Darlene Smith, owner of Holcomb Raspberry Farm in Menlo, is one of the recipients of this year's Washington GEAR UP Champion Awards.
Smith was nominated by other Willapa Valley School staff as being outstanding in her commitment to creating a fun and educational environment that prepared students for higher education while also improving their leadership skills. Smith has spent countless hours volunteering at Willapa Valley middle and high school, and her commitment to students' academic achievement has not gone unnoticed.
GEAR UP stands for Gaining Early Awareness & Readiness for Undergraduate Programs. It is a federal grant that serves 33 schools across the state of Washington in grades 7-12 and prepares them academically, socially, and financially for post-secondary education through a multitude of career and college-related activities and curriculum. Along with Smith's award, she is given the opportunity to attend an all-expenses paid trip to the GEAR UP National Conference in San Francisco this summer.