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Renton School District

GEAR UP Achievers

Welcome to GEAR UP!

GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs), funded by the U.S. Department of Education, is a national college readiness program designed to increase the number of students who are prepared to enter and succeed in post-secondary education.The grant hopes to deepen its efforts with school districts and community organizations to make college a reality for more middle and high school students in the state. 

Our Mission

GEAR UP believes every student in South King County should have access to higher education. Through GEAR UP, every student will have opportunities to participate in support programs during and after school, college and career exploration, and family engagement activities. Our GEAR UP staff will help each student develop a plan for after high school and hold them accountable to that plan.

We are here to provide you the tools and resources to overcome the obstacles to pursuing opportunities after high school.

You here because you believe in your future and want to take advantage of every opportunity to make you successful with your goals for after high school.

What Services do We Provide?

  • Instructional support in classrooms
  • Tutoring in after-school programs
  • AVID (Advance Via Individual Determination) Support
  • Helping students and families understand the cost of college and how to pay for college with financial aid, scholarships, grants, work study and more
  • Inviting student and families to college visits
  • Providing career exploration, internships and summer camps to help students learn how to prepare for and access careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) fields, and other areas of interests
  • Collaborating with families in supporting your student's post-secondary dreams and goals

Who Can Participate?

Current 7th (class of 2025) and 8th grade (class of 2024) at Dimmitt, McKnight and Nelsen Middle Schools 

  • Program continues to Lindbergh, Hazen and Renton High Schools as well as their first year of post-secondary education (ends September 2025) 
  • No defined time commitment – students can participate in any activity

Our Partners

Upcoming Events

We are asking that our families take a few minutes to complete our FInancial Aid Survey to help us better serve you and our students.

Meet the Staff


District Coordinator

GEAR UP District Coordinator
Kirsten Thornton
(425) 204-6275

Dimmitt Middle School

Dimmitt Middle School
GEAR UP Site Coordinator
Debbie Currie
(425) 204-2868

GEAR UP Teacher, Mentor & Instructional Specialist
Amanda Solis
(425) 204-2852

McKnight Middle School

McKnight Middle School
GEAR UP Site Coordinator
Hong-Yen Chau
(425) 204-6286

GEAR UP Teacher, Mentor & Instructional Specialist
Jessi Traughber
(425) 204-3729

Nelsen Middle School

Nelsen Middle School
GEAR UP Site Coordinator
Christina Park
(425) 204-2752

GEAR UP Teacher, Mentor & Instructional Specialist
Brian Holt
(425) 204-4056

GU Good News

Family Kick Off!

Dr. Pattenaude at Kick Off Event

GEAR UP Family Kick Off was a success! Over 30 families, close to 100 individuals, from Dimmitt, McKnight and Nelsen were in attendance. They had a chance to learn more about GEAR UP Achievers and meet the staff that will follow their students through high school graduation.  Families were also able to meet Admin staff and teachers from our RSD high schools as well as the GEAR UP Achievers staff at the University of Washington's Office of Minority Affairs & Diversity Department. Most importantly, families were able to learn about the exciting events coming up in our schools, including exciting field trips and college awareness weeks! 

GEAR UP Students


McKnight celebrates GEAR UP Week (Sept 23-27) by promoting college and career readiness. Students added their stars to our board in the library with their college and career of choice. We also gave them an opportunity to make purple ice cream during STEAM club (Tuesdays afterschool) and lunch on Wednesday.

GEAR UP Students

Discover U Week