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!