OTTUMWA — Jennifer Rotole said she’s in for a treat as she takes on the GEAR UP advisor and coordinator position at Indian Hills Community College.
Rotole has been working for a few weeks. The program, she said, is similar to the one at Ottumwa High School. It’s designed to help first generation and low income college students be successful in any career path they choose. After working as an English instructor at the college for 13 years, she figured it was time for a change.
“My favorite part about teaching was staying after class and helping students figure out what they wanted,” Rotole said. “I loved helping them figure out their potential and future. Now I get to do that as the new GEAR UP coordinator. It’s not a stepping stone of my career, but their career.”
Jessica Chickering, director of student support services and GEAR UP project representative is also thrilled to have Rotole on board.
“It is great having Jennifer Rotole as an advisor,” Chickering said. “She fits in with the mission of helping Indian Hills be life changing and providing the kind of education and training needed for students.”
Rotole will help OHS graduating seniors in the GEAR UP program transition to college life. She will provide academic support, answer questions about financial aid, “be a listening ear,” and conduct workshops throughout the school year.
“I’m really excited to work one on one with students,” Rotole said, “and helping them plan their future to a four-year institution and helping them with anything they need whether that be financial aid, personal counseling or maybe help them have fun during their college years.”
The college also received a $71,500 Iowa College Aid GEAR UP Iowa Grant to continue services for all GEAR UP students attending Indian Hills from 2020-2021. Chickering said the grant guarantees the program will last a long time.
“Nine colleges were awarded this grant and it included three community colleges,” Chickering said. “We were one of three community colleges to receive this grant. It’s really special when you think about it. We’re really pleased to be a recipient of the grant and hire someone with good experience that will be invaluable to students.”
The grant helps provide a student success coach, a coach that provides full-time academic support and advising and monthly “success workshops” that focus on networking, financial literacy, interacting with professors, budgeting, and more.
It will also help fund the summer bridge program scheduled from July 27-30 and August 3-6. It’s a virtual program that will last for an hour for eight days. Students will get the chance to experience a college classroom environment, meet instructors, learn study skills, experience dorm life, complete a placement test, form an achievement plan and get to know other students.
Indian Hills will also award a $500 scholarship to any Ottumwa High School student in the GEAR UP program who chooses to enroll at the college. Eligible students may also qualify for the “Connect 2 College Scholarship,” which awards $1,000 to concurrent enrollment students who were involved in the GEAR UP program throughout high school.