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I Learned So Much: Student Perspective on BBF in Butler County

For GEAR UP Alabama students, the Black Belt Friday trip was extremely important. This trip gave students the ability to expand their mindset for college. It gave them the chance to learn valuable information that can be used in the future. This trip gave students the motivation to say and know that they can achieve their goals. The energy in the room was so warm and welcoming.

The mentors were kind, respectful, humble, and informative. They shared so much information with us such as maintaining great time management skills, finding out about your professors, choosing your professors, making new friends, furthering your education in your career of choice, and figuring out what path that you need to take to accomplish your goal. According to one student, her mentor advised her that she would have to make some sacrifices in order to accomplish her goals. She advised her that she will also have to know where to draw the line between having time to have fun, and making time to study. I saw that advice as being very useful in life.

My mentors name was Rohit Koratkar. I learned so much from him. He shared with me that he was from California, and that he transferred to UAB. He majored biochemistry. He told me how he enjoyed the experience of being a grad student at UAB and what the college life is like at UAB. I shared with him that after high school I would like to attend Lurleen B. Wallace Community College for teacher’s education.

I continued to tell him that after I attend Lurleen B. Wallace Community College for two years, I would like to transfer to UAB for child psychology. I further told him that I grew up working with and around kids. Working with kids and inspiring kids is something that I love to do. After we both shared our goals with each other, I asked more questions about UAB. I asked him about work study, which is basically when you work to pay off your tuition.

UAB admission requirements were also something that I was a little curious about since I do desire to be a UAB student one day. He then explained to me that the admission requirements would fall under my career of choice. So, I told him that I wanted to be a child psychologist and he explained to me that the admission requirements for me wanting to be a child psychologist may possibly fall under the colleges of Arts & Sciences. I then gained a better understanding of everything. He made it more clear for me.

Next, I asked him about time management while in college. He told me to build my schedule with time in mind. FAFSA was also something that I found myself wanting to know more about. FAFSA is money from the government to basically pay for college. I was told that you may apply for this your senior year in high school. We discussed loans and grants also. Grants are what you get from the government that you don’t have to pay back. I was told that it is better to get grants rather than loans.

In between our mentoring sessions, we had a delightful performance from the Greenville High School band, JROTC, and Georgiana School choir. Next, we were served very delicious refreshments by the Greenville High School culinary. I met so many new people that inspired me as well as motivated me to strive for the better and to always give my best no matter what. It gave me the encouragement to keep pushing forward. The Black Belt Friday Trip was truly a trip to remember that I most certainly enjoyed and will never forget.

By Tyneshia McQueen 
Greenville High School

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The Program I Will Never Forget: Student Perspective on BBF in Butler County

Black Belt Friday. What is that? Well, I had no idea what it was, but it turned it to be one of the best experiences I’ve had this semester so far! When I was given the chance to travel to the Butler County Board of Education Central Office with my classmates I jumped at the chance. I mean who wouldn't? It was a chance to get out of class and I heard I was going to be given free food. I mean, win win, right? Well, it turned out to be so much more than a chance to skip out on my science test. I met so many wonderful people and was given advice that I know is going to lead me in my bright future.

The emcees of the program were students from Georgiana School (Laflora Mixon) and Greenville High School (Keyshawn Sellers). The program began with the presentation of colors by Butler County’s JROTC Program. Everyone in the room stood and our voices became one as we repeated the Pledge of Allegiance. Afterwards, our superintendent, Dr. John Stryker, spoke to everyone in the room and thanked them from coming. You could really sense the passion he had for the students and staff of Butler County and GUA as he spoke to the audience. We then had the GUA Talent Showcase. Students from all three high schools of Butler County (Mckenzie, Georgiana, and Greenville) showed a variety of the wonderful talents they possessed. Bryce Croley, a student from Mckenzie High School, read the poem The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost. Next, students from Greenville’s Jazz Band program played a variety compositions, one being the well known piece Careless Whisper by George Michael. Lastly, three students from Georgiana (Mykel Cheatham, Ashanti Lewis, and Janiya Jones) sang a variety of gospel songs while the audience clapped along with the upbeat music. Ashanti encourage the crowd to “get lit for the lord.”

