(SPRINGFIELD, Ky.) – The Kentucky division of Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) has recently expanded its program in the Washington County School District. Previously, the grant program funded by the United States Department of Education, serving 29 middle schools and their corresponding high schools, has provided 30 laptops to Washington County High School this year and is piloting an online-based learning program that will help freshmen develop such skills as critical thinking, note taking, study skills, personal development, and goal setting, according to Mark Sherfey, one of three new advisors the program is also providing to WCHS, up from the number it previously offered. “This goal is to create a program within the school that is successful, sustainable and can be modeled by other schools in the state.”


Sherfey, who is entering his seventh year in education, earned his bachelor of arts in English and Allied Arts from Western Kentucky University and previously taught secondary English and Language Arts, will be serving WCHS this year as its 12th grade College and Career Advisor through the initiative. “GEAR UP gives me the ability to work with youth and assist them in reaching their post-secondary goals,” says Sherfey. “My goal for this school year is to assist WCHS in their continued effort to make all graduates college and career ready and help raise the FAFSA completion rate among seniors.”


Lindsay Shouse was also hired by GEAR UP to assist students at WCHS. She will serve as the 11th Grade College and Career Advisor. Shouse, who received an associate of arts at Elizabethtown Community and Technical College and a bachelor of arts in psychology and sociology, says that in her position, she will be guiding and educating students for any track they choose to follow after high school, including college, military or workforce. “I hope to reach all students to make sure that they are prepared for life after high school, especially those who may lack guidance at home,” says Shouse. “Not only will I be seeking out students for targeted advising, but I want students to know that I am here for them as resource for anyone who may need guidance.”


Former WCHS teacher Tom Bystrek is returning this year through the GEAR UP program as a College and Career Advisor for freshmen and sophomores. Bystrek received a bachelor of arts from Morehead State University and a Master of Arts from the University of Louisville.  He taught for 27 years at WCHS and also served as Director of Communications at Saint Catharine College for a number of years before returning to teaching. “I hope to see an increase in the percentage of Washington County students who attend college,” says Bystrek. “Realizing, of course, that all students are not interested in college, hopefully, from GEAR UP, those students who become familiar with other occupational choices can follow them to be productive citizens.”


WCHS principal Thad Elmore praised the program for its work in the school. “GEAR UP has worked cooperatively to provide the students of WCHS opportunities outside the regular school day,” says Elmore. “Their commitment in preparing students for college and/or a career is appreciated. I can’t thank them enough for the resources they have provided and experiences that will help prepare our students for life beyond high school.”