This semester, UAB’s Honors College offered the first ever GEAR UP Alabama service learning course. This class, taught by UAB professor Dr. Josie Prado, was designed to explore the cultural, historical, political, and economic history of the Black Belt while working with the GEAR UP Alabama grant. This class met once a week throughout the semester as the students engaged with topics focused on the history of the Black Belt, the current situation in the Black Belt, and how to address these issues. These conversations were led by Dr. Prado, incorporating a number of guest speakers representing UAB faculty, Community Providers and non-profit organizations working in the Black Belt region.

The students that took Dr. Prado’s class came from all areas of campus. With it being an Honor’s College class, this means that there were students from every year and nearly every area of campus. With a total of twenty students in the class, a few of the majors represented included psychology, education, neuroscience, communications, economics, pre-nursing, and more. Throughout the semester, both the students and Dr. Prado proved to be some of GUA’s most consistent volunteers and supporters.

When I asked Dr. Prado why she was interested in teaching a course on the Black Belt and GEAR UP Alabama, she said, “As a native Alabamian, I felt embarrassed to realize how little I understood about the region. The complex history, destitute poverty, stark educational inequities, rich vibrant culture, and the warm hearts of the people have captured my attention and energized me to connect and empower fellow Alabamians.”

I asked her what her favorite part of the course was, she said that it was the experience of working with both the GUA students and the UAB students, telling me that her interactions with them all continuously inspired her. We are so thankful that Dr. Prado was willing to teach this class and we are so excited to have her continue to work with us in the future.

The final project for the class was focused on providing a resource for GEAR UP Alabama students. The UAB students in the course created a number of videos that explore unique, surprising, but attainable career choices. Each of these videos showcase the UAB students’ personalities and give the GUA students the chance to learn about a variety of jobs. You can watch those videos here.

The GUA team is so thankful to Dr. Prado and her students for investing in GUA this semester!

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