The fun did not stop there. Without missing a beat Dr. Tonya Perry introduced herself the room and led everyone into a chant. Dr. Perry started the chant, which went like “ G! I got your G! I got your G! E! I got your E! I got your E!” The chant continued until the words GEAR UP were spelled. Dr. Perry explained to the students of Butler County that she would always be there for them, and she would be there to help them gear up for their future.

After all of the fun, things became a bit more serious. We were introduced to our UAB Mentors. Unlike most groups, my group had two mentors instead of one. My mentors, Aprar Bilbeisi and Rhiannon, were two outstanding women who had a lot of knowledge to share. They shared stories about their lives and how they became UAB students. Whenever anyone had a question, whether it was about the FAFSA, ACT scores, or choosing the right college, they were always there with the answers to our questions.

Then came the really good part of the program. Food. Our lunch was catered by Butler County’s Culinary Program. They had a variety amazing food for everyone to enjoy. For those who wanted to try something new, they had a variety spinach wraps to enjoy. But for those who wanted to stick to the more traditional food, they had grilled hotdogs and hamburgers to enjoy also.

After eating lunch the program started to come to an end. Different leaders in our community shared the history of the Butler County School System. They told us about the history of our schools and how they became to be the way they are today. While telling the history of Georgiana’s School, Mr. Allen Whittle said something I will never forget. “ The day you lose fear, is the day you will fail. Always keep the fear of failure and you will always succeed.” I believe Mr. Allen is saying to always have a small amount of fear of failure in you, and to use that fear to drive you towards success.

In conclusion, Black Belt Friday is a day of learning and becoming prepared for the future. It is also a day of showing the world what the students of GUA has to offer, and showing GUA students what the world has to offer them.

 By Kiara Posey
Georgiana School

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One Eventful Day: Student Perspective on BBF in Butler County

GEAR UP Alabama sponsored a Black Belt Friday and my classmates and I were picked to attend. We got to meet so many new people and learn a good deal of interesting information. When we arrived in Greenville at the Central Office, we unloaded the bus. Most of us were anxious to get inside and start the day. We walked inside and were immediately greeted by people. They split us into several different groups.

As the program began, the JROTC cadets presented the colors for us. Then, the superintendent, Mr. John Strycker gave us an introduction. He told us that every one of us could have the opportunity to go to college and be successful. He also said that we could be successful without college. Our Emcee’s recognized the school Principals, Teachers, Site Facilitators, and Regional Coordinator.

Students from every school in the county performed in the GUA Talent Showcase. Bryce Croley from Mckenzie High School read The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost. The Greenville High Jazz band performed several songs for us. Mykel Cheatham from Georgiana High School played the keyboard and sang. All these students did a wonderful job. It showed how talented all of our students really are. Dr. Tonya Perry gave us a gigantic GEAR UP welcome. She taught us the Gear Up chant, which had all of us cheering and laughing. She also introduced us to our UAB mentors for the day.

My group had a UAB student named Sarah. We all introduced ourselves to her and immediately started talking. We talked about lots of things such as college and the classes we are taking. We played an intriguing game of college bingo. We had to mark every word we did not understand. Everyone in our group had no clue what the difference between loans and grants were but she explained the difference to us. She told us about her college and high school experiences and how she got into college and that our ACT scores are crucial to getting into college. I think we all learned a ton of new stuff.

The Culinary Program from Greenville High School catered our event for the day. The food was amazing. We had the choice between hamburgers and turkey wraps. Our sides included a delicious pasta salad, baked beans, and salad with your choice of dressing. We also had sugar cookies and brownies for dessert. After we ate, we had our closing remarks from several people. Mr. Brown, the Principal from Mckenzie School, said a few word to the students and gave a brief history of the school. In conclusion, I think I learned a great deal about college and about life. Overall, this has been a great experience.

