Group of Gear Up Montana Students

Montana GEAR UP Program

GEAR UP is an acronym for Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs.  GEAR UP helps students prepare for some form of post-secondary education after high school graduation.

The program helps teachers, students, and parents or caregivers nurture the desire to aim higher. Every student can be encouraged to develop their job skills whether it is through a trade school, certificate program, or getting a 2-year or 4-year degree.

College is Possible

Montana GEAR UP believes that postsecondary education is possible for all Montana students, regardless of economic background. The program supports schools, students, and their families to increase students’ college and career readiness through academic preparedness, postsecondary planning, and financial aid knowledge so that they may succeed in their education beyond high school.

Our Goals Are Your Future

Our goals are designed to make college a realistic possibility for all students no matter their economic background.


Goal 1

Increase GEAR UP students’ academic performance and preparation for postsecondary education.

  • Increase student academic performance in mathematics.
  • Increase student demonstration of academic preparation for college.

Goal 2

Increase GEAR UP students’ rate of high school graduation and enrollment in postsecondary education.

  • Increase graduation rates of GEAR UP students from high school.
  • Increase enrollment rates of GEAR UP students in postsecondary education.

Goal 3

Increase GEAR UP students’ and their families’ knowledge of postsecondary education options, preparation, & financing.

  • Increase student knowledge of available financial aid and the costs and benefits of pursuing postsecondary education.
  • Increase family knowledge of available financial aid and the costs and benefits of pursuing postsecondary education.

What Does GEAR UP Do?

Learn about Montana GEAR UP’s core services including statewide initiatives and sponsorships, school level services, and what types of resources we offer.

Graduate looking at the sunset

State Initiatives

  • ACT + Writing test for all Montana public high school juniors.
  • Montana Common Core Standards implementation.
  • Montana College Access Arc of Events: College Application Week, FAFSA Completion Campaign, Decision Day.
  • Fiscal sponsor of the Montana School Counselor Association Conference, Montana College Access Network Conference, Montana Post Secondary Educational Opportunities Council, School Administrators of Montana, and more.
  • 1-2-Free dual enrollment program.
  • Virtual, on-demand mentors for all GEAR UP high school students.
  • Statewide summer program funding.
Youth Leadership Academy

School Based Services

The GEAR UP Grant serves students in grades 7 through 12, providing college and career readiness services.

  • comprehensive advising & tutoring services
  • access to dual enrollment
  • college applications
  • guidance on financial aid & scholarships
  • college visits
  • summer programs & internships
  • college freshman transition and retention services at the colleges and university level
  • mentoring
  • supplemental curriculum materials
  • professional development for school staff, and more!

Our Stakeholders

Montana GEAR UP understands the importance of supporting our many stakeholders. We try to make it easy for you to explore resources and information so you can help make a bigger impact, no matter your stake in the program.
Group of Students
Find out if your school is a GEAR UP school and learn how GEAR UP can help you conquer high school and prepare for college. Explore free opportunities unique to the GEAR UP experience such as the Youth Leadership Academy, summer programs, virtual mentors, college visits, dual enrollment, and more!
Students in front of a school
Connect to current GEAR UP schools and institutions. Learn how your school could become a GEAR UP school.

Liaisons run GEAR UP services at the middle and high school level. First year service coordinators develop services for incoming first year students from GEAR UP schools attending our partner institutions. Meet our fantastic field staff and see how they can help you reach and succeed in college!

Meet the core team behind Montana GEAR UP. Explore contact opportunities.

Opportunities That Matter

Students who make deep connections with peers, adults, faculty and staff are more likely to thrive, both academically & professionally. Mentors can provide these connections by channeling a student's development, offering motivation, and providing access to resources.
Betsy Wade
Attending college can be an incredible opportunity to grow personally and professionally, and to expand career possibilities. To get the most out of college, I believe students need to engage in the experience - forming relationships with fellow students and professors, studying abroad, completing internships, getting involved in research projects, playing sports, joining clubs etc. College is a time for self-discovery and for channeling natural talents.
Betsy Wade
Polson High School Counselor
Betsy is a member of the Leadership Flathead Reservation class of 2019, and she plans to continue her education in the Department of Educational Leadership at the University of Montana starting this summer.

More Information & Resources


We are always looking to build our community networks. Check out our wonderful list of partnerships. If you believe your organization aligns with GEAR UP goals and could benefit from a partnership with GEAR UP, please contact us! 

ACT, Inc.

The Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation supports a broad spectrum of worthy organizations benefiting at-risk youth, economically and socially disadvantaged individuals and families, and those with special needs. 

American Indian and Minority Achievement Council 

The purpose of the Montana University System American Indian Minority Achievement Advisory Council is to identify ways in which we can strengthen our service to all people of Montana. 

ChildWise Institute

ChildWise Institute is a non-profit social-impact organization that is improving the lives of vulnerable and at-risk children and their families. 

College & Career Readiness Evaluation Consortium (CCREC) 

CCREC is a longitudinal research and evaluation project made up of 13 GEAR UP state grant projects collectively serving over 100,000 students in more than 400 high-poverty middle and high schools. 


Virtual classroom instruction and tutoring in 1:1, 1:4, and whole class settings. 

Montana Association of Student Financial Aid (MASFAA) 

The Montana Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators is an organization serving the needs of students, institutions of higher education, government agencies, and private funding sources through the coordination of plans and programs for student financial aid. 

Montana Office of Public Instruction (OPI)

The Montana Office of Public Instruction provides vision, advocacy, support and leadership for schools and communities to ensure that all students meet today's challenges and tomorrow's opportunities. 

