Representatives of regional science-, technology-, engineering- and math-related businesses are invited to a luncheon to learn more about how the University of Washington’s GEAR UP is preparing students for STEM careers.

The event, in celebration of National GEAR UP Week, takes place from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Friday at Yakima’s Red Lion Hotel. It’s hosted by the UW and Educational Service District 105’s STEM Network Committee.

GEAR UP — formally called Gaining Early Awareness and Education for Undergraduate Programs — is a college-access program that aims to prepare students in low-income and under-served areas for college through financial workshops, career fairs, campus visits, tutoring, mentoring and summer enrichment programs, as well as other activities for students and parents.

Thirteen rural school districts in the Yakima, Skagit and Klickitat valleys participate in the program, including East Valley, Goldendale, Grandview, Granger, Mt. Adams, Sunnyside, Toppenish, Wapato and Zillah. Programming runs on a seven-year, $27.72 million federal grant.

At Friday’s luncheon, Dave McFadden, president of New Vision, the Yakima County development association, will speak about the growing need for a strong STEM-based education and attracting new, higher-paying jobs to the community.

National GEAR UP Week aims to spotlight the impact that GEAR UP has on students, families, schools and communities since Congress authorized the program 13 years ago.

GEAR UP provides seven-year grants to states and partnerships to increase the number of low-income, minority and first generation students who are prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education.

Nearly 5,000 students will be served from middle school through high school graduation and into their first year of college through the program.

For more information, call the UW GEAR UP office at 509-833-2837. Or, follow UW GEAR UP on Twitter at @uwgearup.

-- Adriana Janovich