Students and families plan for college through local partnerships

MAPLE GROVE, MN (March 19, 2014)—Eighth graders at Fridley and Robbinsdale Middle Schools are in the second year of a seven-year college preparatory program that will follow them through high school and into their first year of college.  GEAR UP, which stands for Gaining Early Awareness & Readiness for Undergraduate Programs, is a grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Education to Hennepin Technical College, Brooklyn Park Campus, and partnering organizations which includes TopLine Federal Credit Union of Maple Grove.

The aim of the seven-year grant is to support student academic performance and assist with college preparation, enrollment and achievement, with the goal being to increase the number of students who are academically and financially prepared for post-secondary education.

TopLine has and will continue to help GEAR UP students and their families learn more about post-secondary education options, as well as preparation and financing. Recently, TopLine taught in-school sessions on finance basics to nearly seven hundred area middle school students, and led a series of workshops for more than 75 attendees at the Fridley Middle School Parent Resource Fair, College Now, College Later: It’s Never Too Early to Talk About College.

Students learned about the basics of personal finance, such as how to set goals, create a budget, balance a checkbook, the importance of saving and more.

The family resource fair event offered families an opportunity to learn from experts about preparatory programs, planning and funding for college.  TopLine Federal Credit Union hosted workshops on college financial planning, examining key topics including college costs, saving for college, goal setting and budgeting.

One of the many benefits for our students and families this partnership has yielded has been the Fridley Middle School Parent Resource Fair. We have received incredible feedback from attendees about the value or this experience for their family and a deep appreciation for the breadth of resources offered at this event, from community partners, to post-secondary partners as well as the family financial literacy resources and seminars offered by TopLine Federal Credit Union,” said Matthew Boucher, Principal Fridley Public Schools. “We are truly grateful for all of the collegiate, community and financial institution partners who make this event possible and incredibly valuable for the families of Fridley Public Schools.”

“It’s never too early to plan for a child’s college education,” said Tom Smith, President and CEO of TopLine Federal Credit Union. “The GEAR UP initiative helps to equip families for what lies ahead – planning for, preparing and financing post secondary education options. We are always willing to lend a hand to help prepare our next generation both academically and financially.”

These sessions will continue on a regular basis for the duration of the GEAR UP grant, and will cover basic financial skills, highlighting the benefits of long-term financial planning and promoting the opening and management of savings accounts.

A longstanding advocate of youth financial literacy, TopLine also offers a Get Smart with Your Money program for members and non-members, providing three age-specific classes at its Maple Grove location: Building Dreams for ages 5-8; Dollar Power for ages 9-13; and Dollars & Sense for ages 14-18. For more information on the next class sessions, visit

The Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) grant is a discretionary program designed to increase the number of students who are prepared to enter and succeed in post-secondary education. GEAR UP serves the entire eighth-grade student cohort at Fridley and Robbinsdale Middle Schools and will track and encourage that cohort through high school and into their first year of college. For more on the GEAR UP grant and other community and business partners visit

Topline Federal Credit Union, a Twin Cities-based credit union, is Minnesota’s 13th largest, with assets of more than $340 million. Established in 1935, the not-for-profit cooperative offers a complete line of financial services, as well as auto and home insurance, from its five locations — in Bloomington, Brooklyn Park, Maple Grove, Plymouth and in St. Paul’s Como Park — as well as by phone and online at Membership is available to anyone who lives, works, worships, attends school or volunteers in Anoka, Carver, Dakota, Hennepin, Ramsey, Scott or Washington Counties and their immediate family members.

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