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2nd Annual Future Proof Conference

On Saturday, September 29th, we hosted our Second Annual Future Proof Conference featuring Let Us Make Man. We welcomed nearly 500 10th and 11th grade students to UAB from the Black Belt, along with their parents, grandparents, teachers, guidance counselors, principals, and superintendents! It was an amazing day and we are so thankful to everyone who played a part in pulling it off.

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We’re specifically thankful to our presenters from Let Us Make Man. These men continue to show up to encourage, mentor, and connect with our students again and again. During this conference, the Let Us Make Man team put on a number of workshops for our students and the adults, all of which were a huge success!


On Saturday, our attendees headed to the workshops after a quick welcome and introduction to each of our speakers. They were divided into groups and sent to one of four workshops offered by members of the Let Us Make Man Team. The workshops were: "In My Feelings" Mental Health Workshop taught by Christopher Bass, PhD, "Restoring the Family" taught by Gerry White, PhD, "Awakening the Genius in our Youth" taught by Keene Walker, and "Mind Your Business: The Fundamentals of Entrepreneurship" by Eldridge Washington. Each of our attendees was able to participate in two of these workshops, one before lunch and one afterwards.

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During the lunch hour, we separate the male and female students and sent them into our Chat and Chew workshops while the adults were sent into their own Chat and Chew session. The girls’ sessions were a youth self Esteem & self love entitled, "I Said What I Said” presented by Imani White, MPH, a criminal justice session entitled, "Examining Potholes of Being a Ride or Die Chick" presented by Celeste White, PhD, and a session on success entitled, "Are You Lit? Learning to Let Your Light Shine & Accomplish Your Goals" presented by Rosalind Gregory-Bass, MD. These sessions proved to be a great encouragement to our GUA ladies as they learned from Ms. White, Dr. White, and Dr. Bass.

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The boys Chat and Chew workshops included a session focused on critiquing our culture entitled, "Drugs & Hip Hop: Is it Shaping our Identity, Purpose and Direction?" taught by Keene Walker and Doug Evans, a session on youth leadership titled "M.A.D.E. Life: Why Good Leaders Live Good Lives" presented Eldridge Washington and Fred Parham, and a session on manhood development entitled, "Examining the Manhood Brand" presented by Dr. Christopher Bass and Jarrod Grant. The guys were both challenged and encouraged by these presentations, and were definitely left with new things to think about and ways they can grow as leaders.


While the students were in their chat and chew sessions, the adults were in a session taught by

Dr. Gerry White, LMSW, entitled, "Parent Involvement -- A Paradigm Shift". This session focused on the way that parent involvement can improve the lives of both students and parents. We hope that what Dr. White taught can be passed on from the attending adults to the ones unable to join us, and that his lessons are reflected in GUA parent participation!

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We are so proud of how the day turned out, and we can’t wait to bring everyone together for our next conference. GEAR UP Alabama exists to equip and grow our students as both students and thinkers, and we hope our conferences act as a place for them to grow as both!


Thank you to everyone who played a role in the day. We are so grateful to our presenters: Dr. Gerry White, Dr. Celeste White, Dr. Christopher Bass, Dr. Rosalind Bass, Mr. Eldridge Washington, Mr. Fred Parham, Mr. Keene Walker, Mr. Doug Evans, Ms. Imani White, Mr. Jarrod Grant and Mr. Eric Morgan.


This day ran smoothly thanks to our awesome volunteers: Dr. Michele Jean Sims, Dr. Calvin Briggs, Dr. Larrell Wilkinson, Micah Briggs, Elijah Briggs, John Jeremiah White, Christopher Bass, Jr., Rhiannon Hurst, Regina Bedgood, and the wonderful B-Women: Kyrstin Stanley, Courtney McMillan, Shakonzie Alexander, Chasity Bumpers, Noel Sanders, Alexia Hillman, Kirsten Holliman, Essence King, Tyler Mantosh, Mikaela Munoz, Asia Daniels, and Dominque Nash. Thanks to Alabama Possible and College Admissions Made Possible!

The Hill Student Center was the perfect venue and the staff was beyond helpful leading up to, and throughout the day! Sodexo provided a great breakfast, and Panera, a filling lunch!

Special thanks to the families and administrators for allowing our students the opportunity to participate in this day, and to all the GUA staffers and chaperones that welcomed the students from: Robert C. Hatch, Francis Marion, Selma, Greene County, Pickens County, Aliceville, Gordo, Brewbaker Tech, Lee, Lanier, Jeff Davis, Park Crossings, Carver, BTW Magnet, Pike County, Goshen, Hale County, Greensboro, Wilcox Central, The Calhoun, Central-Lowndes, BTW, Notasulga, and Bullock County.

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Black Belt Friday at Pickens County High School

On September 21, we took our first Black Belt Friday trip to visit our students at Pickens County High School (PCHS). 

