaching, and will gain the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in higher education programs.

GEAR-UP will help us build the hopes and dreams of students and families by showing them that higher education is within their reach. Their schools will invest in them. With preparation and planning, they can enroll and succeed in college. With financial aid and scholarships - and yes, some work and sacrifice - they will be able to afford a college education.

By starting early and staying with students and families, GEAR-UP has ongoing opportunities to create real, lasting change in the lives of those it touches. Exposing grade school students to college campuses will excite them about the possibilities college education can unlock.

Most profoundly, GEAR-UP brings all the critical players together on behalf of students and families. Your presence here confirms that. As teachers and administrators, business people, community leaders, service providers, higher education administrators, and government officials, each of us makes important contributions to this effort. I congratulate you for your commitment to work together to meet GEAR-UP'S goals.

I am proud to be leading the state's efforts here in Washington, and to support and assist the local partnerships that have begun your own GEAR-UP projects.

If you are part of the local GEAR-UP partnerships here today, I pledge the state's support and backing for your projects. We want to work with you, to provide the resources and support you need to help meet your own ambitious GEAR-UP goals.

If you are part of our state GEAR-UP project, I thank you for your commitment and encourage you to keep up the good work.

And to all of us I say: always remember the bottom line. We're creating opportunities for students that will have real and lasting impact.

I view today as a beginning of a bold new collaboration at the local, state and federal level. We have our work cut out for us, but I know with our commitment to students and families, we will succeed. In five years I want to be able to say that we brought real change to the way we motivate and educate our students and that we found ways to sustain and expand our efforts beyond the initial federal GEAR-UP investment.

Thank you very much.
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