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About Gear Up Birmingham

GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) is a competitive grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) to high-risk communities to develop comprehensive, research-driven programs to prepare low-income, minority and first-generation students for higher education. GEAR UP students receive tutoring, mentoring, enhanced advisement from counselors, summer academic enrichment and financial education to learn how to pay for college. GEAR UP programs change students' lives by building a college-going culture in schools. In September of 2014, the Birmingham City School System was awarded a $19.6 million GEAR UP grant from the USDE. 

Summer Camp Testimonials

“Birmingham City Schools has put forth a great deal of effort to ensure that our students have the resources to be both college and career ready. Our Career Academies have given us great momentum toward this goal in the high schools, and this grant gives us an opportunity to strengthen those efforts at the middle school level.”

Dr. Spencer Horn,  Birmingham City Schools, Director of Academic and Strategic Initiatives

Latest News

  • GEAR UP Birmingham Parents Receive College Tuition Waiver
  • Legal Guardians of GEAR UP Birmingham Students Eligible for Tuition Waiver to Two-Year or Technical Institution

    Legal Guardians of GEAR UP Birmingham’s cohort are eligible for a tuition waiver to a Two-Year College or Technical Institution in the state of Alabama starting this fall. The waiver is only applied towards tuition, and the awardee will be responsible for all other school related expenses. Parents will be able to renew the waiver each year. GEAR UP Birmingham students will also be eligible for a college tuition waiver upon completion of high school.

    “We are excited to be able to support our cohort’s parents in their academic success. This opportunity will not only positively impact the parent but the student as well. It is important for GEAR UP Birmingham to do everything that we can to create a college-going atmosphere for our cohort,” said Dr. Donna Turner, Project Director, GEAR UP Birmingham.

    To be eligible for the tuition waiver, legal guardians must meet the following requirements:

    • Must be the legal guardian of a GEAR UP Birmingham cohort student currently enrolled in the GEAR UP Birmingham Program.
    • Must enroll in a public community or technical college in the state of Alabama no later than May 31, 2022.
    • Must meet all admission requirements at the desired public community or technical college in the state of Alabama.
    • Must complete the free application for Federal Financial Aid at fafsa.ed.gov.
    • Must demonstrate financial need by having a tuition balance remaining once all Pell Grant funding, scholarships and gift aid have been applied towards the student’s tuition balance.

    “I know that a college degree would change the life of my daughter and me tremendously. It would open doors for greater opportunities on my job, which would allow me to better take care of my daughter. I think that it would also allow me to set a great example for my daughter. She would be able to see, first-hand, the benefits of higher education. It would also give me a sense of accomplishment as well,” Tamika Bolton, GEAR UP Birmingham parent. 

  • Birmingham City Schools' 8th and 9th Graders Celebrate National GEAR UP Week
  • Birmingham City Schools’ 8th and 9th graders are celebrating National GEAR UP Week. One of the national goals of GEAR UP is to reach one million students through the GEAR UP program. This week GEAR UP Birmingham is focused on academic and dream building, and kicked off the week with guest speaker, Retired Senior Vice President of Ethics and Corporate Concerns at Alabama Power, Robert Holmes at Jackson-Olin High School and Green Acres Middle School.

    “We are excited about the many activities we have prepared for our students. Our mission is to provide students and families the support and resources they need for college success,” said Dr. Donna Turner, Project Director, GEAR UP Birmingham.

    Planned events for the week include:

    • Dream Big Day:
      On September 20, students will create a poster about their dream job post college graduation.

    • Balloon Release:
      On September 21, students will write their dream career or college on balloons and release them with their classmates. This symbolizes how GEAR UP Birmingham helps students reach their dreams and aspirations.

    • College Bound Day:
      On September 22, students will wear college T-shirt of their school of choice on this day. Also, they will research facts about that school including the needed ACT score to be accepted, school population, majors and minors offered by the college, etc.

    • Dress for Success Day:
      On September 20, students will dress in professional attire and participate in mock job interviews.

    • GEAR UP Parent Reception:
      On Friday, September 23, parents of the GEAR UP Birmingham cohort will attend a reception from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Board of Education to learn more about the resources available to them.

    About GEAR UP Birmingham

    GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) is a competitive grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) to high-risk communities to develop comprehensive, research-driven programs to prepare low-income, minority and first-generation students for higher education. GEAR UP programs change students' lives by building a college-going culture in schools. In September of 2014, the Birmingham City School System (BCS) was awarded a $19.6 million GEAR UP grant from the USDE.

Featured Events

  • Parent Meeting - College Tuition Waiver Program
  • GEAR UP Birmingham will host a Parent Meeting on the College Tuition Waiver Program. GEAR UP Parents and Students can apply to have college tuition expenses paid.

  • College and Career Fair
  • GEAR UP Birmingham will host The Great Exploration — a college and career fair for Birmingham City School's eighth grade students held on May 11, 2016, from 9:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at the Historic Boutwell Auditorium. Approximately 1,500 students will explore various colleges and careers to expose students to different professional paths.

“On behalf of the Alabama Community College System (ACCS), I would like to congratulate you and the Birmingham City School System (BCS) on being a recipient of the 2014 Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness of Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) grant.”

Dr. Mark Heinrich,  Chancellor, Alabama Community College System

Read Dr. Heinrich's Full Letter

“GEAR UP Birmingham is providing hands-on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) experiences that are normally seen only at elite schools. These experiences will help our students successfully compete for great positions at top STEM university programs and in 21st century STEM careers.”

Dr. Michael Wyss, Professor, Director, Center for Community Outreach Development, University of Alabama at Birmingham

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