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Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) is a discretionary grant program designed to increase the number of low-income students who are prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education.

"This grant will help build a solid foundation for our children and will set them up to succeed, by being better prepared for post-secondary education and to join the workforce."

Robert J. Bentley,  Alabama Governor

Gear Up News


  • Every Student, Every Day: A National Initiative to Address and Eliminate Chronic Absenteeism
  • The U.S. Department of Education (ED), Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, in collaboration with the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS), Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and Justice (DOJ), hosted the Every Student, Every Day National Conference: Eliminating Chronic Absenteeism by Implementing and Strengthening Cross-Sector Systems of Support for All Students on June 9th and 10th. This conference was a key deliverable of President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) Initiative and is designed to support state and local efforts to address and eliminate chronic absenteeism among our nation’s most vulnerable students, particularly those attending low-performing schools.

    Chronic absenteeism—or missing at least 10 percent of school days in a school year for any reason, excused or unexcused—is a primary cause of low academic achievement and a powerful predictor of those students who may eventually drop out of school. An estimated five to seven and a half million students miss 18 or more days of school each year, or nearly an entire month or more of school, which puts them at significant risk of falling behind academically and failing to graduate from high school. Because they miss so much school, millions of young people miss out on opportunities in post-secondary education and good careers.

    Chronic absenteeism is also an equity issue, and it is particularly prevalent among students who are low-income, students of color, students with disabilities, students who are highly mobile, and/or juvenile justice-involved youth—in other words, those who already tend to face significant challenges and for whom school is particularly beneficial. Moreover, chronic absenteeism is often confused with truancy, which can lead to disproportionate suspensions and expulsions from school and inappropriate referrals of students and families to law enforcement.

    In response and in support of the President's My Brother's Keeper Initiative (MBK), the U.S. Departments of Education (ED), Health and Human Services (HHS), Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and Justice (DOJ) are launching Every Student, Every Day: A National Initiative to Address and Eliminate Chronic Absenteeism to support coordinated community action that addresses the underlying causes of local chronic absenteeism affecting millions of children in our Nation's public schools each year. We believe that when a diverse coalition of local stakeholders work together to engage and support students who are chronically absent, youth and family outcomes of entire communities can be dramatically improved. In short, we believe chronic absenteeism in communities is a solvable problem.

    MBK Success Mentors & Student Supports Initiative

    As a part of the President's My Brother's Keeper initiative, the Department and the MBK Task Force have launched MBK Success Mentors the nation's first-ever effort to scale an evidence-based mentor model to reach and support our highest-risk students, using existing trained adults already, or easily, linked to our schools to reduce chronic absenteeism and drive student success. Initially, the model will target the key transition years, sixth and ninth grades, across 30 high-needs school districts, with the goal of eliminating chronic absenteeism in these grades. The model aims to reach 1 million students over the next 3-5 years. June 8th is the White House MBK Success Mentor & Student Supports Summit — where communities from around the nation will convene to mobilize an army of success mentors to drive school success.

    The Department has also launched a first-of-its-kind public awareness campaign with the Ad Council to inform and empower parents by providing information, resources, and support regarding the importance of being in school, every day.

    Together, these efforts will help to build a community of problem-solvers and supporters who are working to help all of our students succeed, stay in school, graduate from high school, and go on to fulfill their potential.

    Every Student, Every Day Resources

    ED, HHS, HUD, and DOJ, as part of the Every Student, Every Day initiative, are pleased to release the following resources:

    • Dear Colleague Letter to States, School Districts and Community on the need to reduce chronic absenteeism by at least 10% each year.
    • Every Student, Every Day: A Community Toolkit to Address and Eliminate Chronic Absenteeism. This Toolkit offers information, suggested action steps, and lists of existing tools and resources—including evidence-based resources—for individuals, leaders, and systems to begin or enhance the work of effective, coordinated community action to address and eliminate chronic absenteeism, including actions steps for:
      • Youth
      • Parents and Families
      • Mentors and Volunteers
      • School District Superintendents and Staff, and School Personnel
      • Early Learning Providers
      • Health Care, Public Health & Human Service Agencies & Providers
      • Public Housing Authorities
      • Juvenile Justice and Law Enforcement
      • Homeless Services Providers
      • Mayors and Local Government
      • Community, Faith-Based, and Philanthropic Organizations
    • White House Fact Sheet that includes additional details on Every Student, Every Day, including information on upcoming activities, technical assistance, and events.
    • Every Student, Every Day: A Virtual Summit on Addressing and Eliminating Chronic Absence. The U.S. Department of Education, Attendance Works, Everybody Graduates Center and United Way Worldwide invite you to attend Every Student, Every Day: A Virtual Summit on Addressing and Eliminating Chronic Absence on Nov. 12. This online summit will outline key steps that states, districts and communities can take to improve student achievement by monitoring and reducing chronic absence. Featuring two of the nation's premiere experts on absenteeism: Johns Hopkins researcher Bob Balfanz and Attendance Works Director Hedy Chang, this virtual summit will:
      • Explain the importance of looking beyond average daily attendance rates to identify students who are missing so much school that they are falling behind academically.
      • Share strategies that work for improving attendance and achievement, including positive messaging, family outreach, student incentives and mentoring programs.
      • Highlight the importance of engaging community partners, such as, health providers and criminal justice agencies.