By Tabitha Beasley
McKenzie High Schoola

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Ambassador Perspective: Maintaining Achievements

My new year’s resolution is to become or to achieve top three again in my class ranking. Due to my math class, I have recently fallen into the top five amongst my classmates. However, even though I am still high ranking, I continue to shoot to be better at a top three spot.

I am sure that I will get my spot back because of all of my dual enrollment classes, that give grades not yet added to my GPA. I am a very determined, athletic student. Everyone that knows me know that I am a go getter, if I want something I work hard to get it by any means. Graduating top three in my class and receiving homecoming and prom queen are my main goals in high school. I have what it takes to achieve all three.

In order to become top three in my class, I must stay focused and study over math more. I am also looking forward into getting into a dual enrollment class. I don’t really understand my new math class. To learn in my math class I must watch YouTube videos on the section we are going over. I play almost every sport here at my school, Pickens County High. Therefore many nights I get back home late from games; sometimes I am too tired to look over my work.

I have the personality to become homecoming queen along with many other aptitudes. I say that because I am very nice to everyone, most people like me or pretend they do, I have awesome grades, I’m very respectful to my peers and my teachers along with my parents. The students and staff know me very well. Prom queen at my school is based on her personality and how you dress. I am sure that I will receive prom queen as well. At my school, we have what you call a spring formal, It’s mainly for 7th-9th graders but 10th graders get to come as well. Every year a girl and a boy gets queen and king! My ninth grade year I won queen and my boy bestfriend won king. The younger grades get to vote and they voted us. That's one reason why I believe I'm very respected in my School.

Overall, reaching top three will be very challenging. I wish I could start over with my math courses, because I know that I could do better. I am a great leader, with strong moral values, and I am a people person.

By Lacey Latham 
GUA Ambassador 
Pickens County High School
Class of 2020

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Ambassador Perspective: Goals for 2019

One thing that I am excited about for 2019 is becoming a senior in August. I am excited about this because I have worked so hard to get to where I am. I have so many plans and goals for my last year in high school. I have so much to look for such as applying for colleges, scholarship opportunities, and much more. I feel as if 2019 is going to be a great year for me and I am all for it!

I have set three goals for 2019. My first goal is to get a 30 on the ACT. I already have a 24 so I would just have to boost it up by 6 points. To achieve this goal, I am going to study hard and possibly get a tutor for the math section which has always been the section in which I scored the lowest. Secondly, I plan to get accepted into at least five to ten colleges with the top three being colleges that I desire to attend. The three colleges that I want to attend are The University of Alabama at Birmingham, The University of Alabama, and Auburn University. I will achieve this goal by boosting my ACT score and doing more things in the community and other places so that my college applications would be full of great things that I could be proud to say that I accomplished. My last goal is to become valedictorian of the 2019-2020 senior class of Bullock County High School. This has always been a goal of mine. I had the honor of being valedictorian for my middle school class in 8th grade have always promised myself that I will keep it up and achieve the same goal in high school. I can achieve this goal by keeping my grades up  and for the remainder of my time here.

GEAR UP Alabama fits into these goals because the things that GEAR UP Alabama does ties into these goals that I have set. For instance, GUA is helping me because the writing prompts that the Ambassadors  have to do definitely come in handy with the writing section of the ACT and in my English class. I want to achieve these goals because I want to make it in life. I just don’t want to be a person who settles for less. I want to reach for the stars in everything that I do. If I have the ability to do something, I am going to do it. I will not let anyone detour me from doing the things that I want to do in life and things that I have the capability to do. My past has influenced the decisions that I am making for the future because everything that has happened in my past I use as motivation for whatever I am doing in the present and the future. My past all ties in to my future goals in life and what I desire to be.

By JaLiyah Robinson 
GUA Ambassador
Bullock County High School 

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