What is GEAR UP?

The Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) initiative is a college and career readiness program of the U.S. Department of Education for low-income students in communities nationwide. The GEAR UP program provides support activities such as tutoring, mentoring, academic preparation, financial literacy, and career education to improve access to higher education to GEAR UP students and their families. 

Who Does GEAR UP Serve?

GEAR UP is a highly competitive grant program that creates six-to-seven-year partnerships with K-12 schools, institutions of higher education, local and state education agencies, and community-based organizations. 

According to the National Council for the Community and Education Partnerships website, GEAR UP serves over 523,000 students enrolled in over 3, 208 secondary schools across 46 states. 


The Lafayette Program began in the fall of 2014 and served 6th and 7th grade students from 6 local middle schools. The GEAR UP grant utilizes the available funding to provide support and resources to these students through high school graduation and into their first year of college. 

Since those students are now all in high school, services are provided to those students in GEAR UP high schools including Acadiana High, Carencro High, Lafayette High, and Northside High.

Improving the Blank page


an NWP-a/gear up writing initiative

In his poem, “Young Poets,” Nicanor Parra speaks to young, creative minds and attempts to break down barriers often associated with poetry. Dr. Toby Daspit, Co-director of NWP-A, founded the Improving the Blank Page Youth Writing Program, back in 2006, with Parra’s words in mind. The program has since become the foundation of the NWP-A/GEAR UP Fellowship, as fellows and young writers are encouraged to “improve the blank page.”

young poets
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Poem By: Nicanor Parra

Link to Picture

NWP-A/GEAR UP Fellowship

For more than 30 years, the exemplary educators who make up the National Writing Project of Acadiana (NWP-A), formally known as the Acadiana Writing Project (AWP), have worked at every level of education to improve writing and literacy. They have made NWP-A an important resource for teachers and schools in our area as a model of professional development, teacher leadership and reform.

This fellowship is a unique opportunity for qualified educators. The program includes two weeks of professional development held on the campus of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. In addition to completing 2 weeks in the summer, NWP-A/GEAR UP Writing Fellows will also be expected to lead writing clubs in their schools and will complete follow-up professional development and assist with the coordination and execution of student showcases in the fall and spring.

Every year new teachers are recruited to become NWP-A/GEAR UP Fellows. These teachers work with students and other teachers at the respective schools to build creative cultures of expression on our GEAR UP school campuses.

Students are given an opportunity to come to a week-long intensive writing camp in the summer. Their work is published with the consent of a parent or guardian.

During the school year, writing clubs are formed to help students build on the work from the summer and continue to learn new strategies and concepts around written expression.

Improving the Blank page college and career readiness model:

readiness model

Improving the Blank Page Summer Writing Camp:

summer writing camp
Improving the Blank Page Logo.png
Improving the Blank Page Logo.png

Acadiana Center of the Arts

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Click the logo to visit their website!

Founded in 1975, the Acadiana Center for the Arts (“AcA”) is a community-supported regional arts council that fosters art and culture in South Louisiana. 


AcA aims to bring equitable access to the arts through intensive residency work in schools and supports fair compensation of artists. On average, AcA serves over 300,000 people annually and provides fair compensation to 2,700 artists.

AcA supports the creation of new works of art, exhibits, festivals, performances, and public art across an eight-parish region that includes Acadia, Evangeline, Iberia, Lafayette, St. Landry, St. Martin, St. Mary, and Vermilion Parishes. 

Festival of WOrds

Additionally, NWP-A has partnered with the Festival of Words Cultural Arts Collective (FOW) in order to give Blank Page writers opportunities to share their writing. Through FOW, students and teachers have been given opportunities to participate in Word Crawl (a 12-hour literary marathon), student writing contests, workshops with published authors, and community stage readings. 

Festival of Words LOGO.jpg

Click the logo to visit their website!

Annual Word Crawl


Virtual Open Mic

Once a month,  FOW will host a sharing of poetry, songs, and readings in an effort to bring people together during these difficult times.

If interested in being involved in next month's Virtual Open Mic, visit the FOW website linked below for more information.

The Word Crawl is an annual fundraiser for the Festival of Words. It takes place in Downtown Lafayette, the 2nd Saturday of September. Participants find sponsors and join the 12-hour word marathon from noon to midnight.  Creators of all ages share poems, stories, songs, drama and all other kinds of writings. 

2021"Pieces of Hope"

2021 Virtual Open Mic Series


Click the link below to be lead to videos of our most recent readings