    Balfanz and Chang will also introduce school district leaders who are using these strategies to improve attendance and achievement. The summit is hosted by the United Way Worldwide. Please join us. Register today.

    Click here for the link to A Community Toolkit to Address and Eliminate Chronic Absenteeism. This toolkit is provided by the U.S. Departments of Justice, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development and Education.

  • Lessons that pay dividends for life
  • Last summer, UAB student Brandon Pickett worked as a lead counselor in a camp where the kids learned survival skills—the kind involving dollars and cents. During the four-day Money Math Camp, he and other counselors taught 45 middle-schoolers from low-income and minority school districts about money management and the impact of career choices on future lifestyles.
    “As a kid, I was never taught the importance of saving and investing and other financial tools needed for success,” says Pickett, who is pursuing a master’s degree in business administration. The camp, he says, offers an opportunity to guide and mentor the next generation so that it can capitalize on that invaluable knowledge throughout their lives.
    The Money Math Camp is one facet of the Regions Institute for Financial Education at UAB, a bold and broad effort to help people successfully manage their personal finances by learning the skills and knowledge essential to that task. Regions Bank provided a gift to the UAB Collat School of Business to create and support the institute. Now the two are partnering to organize programs for K-12 students as well as UAB students, employees, and the Birmingham community.
    A financial education center is an important resource for a growing community, says Stephanie Yates, Ph.D., institute director and UAB associate professor of finance. “Here, families and individuals can get answers in one place from credible sources,” she explains.

    Building Piggy Banks

    The institute dispenses useful, practical information tailored to each stage of life. Grade-school children love learning the basics of money through hands-on activities, Yates says. “They get to handle money, build piggy banks, and do some role-playing involving money decisions,” she notes. “College students want to know about credit, debt, and investing. Adults want to know how to send their kids to college and prepare for retirement.”
    In the classroom, the institute and Regions focus on college and career readiness. They have partnered with Birmingham City Schools to provide financial education to approximately 3,500 students over seven years through the Pathways to Success program. Working with GEAR UP Alabama and GEAR UP Birmingham, they will reach approximately 9,500 students throughout the city and Alabama’s Black Belt over seven years through programs such as the Money Math Camp. Even teachers can take part through sessions designed to help them better explain financial topics to high-school students.
    On campus, UAB students, athletes, faculty, and staff can participate in Financial Education Boot Camps, one- to two-hour workshops on topics such as paying for college, budgeting, and basic investing. Future courses will help students understand financial topics relevant to their majors.
    The public has explored saving and budgeting at sessions hosted by the institute at the Birmingham Public Library. “We are trying to reach as many people as possible to provide them with the knowledge they need in order to be financially successful,” says Jackie Russell, J.D., instructor in the UAB Department of Accounting and Finance.
    Organizers envision the center becoming a nationally known personal finance resource, with research to evaluate the immediate and long-term outcomes of its programs, Yates says. Currently, Yates is studying gender differences in financial education delivery, based on research conducted during last summer’s Money Math Camp. Her findings will help to shape the design and implementation of future financial education programs.

    Immediate Impact

    For Collat School of Business faculty, the opportunity to share financial expertise with the community represents a chance to make an immediate impact. “There are a lot of people who manage their finances based on what they heard from somewhere or what someone told them, and the institute provides a venue to help clear up some of those misunderstandings,” Russell says. “I want to teach people the power of the money that they already have. Everyone wants more money, but for most, there is a process to get there. So you have to learn to manage a budget, manage your credit, understand the impact of student loans, understand why you would invest in your 20s, and so forth.”
    The institute “shows the importance of the community working together to produce responsible future members of society,” adds Elizabeth Turnbull, a UAB business instructor who teaches financial lessons to K-8 students. “Hopefully, by starting with the younger members of the community, we can help them practice good money management, and they will teach others to do so as well. Students will see how important this topic is in their lives, both now and in the future.”
  • Spring 2016 Newsletter
  • Download the Sprint 2016 Gear Up Alabama newsletter. In this issue read about GUA Leadership, Parent Scholars, Family Wellness, Regional Spotlights, Vendor News, Congratulations, GUA Gives Back, & plenty of great ideas!

    Newsletter Archives

“On behalf of the Alabama Community College System, I would like to congratulate you and the University of Alabama at Birmingham on being a recipient of the 2014 Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness of Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) grant”

Dr. Mark Heinrich,  Chancellor, Alabama Community College System

Read Dr. Heinrich's Full Letter

Regional Coordinators


LaNora Reddix Emziah
- Region 1 Coordinator -
Dr. Claudia J. Williams
- Region 2 Coordinator -
Dr. Prentiss Coleman
- Region 2 Coordinator -
Elanie Munn
- Region 3 Coordinator -
Valerie Crawford
- Region 4 Coordinator -
Dr. Samantha Elliott Briggs
- Region 5 Coordinator -

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