who are prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education will be the focus of six bus trips taken by University of Alabama at Birmingham students, faculty and staff this year. Black Belt Fridays are part of UAB’s Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness of Undergraduate Program, which is made possible through a $60.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education.
“We are excited to launch the second year of bus trips to the Black Belt,” said Tonya Perry, Ph.D., principal investigator of GEAR UP Alabama and professor in the UAB School of Education. “Our volunteers play an integral role in the future successes of these students and the educational paths they will take.”
During these trips, volunteers spend time with students through mentoring, tutoring, celebrating and more. Black Belt Fridays kicks off Sept. 21 with a trip to Pickens County. Volunteer teams will also go to Pickens and Greene counties Oct. 5; Tuskegee on Nov. 30; Butler County on Jan. 18, 2019; Montgomery on Feb. 8; and Wilcox County on March 1.
“The trips are designed to encourage both the GEAR UP Alabama students and volunteers,” said Samantha Elliott Briggs, Ph.D., project director of GEAR UP Alabama. “We want to share our stories, hear their stories and let our time together be beneficial for everyone involved.”
GEAR UP Alabama is a competitive grant program of the U.S. Department of Education that increases the number of low-income students who are prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education by providing states and local community-education partnerships six- to seven-year grants to offer support services to high-poverty middle and high schools.
In the fall of 2014, UAB was awarded the state grant, thus GEAR UP Alabama was born. Servicing nearly 10,000 students in 42 schools across 21 school systems throughout the Black Belt region of Alabama, GEAR UP Alabama has five objectives to meet the overall goal established by the grant:
- Increase the academic performance and preparation for postsecondary education for GEAR UP students
- Increase the rate of high school graduation and enrollment in postsecondary education for GEAR UP students
- Increase GEAR UP students’ and their families’ knowledge of postsecondary education options, preparation and financing
- Increase percentage of GEAR UP students who enroll in and succeed in postsecondary education
- Increase the preparation of the project’s teachers and staff to teach and serve GEAR UP students