A seven-year, $49 million project is aimed at some of Alabama's poorest counties in an effort to raise the high school graduation rate and get more students in college. Governor Robert Bentley says that "Gear Up Alabama" is critical to changing the mostly rural counties across central Alabama that traditionally have more poverty than the rest of the state.

The University of Alabama at Birmingham is leading the project, which will involve nearly 9,200 students in 18 school systems. The U.S. Department of Education will put up $3.5 million a year and that will be matched by the state and UAB's project partners, including the state Department of Education, Alabama State University, Auburn University, the University of Alabama, the University of Montevallo and the Black Belt Community Foundation.

Source: ABC 33/40