On February 8, 2019, Black Belt Friday, GEAR UP Alabama along with volunteers from the National Council of Teachers of English Assembly for Research(NCTEAR), students and professors from Lawson State Community College(LSCC), the University of Alabama at Birmingham(UAB), and many more volunteers visited Sidney Lanier High School.

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As a student, my overall opinion of the day was great. To have college students and professors talk and give advice about life after high school was eye-opening. The road to college and career life does not seem so confusing now. Thanks to the advice and suggestions given to me by the mentors on that day, I now know what I have to do to prepare for my future.

BBFMontJayliyah Stokes, GUA Ambassador, and Dr. Tonya Perry, GUA Principal Investigator 

I also gained an interest in other career options that are worth exploring. For example, psychology. One of the mentors that visited my class was clinical psychologist Dr. Christopher Brass. In my discussion with him I learned that psychology connects to everything because how a person thinks and sees the world  can explain their behavioral pattern and reveal a plethora of other information.

“I'm involved in programs like GEAR UP Alabama because sometimes students learn more about things like writing in the programs they provide than in their English classes,” said Dr. Bryan Ripley Crandall, the Director of the Connecticut Writing Project at Fairfield University.

The overall purpose of the day was to give students guidance about college and career life and introduce them to mentors who have careers similar to the ones they aspire to. Tonya Perry, the Principal Investigator of GEAR UP Alabama, encourages young people to find mentors to help aid in success. “Find someone who you can write to who is doing something that you would like to do and stay in communication with that person,” Dr. Perry said.

When asked about their motivation for attending the program, everyone I spoke to said their driving force was the students. “I look forward to learning from the students and providing them with helpful opportunities,” said Ryan Rish, Assistant Professor of Learning and Instruction at the University of Buffalo in New York. “By working with students over the years I discovered that growth and change is important for students to learn and thrive so they can live up to all of their potential,” Rish said.  

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Overall the day was very momentous for everyone involved. It seemed as though that everyone, mentees and mentors alike, took something valuable away from the time they spent communicating with each other.  

“You can become whatever you want to become. You need a plan, and you need to find somebody to help you execute your plan,” Dr. Perry said when asked what she hopes students will take away from the event. She continued, “A lot was given to me. I don't think without the mentoring, support, and people who poured into me that I could have been successful and I think it’s now my time for me to give back.”

Jaliyah Stokes 
GUA Ambassador, Journalism Student
Lanier High School