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UAB MiniCamp 2019: Student Perspectives

In May, we welcomed over 400 GEAR UP Alabama students to UAB's campus for our second year of UAB MiniCamps. MiniCamps are designed to simulate a "day in the life" of a UAB student. Rather than have us tell you about their time here, we decieded to use words directly from our students. Here's what some of them had to say: 

When asked, "What has been the most memorable part of UAB MiniCamp for you? Why?" these students said: 

Tiana Taylor, Sweet Water High School

The most memorable part of this UAB MiniCamp was being in a dorm and being in a hands-on class. This UAB minicamp gave me a very real experience on what college life is like. It was amazing to see how big this school really is and what all is here. I loved hearing the UAB students speak on their behalf on their experiences here, hardships, disadvantages and advantages at UAB. It taught me to get out of your shell and be outgoing.

Chemyn'a Rice, Greene County High School

The UAB MiniCamp has been very interesting for the past day and a half. I have experienced living in a dorm room, eating from UAB's café, getting to know administration/faculty members at UAB and walked the campus. My most favorite moment here at this MiniCamp was seeing the varieties of Greeks do a mini stroll of their strolls. Honestly, I didn't plan on attending UAB, but after experiencing this, I now have UAB as one of the choices of schools to attend!

Tanyia Hill, Carver High School

The most memorable part of minicamp for me was seeing the RAD session where I learned self defense techniques. Also, I enjoyed breaking into small groups and asking questions to the volunteers. I asked questions about their dual enrollment experience, time management tips, and their relationships with students. If I could say one thing to UAB or Gear Up Alabama administrators about this experience I would tell them thank you, because they are blessing me with the gift of knowledge.

Keitajah Thompson, Greene County High School

The most memorable part of MiniCamp for me was meeting  up with different schools I didn't know. This experience was very important for me because I love going around talking to different people. A lot of people call me friendly, but I really just like getting to know people and who they are. I would love to come back to this camp and do the fun things we did as in play kickball, have a defensive class and watch the great step shows! I really enjoyed my two days here and hope to come again!

Chrishae Davis, Sidney Lanier High School

The most memorable part of the Minicamp for me was when I got to hear about people's college experience and their fears when they first started college. Now I know how it feels to be a college student and how it feels to be in college classes. I am thankful that I got to experience this MiniCamp at UAB.

Jamee Peurll, Carver Senior High School

The most memorable part of this mini-camp was watching the first generation students talk about their different paths. In my opinion, to show vulnerability and expose yourself to 200 kids that you don't know and will probably never see again says a lot about their character. But in layman's terms it just means that they genuinely care about a "stranger's" future. I am very thankful for that, and may God bless you. I pray that you all graduate.

Socoyia Adams, Amelia L. Johnson High School

The most memorable part of the MiniCamp was the day in the park seeing all kids playing along enjoying themselves because I see that everyone enjoyed kickball, tug-of-war, spike ball, etc. Also, I would like to thank UAB, staff and counselors for everything, including the inspiration. To the UAB students, thank you for sharing your life stories and majors with us. It encourages us to think more about college and to get ready for college they had to become strong students to keep pushing and enjoying life.

Kayla Downey, Sweet Water High School

This MiniCamp has been very interesting to me. I have always been interested in the University of Alabama at Birmingham. This camp has allowed me to see more inside UAB. I am a very shy person when it comes to meeting new people and this has allowed me to come out of my shell and want to interact with others. I am a granddaughter and daughter of two wonderful ladies who are nurses so I was kind of born into the Health Professions. I am wanting to major in Pre-Natal Care and minor in Health Care Management. This allowed me to explore UAB new School of Nursing and also learn more about the undergraduate program for Nursing. For me, learning is easier when it is hands on and I have learned and seen the UAB offers and a lot more in my major of interest. This has allowed me to get even more interested and into the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Being able to stay in the dorms gave me a big eye opener for college life. I have been to UAB a couple of times and this has given me almost everything.

Ja'Korey Shepherd, Greenville High School

The most memorable part of MiniCamp for me was the "Let Us Make Men" workshop. It was really touching and made me think; think about life choices, people I collaborate with and the music I listen to. Dr. White, Dr. Briggs and the other speakers in our session had very excellent points for us (as growing young men) and why we do the things we do. He presented us with cultural, worldly situations that we had to logically think about. He then allowed us to debate with arguments and lots of counterarguments. I also learned in the workshop that your race or background does not define your abilities or intellectual skills in life. It was an outstanding workshop and I would love to hear more encouraging words from them.

Maliyah Smith, Jefferson Davis High School

The most memorable part of UAB MiniCamp was the class with Mr. Wilkinson. He opened my eyes and ears to public health. During this camp I noticed that public health is more than keeping the external part of your body up. Also, public health plays a big part of life. The lesson he gave was memorable because I want to major in Public Health and help and touch people like this minicamp did for me.