Our team, comprised of our GUA central office staff, UAB students, and UAB faculty and staff, including the new Dead of the School of Education, Dr. Autumn T Cyprès, left UAB early that Friday morning in route to Pickens County.

Once arriving at PCHS, we were greeted by the amazing group of GEAR UP Alabama 11th grade students. We were treated to a talent show put on and emceed by the students. We got to hear from a choir, experience the piano talents of one student, hear the drumline, and watch the cheerleaders do their thing. It was the perfect way to start our day!

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After the talent show, we heard from Dr. Tonya Perry, our Principal Investigator, and Dr. Samantha Briggs, our Project Director, Dr. Cyprès, and two members of Let Us Make Man, Jarrod Grant and Doug Evans, as they encouraged our students before our mentoring sessions. Each of these speakers had a different and special message for our students. For the mentoring sessions, we were able to pair each PCHS student with a UAB volunteer as they did grade reflection activities and worked together to set practical goals for the school year. As the students headed to class at the end of our mentoring sessions, we were taken on a tour of the school by the PCHS Team Leader, Ms. Beth Hickman.

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We spent the second half of our day at the Pickens County Career Center. This center is where a number of our students spend their days, as it is a place where they’re able to attend a number of different classes to assist them in their career journey. It was at the Career Center that we were treated to a great lunch provided by West Alabama Bank. We also had the chance to hear stories from a number of GUA students about how GUA has impacted their lives. There was hardly a dry eye in the room as we heard students talk about the opportunities afforded to them, and the dreams they’ve been able to build, because of GEAR UP Alabama. This time, in addition to the whole day, serves as a great reminder of why we do the work that we do. 

To end our day in Pickens County, the students gave us a tour of the career center. We got to see the different kinds of work and skills they learn while there, and we were more than impressed. It was a great end to a great day, and a great kick off to our 2018-2019 Black Belt Friday trips. We can’t wait to see what the other trips will hold!

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Junior League of Montgomery 32nd Annual College & Career Night

The Junior League of Montgomery hosted the 32st annual College and Career Night on September 17th at the Renaissance Hotel and Convention Center.  Approximately 5,000 students and parents attended this event from various counties all over Central Alabama. College and Career Night is a unique opportunity for high school students and their parents in the River Region to explore college and career possibilities, gather scholarship information, and learn about financial aid opportunities. Representatives from over 105 colleges, universities, technical, military and vocational schools from across the country were available to meet with students and parents to answer questions and distribute information. Students in attendance registered for an opportunity to enter to win a $500 scholarship from the Central Alabama Community Foundation. The Junior League of Montgomery gave away a $500 scholarship, the winner is Jared Jones, a Gear Up student at Park Crossing.

JaredJonesPictured is Jared Jones, 11th grade GUA student from Park Crossing High School.
With Jared, from left to right, is Alesia Ruffin, MPS IMPACT teacher and Junior League Mongomery Member,
Dorris Lee, Site Facilitator PCHS, Dr. Ivey, Principal of Park Crossing,
and Jennifer Rogers, Site Facilitator at PCHS

 Gear Up was fortunate to be a part of this event as an outreach to our Montgomery school parents. Gear Up was represented by Site Facilitators, Team Leaders and teachers from every school in Region 2.  Several schools promoted this free event by sending home flyers, using social media and the call out system with their school. Students and parents were able to speak with Gear Up representatives and ask questions about the Gear Up program. It also gave Gear Up an opportunity to promote upcoming test prep, recap camp experiences with parents and network with Colleges and Universities in our area.

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Parents were also able to take advantage of 2 free Financial Aid Seminars provided by the Junior League of Montgomery. This session topics were:” How to apply for Financial Aid” and” Who is Eligible” and additional recourses to acquire information. For several families with possible first generation college students this resource is invaluable and provides educational opportunities for both parents and students. 

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Submitted by Jennifer Rogers, Site Facilitator Park Crossing High School

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Goshen High School's GUA Night & Open House

Goshen High School recently held a GEAR UP Alabama night to recognize and develop awareness of September as School Attendance Month. Jacqueline Stennis, Ph.D., GUA Family Coordinator, presented a student involved and engaged presentation entitled “Student Success: It Starts with Attendance”. During this presentation, Dr. Stennis emphasized the importance of students having perfect attendance in school to be successful in life.

