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June 14, 2017 05:07 PM

Students Participating In GEAR UP Summer Honors Program At BHSU

Spearfish, SD

Students from across KELOLAND are at Black Hills State University attending the GEAR UP Summer Honors Program. 

This comes as three people, Stephanie Hubers, Stacey Phelps and Dan Guericke, are facing trial for their roles in allegedly mishandling millions of dollars earmarked for the program dating back to 2009.

About 70 students will taking part in the three week GEAR UP Summer Honors Program this year. The goal is to help Native American students prepare for college.

"We want to get as many high school students onto post-secondary and have them be successful once they're there," SD GEAR UP Coordinator of Summer Programs Murray Lee said.

Following the scandal surrounding the program in South Dakota, organizers changed the structure of the program to add more oversight. 

"Each of our Board of Regents universities, five of the Board of Regents universities, have regional coordinators that go out and work in our partner schools on a weekly basis," Project Manager for SD GEAR UP BHSU Peg Diekhoff said.

Along with having a regional coordinator at the partner schools, GEAR UP has also added an on-site coordinator for each school.

"That school-based coordinator focuses on the academic school year task, outlined by our GEAR UP program," Diekhoff said.

Record keeping is also being given added emphasis in the GEAR UP program with improved documentation. This comes after investigators believe
Scott and Nicole Westerhuis moved millions earmarked for GEAR UP away from the program.

"Every document that we have, our school match and our activities, we're careful to document each of those activities so when it's time to do the annual progress report, we have all those documents and we track them throughout the year," Diekhoff said.

That helps these students get the best experience possible while they're here.

"I like it here; I came here last year too and it's really nice to see that I can actually do something like that," student Angel Peace said.

The GEAR UP Summer Honors Program goes until June 30, with a closing ceremony on that day.

Trial dates for the three charged with wrongdoing in the GEAR UP grant program have not been set.

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