Community partnership addresses growing literacy problem for students entering college

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - A night of honors celebrated a groundbreaking literacy program that gives students a second chance at college.

Literacy Kansas City and Penn Valley Community College honored about 200 students Wednesday night for completing the GEARS (Guided Education to Access in Reading Skills) program.

The partnership came together after MCC/Penn Valley watched too many high school graduates fail in college because of poor reading skills.

Literacy Kansas City Executive Director Carrie Coogan said Kansas City found a solution to a problem that is only getting worse in many cities.

"This is a problem, not just here in Kansas City, but across the nation. Students are graduating from high school with a diploma, but they don't have the capability to even make it in a basic course in community college," she said.

The students who complete the GEARS program are now able to enroll in college courses and have a much better shot at success. In the past, many struggled in college, dropped out and left with no degree and in debt with college loans.

"This program brings together everyone to be a part of the solution," Coogan said. "To be a part of what we all need to do to make this better. This program really works."

This is one of the first partnerships of its kind in the country. The GEARS program is offered free to students.

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