Seventh and eighth grade students at South Highlands Middle School will have extra help preparing for college and career training programs, thanks to a new “Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs” (GEAR UP) initiative. The GEAR UP program focuses on helping students pursue education and training beyond high school, including trade certificate programs, two-year degree programs and four-year degree programs.

Students in this year’s seventh and eighth grade classes will have the opportunity to participate in the program now through either they graduate or their first year of college or postsecondary study. The GEAR UP Alabama program is coordinated by the University of Alabama at Birmingham and funded by the U.S. Department of Education. Over the next seven years, 50 Alabama schools will participate in the effort.

“The GEAR UP program has been recognized nationally as one of the most promising pathways to increasing the number of students who are prepared to enter and achieve success in their education and training beyond high school,” Governor Robert Bentley said. “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.”

GEAR UP will offer students the chance to participate in free college tours, academic workshops, tutoring, leadership development classes, career development activities, mentoring, financial aid workshops and college preparation summer academies. GEAR UP also will offer college-planning and financial literacy workshops for parents, and provide training programs for teachers.

“Alabama’s educators work hard each day to prepare students for lifelong success,” State Superintendent Tommy Bice said. “The focus is to ensure that our students are both college-and-career-ready, and fully engaged in the learning process. GEAR UP provides us with another outstanding resource to help achieve these goals. We are proud to be a part of this new statewide partnership to further student academic achievement.”

To kick off the program South Highlands Middle School will host a “Welcome to GEAR UP” in August. Students, parents and family members are encouraged to attend the kick off program to learn more about GEAR UP and college planning. Details of the kickoff event will be announced later.

This marks the first time Alabama has received a State GEAR UP grant from the U.S. Department of Education. To learn more about GEAR UP Alabama and view a list of participating middle schools, visit

Source: Union Springs Herald