Montana Post-Secondary Education Opportunities Council (MPSEOC) 

MPSEOC is a non-profit organization representing the 25 institutions of higher education across the state of Montana. The mission of the organization is the promotion of higher education to students, families, counselors, and schools with the awareness of the post-secondary opportunities available throughout the state of Montana and beyond. 

Montana Board of Public Education 

In addition to the constitutional mandate to exercise general supervision of the schools, the Board is assigned specific responsibilities by the Montana Legislature.  

Montana Board of Regents 

The Board of Regents has full power, responsibility, and authority to supervise, coordinate, manage and control the Montana University System, and supervise and coordinate other public educational institutions assigned by law. 

Montana Chapter of TRIO Aspire 

The mission of the organization is to provide an association and a forum for professional personnel involved in TRIO programs or other programs devoted to educational opportunity for low income and first generation college students. 

Montana College Attainment Network (MCAN)

Montana College Attainment Network’s mission is to support, serve, and enhance our affiliate members in their efforts to increase post-secondary participation and completion for all Montanans. GEAR UP and MCAN realize the importance of working together to serve students and school personnel. 

Montana School Counselor Association (MSCA)

The Montana School Counselor Association is a division of the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) and represents approximately 500 Montana professional school counselors. The mission of the Montana School Counselor Association is to promote excellence in professional school counseling in Montana. 

Montana University System 

The Montana University System (MUS) is comprised of sixteen public universities and colleges, enrolling more than 40,000 students each semester. The MUS is committed to providing students, parents, and the public easy access to critical information about enrolling and succeeding in the Montana University System, such as, information on preparing for college, financial aid, transfer of credits, and distance learning. 

National GEAR UP

This discretionary grant program is designed to increase the number of low-income students who are prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education.  

National Association for College Admissions Counseling (NACAC)

NACAC is dedicated to providing counseling and admission professionals with the expert advice and tools they need to better serve students and improve the college transition process. 

National Council for Community & Education Partnerships (NCCEP) 

NCCEP works to build the capacity of communities to ensure that underserved students have the opportunity, skills, and knowledge to successfully pursue the education and training that will enable them to achieve their career and life goals. We work towards a future where all students are empowered and equipped with the education and training needed to succeed in a diverse and global society. 

Reach Higher Montana

Reach Higher Montana helps students strategically pursue educational opportunities. 

School Administrators of Montana (SAM)

SAM represents the interests, aspirations, and professional leadership of Montana administrators. 

Student Success Agency (SSA)

Virtual mentoring and advising for students in Montana. 

Middle/High School Programs



Contact Info 

Arlee Public Schools 


Damon Cordier


p: 726-3216 ext: 2305 

Box Elder Public Schools 

Megan Maroney 


p: 352-4195 ext: 5132 

Browning Middle School 

Nathan Stone 


p: 338-2725 ext: 4921 

Browning High School 

Melanie Magee 

p: 338-2745 ext: 4565 

Hardin Middle School 

Ladona Yerian  


p: 665-6343 

Hardin High School 

Lance Olson 


p: 665-6406 

Harlem Public Schools 

David Murray


p: 353-2289 X 3803

Hays Lodge Pole Public Schools 

 Paul Condon 


p: 548-4723 

Lame Deer Public Schools 

Frances Altekruse


p: 477-8900 ext: 1217

Libby Public Schools  

Deanna Malyevac 


p: 293-8802 ext: 1951 

Lodge Grass Public Schools 

TBD 2022



Pryor Public Schools 

Talitha Goes Ahead 


p: 259-7329 

Rocky Boy Public Schools 

Sapphire Carter 


p: 395-4474 ext: 223 

St. Ignatius Public Schools 

Alan Pule 


p: 745-3811ext: 265 

St. Regis Public Schools 

Jennifer Pruitt 


p: 649-2311 

Superior Public Schools 

Toni Labbe  


p: 822-3600 ext: 117 

Thompson Falls Public Schools 

Penny Beckman 

e: pbeckman@tfalls.orgp: 827-3593 ext: 7069 

Troy Public Schools

Jessica Knapp


p: 295-4520 ext: 2126 

College Programs



Contact Info 

Flathead Valley Community College

Lauri Berg 


p: 406-756-3882 

Montana State University 


Judi Haskins 


p: 406-994-4374 

Montana State University - Billings





Salish Kootenai College 

Terri Cordier


p: 406-75-4711 

University of Montana


Mindy May 


p: 406-243-2281

Student Success Agency - Virtual mentoring and advising for students in Montana. - Virtual classroom instruction and tutoring in 1:1, 1:4, and whole class settings.

CoBro Consulting - External evaluation team supporting 

The U.S. Department of Education awarded the Montana Office of Commissioner of Higher Education a seven-year, $28 million GEAR UP grant in 2017. Montana was also awarded GEAR UP grants in 1999, 2005, and 2011. GEAR UP is a federally funded program to benefit the people of the State of Montana.

Quick Facts

$3.5 million
Yearly GEAR UP grant funding.
GEAR UP grant funding supporting first-year students at select Montana colleges.
GEAR UP grant funding supporting 7-12 students at select middle and high schools.
Total students served by the end of our grant cycle.
America Indian students served by the end of our grant cycle.
GEAR UP school districts.

The U.S. Department of Education awarded the Montana Office of Commissioner of Higher Education a seven-year, $28 million GEAR UP grant in 2017. Montana was also awarded GEAR UP grants in 1999, 2005, and 2011. GEAR UP is a federally funded program to benefit the people of the State of Montana.