Brianna Julius, Jefferson Davis High School

This was my first time minicamp and my first time staying here on campus. I can say that I have enjoyed my time here as well as the information that I have received. The most memorable part of this minicamp was going to the UAB School of Nursing simulation lab. I enjoyed going there because I want to become a dermatologist later on down the line. This camp has really inspired me into doing more research to finding a path to success. I've talked to people who have broken things down to me that I have really found helpful. I really gained most of my information from the resource fair. I talked to the admission, scholarships, as well as the public health representatives. I enjoyed activities we did but felt like we could do more. Being that UAB is my dream school I really have enjoyed this camp. My class was really well: I found that I am better in math then I tell myself; I never really doubt myself but I am very hesitant.

Destiny Price, Pike County High School

For me, the most memorable part of UAB MiniCamp was the Resource Fair. The reason it was my favorite part of the minicamp was because it was very informative. Also, you got to know the people at each and every table. They gave you all types of information on the campus and what UAB has to offer. Learning about the different programs and scholarships really made me think about a possible future at UAB. I also enjoyed RAD night. I like how they taught us different techniques to use against people. It was a fun, yet influential experience. There were so many things to do and learn from. I love to have been given this opportunity.

Kwantavius Lawson, Jefferson Davis High School

If I could say one thing about my experience at UAB MiniCamp, it would be motivational. I would say this because there were a lot of students whose backgrounds are similar to mine. For instance, one of the students stated that he did not have a strong support system, which I can relate to. The experience taught me that I am not alone. It taught me that it is okay to be afraid but it is not a bad idea. Everyone has a full potential and that potential can be reached when you apply yourself and be passionate about what you want to become.

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It Was Both a Fast and Slow Year

This year has really had its difficulties for me. I thought so many times, “Naudia you should just give up already it is too hard.” I’ve been through so much this year it is so crazy, but with God by my side I knew I just couldn’t give up because there are way too many people in my life counting on me. This school year threw many hard challenges my way, but I managed to get through it, so I can graduate from Goshen High School and go to a wonderful college. I only have one class that is hard, but i am doing great as of right now. Algebra two with trig gets complicated if you miss a day of school. I try very hard not to miss school because i have responsibilities as an Ambassador to have good grades and attendance. I took the ACT twice in the beginning of the seester and I was not very happy with my score. I was very shocked and disappointed in myself, but I am going to take it again no doubt. I am going to go even harder when I take it again. I am aiming for a twenty one or higher because I want to go to a good college.

I have set several goals for myself than I did last year and the year before that. Other than that, the school year has gone by fast. This school year taught me a lot of stuff on how to be more responsible and better myself not just in school. This school year went by slow and fast at the same time, if that makes any sense. I’ve had many times when I had assignments due and I thought I wasn’t going to turn it in on time. I stayed up knowing I was missing hours of sleep just to get my assignments done. I had to do whatever it took to get it done. I’ve had many setbacks this school year that really stopped me from achieving what I had to. I’ve had my darks times when I lost my great grandma and other family members. I wasn’t sure if I was going to get back on my feet and continue getting good grades. I wasn’t getting enough sleep because I was up all night thinking about everything. It was a very tough time for me when all those crazy things happened this year. My grades starting dropping to B’s and after I had all A’s. Then when I had a long and deep talk my mom, she helped me get through all the pain I was going through. I started getting sleep and focussing on the most important thing: my grades. I got them back up to straight A’s because I knew I had to maintain my grades, and as of right now I’m doing well in all my classes!

Naudia Dorsey
GUA Ambassador
Goshen High School

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The Opportunities of This Year

This past school year, I have gotten a tremendous amount of opportunities that have been beneficial to me. Some of those opportunities include: being a GEAR UP Alabama Ambassador, becoming a dual enrollment student at Tuskegee University, becoming an FBLA member, and more.

This year, I haven’t had any lows that affected me in a terrible way in which I am eternally grateful for. In the next coming months, I am looking forward to being inducted into the National Honor Society, campaigning (and hopefully winning) the position of Miss Booker T. Washington High School, becoming a senior, being a GUA Ambassador for the second year, and many others. This has been a wonderful year and I can not wait to see what else is in store for me opportunities wise as well as college and career wise.

By Tekajah Lewis
Booker T Washington High School
GUA Ambassador

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Junior Year: Learning New Things and Seeing the Bigger Picture

My junior year of high school was an amazing time for me to grow as a person and also learn new things about the world around me.

To kick off this year I dived into my second year as a majorette for the Sidney Lanier Marching Poets band. From the time we marched in to the time we marched out it was always an electrifying experience.  For the duration of football season I lit up the field with my baton every time I stepped foot on it with my superior twirling prowess. To add to this, all of Lanier’s auxiliary lines won superior trophies at Selma’s Annual Battle of the Bands. Wrapping up a fantastic year of band I found myself marching in the 95th Annual Turkey Day Classic Parade.

