For six years now, Webster County High School students have had the opportunity to take part in the GEAR UP program, which is designed to encourage students from rural and disadvantaged areas of the country to not just complete high school, but head to college after.
As part of the process, teachers help families learn how to make that happen, something there's plenty of questions about.
"FAFSA, how do you fill out a FAFSA, how do you get financial aid, how do you even apply for a college? They do a lot of ACT prep with our students, provide professional development for our teachers, and also do after-school tutoring for our kids," said WCHS Principal Stacey Cutlip.
While the students can take a lot from the academic programs, they've helped the entire school in other ways. Technology given to the school as part of the GEAR UP program has been put to good use for the entire school.
Cutlip said that's another aspect of the program that's been important for Webster County.
"Our students need to know how to operate with technology. Everything is based on technology, and so the funding through GEAR UP has provided Webster County High School with technology that we would have otherwise not been able to have had and provided for our students," Cutlip said.
But this year is the last year on the current grant, and staff members are hoping they'll be able to renew the grant and keep those benefits coming. Teacher Mary Ross works regularly with the GEAR UP students, and says she has no doubt that it's working for most of her kids.
"They all not only plan to graduate, they plan to go on to either college, or one's going to the military, ones going into hair, to some other training, every one of them plans an additional training," said Ross.
Both Ross and Cutlip said they talk to many parents in Webster County who want their kids to be the first generation to continue past high school, and GEAR UP answers many of their questions on how to make it happen.
As part of the program, GEAR UP students at WCHS have been able to visit almost every college in the state.