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After presenting to the 11th grade GUA students at Goshen High School, Dr. Stennis traveled to Brundidge, AL and presented to the Pike County High School 10th and 11th grade GUA students. She ended her day in Pike County Schools by returning to Goshen High School’s Open House/GEAR UP Night. During that event, she spoke to GUA parents from both schools and discussed the following topics and then answered all questions proposed by parents:

  • 10 Facts About School Attendance
  • Opportunities Provided for You and Your Child Through GEAR UP Alabama
  • GUA UAB Dual Enrollment
  • The Alabama Community College System GEAR UP College Tuition Waiver

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Fall 2018 Updates from Jefferson David High School

August 29, 2018

The administrators, teachers, students, and parents, are excited to return to home of the Volunteers, Jefferson Davis High School (JDHS) located in Montgomery, Alabama. Over the next nine months, we have planned educational yet entertaining programs designed to motivate students to improve their test scores. Administrators and teachers are promoting a spirit of respect, punctuality, discipline, academic achievement, state testing, Eprep ACT testing, short and long term career goals for students. Site Facilitators, Telma O’Neal and Larry Turner, are collaborating with the administrators, teachers, counselors, community leaders and the Parents Teachers, Students Association (PTSA) to accomplish the principal’s academic goals and GEAR UP Alabama core values. In addition, Team Leader, Anteidra Martin is working with O’Neal and Turner to establish an external GEAR UP Alabama (GUA) Community Group consisting of teachers, parents, civic organizations and community leaders. Site Facilitators are coordinating with Activities Director, Aliki Brooks, and 10th Grade English Instructor, Darnita Mincey for social media support of JDHS and GEAR UP Alabama (GUA) events during the school year.

On July 25, 2018 and July 26, 2018 respectively, we conducted the 10th Grade Class Orientation and 11th Grade Class Orientation to students and their parents. Site Facilitators conducted a briefing on the purpose, goals, and objectives of GUA. We highlighted Kaplan Monday, Summer Camps, Summer Youth and Employment Opportunities scheduled during the school year. Site Facilitators discussed state testing and Eprep ACT testing for the 10th and 11th grade classes along with requirements for dual enrollment. Site Facilitators and the Team Leader are collaborating with both 10th Grade Assistant Principal, Takecia Barlow, and   11th Grade Assistant Principal, Walter James, to execute the principal’s academic goals and GUA core values.

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On Tuesday, August 14, 2018, Principal Bobby E. Abrams, Jr., conducted the “Man Laws” and “Law of the Ladies” briefing to students in the school’s gymnasium. Subsequently, Turner and O’Neal conducted a presentation on the following subjects: College and Career Night scheduled for Monday, September 17, 2018 at the Renaissance Hotel, Montgomery, Alabama; GUA National Kickoff Week scheduled Monday, September 23, 2018 through Saturday, September 29, 2018; and the Let Us Make Man Conference scheduled at the University of Alabama on Saturday, September 29, 2018. We provided an overview of the GEAR UP Alabama (GUA) objectives, Kaplan Monday, Summer Camps, Summer Youth Employment Opportunities, JDHS and GUA annual calendar of events for the school year. In closing, we discussed the state testing and the Eprep testing for the 10th grade and 11th grade classes to include the requirements for dual enrollment.

On Saturday, August 18, 2018, Accountability Interventionist, Shenitra Dees, Coach Larry L. Knight, and site facilitators conducted a Mathematics and Science Cross-Curricular Professional Development Workshop. There were eight 10th Grade and 11th Grade Mathematics and Science Instructors in attendance from Jefferson Davis High School. We strongly recommended  the usage of the Kaplan Foundation and Kaplan Advantage books. Teachers were instructed to provide the site facilitators with a student sign-in roster for the utilization of the Kaplan Books. They were reminded of Kaplan Monday.

In collaboration with 10th Grade History Instructor Rico B. Cox, the following activities, events, field trips and rigorous academic developments have been scheduled:

School Wide Voter Registration for Seniors on September 5, 2018; Community Outreach with Salvation Army on September 15, 2018; City Council Meeting on September 18, 2018; Field Trip to Birmingham Civil Rights Museum and 16th Street Baptist Church on September 28, 2018; ACT Prep with Montgomery Sheriff Department on October 2, 2018; Montgomery County Commission Meeting on October 15, 2018; Mock Election for (9th and 10th grade classes) on October 23, 2018; Mock Election for (11th and 12th grade classes) on October 24, 2018; Volunteer at a Nursing Home on October 30, 2018; Alabama State Connection Day on November 3, 2018; Youth Judicial Competition (Mock Trial) from November 3, 2018 through November 5, 2018; Montgomery City Council Meeting on November 20, 2018; Field trip to Washington D.C. from March 15, 2019 through March 19, 2019; Field trip to Atlanta, Georgia on March 29, 2019; and Field trip to Law Society in Montgomery, Alabama on May 3, 2019.

In keeping in line with the leadership philosophy of “High Touch and Future Proof” Site Facilitators, O’Neal and Turner will continue to brief, motivate and encourage 10th grade and 11th grade students at JDHS to achieve the principal’s academic goals and GEAR UP Alabama core values.

Submitted by:

Telma O’Neal & Larry D. Turner

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