When it comes to school accomplishments I have been very fruitful. Being enrolled in a few advanced placement classes, I am to receive a rigorous lesson that challenges me and ensure the optimal learning experience. Throughout this year I was fortunate enough to stay on the honor roll and maintain a high grade point average.    

During this school term I was able to experience events that will help me make wise career choices for my future. An example of this being how I was able to explore my interest in writing. I took journalism and was apart of the staff responsible for my school’s newspaper the award winning Blue & White. Spending a year in journalism I was taught how to be a more proficient writer. Also several of my articles were published in the newspaper this year.

Because of all this I realized how much I love writing. All of the hard work and time that goes into making a story proves itself to be worth it when the product is finalized and completed. As a student in journalism, I was also given the opportunity to write about Black Belt Friday. After this experience I decided to become an ambassador for Gear Up Alabama.

My most recent undertaking is to make a good score on the ACT. The faculty and staff at Lanier High School have dedicated all of their time to making sure every student does their very best and is well prepared for the test. Consequently, when I recently took the test I was ready and gave my it my all.

In a nutshell my junior year of high school was a great time for me. As a person who has a thirst for knowledge I can say that my thirst was effectively quenched for the year. I’m just curious to see what next year will have in store.

By: Jaliyah Stokes
Sidney Lanier High School
GUA Ambassador
Class of 2020

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A Volunteer's Perspective on Black Belt Fridays

My name is Grace Whitmire and I am a senior at UAB pursuing my Bachelors Degree in Early Childhood/Elementary Education. I changed my major to Education a little over a year ago and it has been one of the best decisions of my life. I first heard about GEAR UP Alabama in one of my classes last semester (Fall 2018). We were studying different types of families and Dr. Briggs, Project Director of GUA, visited our class and gave a presentation on families living in poverty. She talked about her experiences visiting the Black Belt and her passion was both obvious and contagious. Knowing that there were families in counties within the Black Belt who didn’t even have running water broke my heart and ignited a flame in my being that urged me to learn more about GUA and its mission.


After class, I went up to the front of the classroom and spoke with Dr. Briggs. I introduced myself and expressed my interest in attending one of the Black Belt Friday Bus Tours. She told me where to go to find more information and where to sign up for the bus list. Walking away from class that day, I felt like I had taken a step in the right direction. I immediately went online and signed up for the next bus trip. This trip was on Friday, November 30th and we were scheduled to travel to Booker T. Washington High School in Macon County. I had read on the website and in the details about the trip that there would be some time to discuss the history of the area and that we would be visiting a historical landmark as well, so I was really looking forward to the day ahead. I enjoyed the bus ride down to the Black Belt because we engaged in meaningful discussion and we heard amazing things from the brothers of Let Us Make Man. I’ll admit, I had never participated in anything like this before, so I was very nervous. The staff at Booker T. Washington High School and the GUA staff all made me feel so welcome and comfortable, so as soon as I stepped foot into the school, my nerves were completely gone. The school welcomed us in such a way that was so far from what I was expecting. You could tell that pride, honor, and school spirit lived in this school and its students.

Getting to speak with the students, share my own experiences, and answer their questions was such an inspirational experience for me. The way those students spoke about their school and their plans for their futures was nothing short of amazing. I was so very honored and humbled to have met everyone there. Needless to say, I left the school that day wishing I had been a student at that high school. Following our visit to the school, we toured Macon County’s Vocational School and the historic Shiloh Rosenwald School. This part of the trip was very interesting because we were able to learn about some of the amazing opportunities for students in Macon County and learn about the history of the area. On the bus trip home, we discussed everything that happened and what we learned from the trip. Overall, I learned that we should invest our time and resources in today’s youth because they will be tomorrow’s leaders. I feel very thankful for the education that I have and for the opportunities that were given to me when I was in school and now, I feel an obligation to help ensure others have the same opportunities as I did.


Since the trip to Macon County in 2018, I have participated in each Black Belt Friday Trip in 2019, including trips to Butler County, Montgomery, and Wilcox County. Each time I go, I learn so much more about the students, their communities, the GUA staff, and myself. I am a true believer that what GUA is doing in the lives of these students is making a difference. Dr. Briggs and Dr. Perry have both explained multiple times that even if we just spoke to the students for a small moment, we planted seeds. We may never get to see that seed grow, and that’s okay. Giving students hope that their dreams can become a reality is something that I want to keep doing as long as I’m able to. I am so thankful that I made the decision to attend one of the Black Belt Friday Bus Trips because it has changed my life in so many ways. If you are reading this and are on the fence about whether or not you should go, then take my advice and DO IT!! You will be so glad you did. I am so thankful for the opportunity to get to know the GUA staff and members of Let Us Make Man. This organization is simply amazing.

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