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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 Mathletes Compete
  • GEARUP Birmingham students competed in the MATHCOUNTS ® Chapter competition held at Pizitz Middle School on Saturday, February 11, 2017. There were four student teams representing Birmingham City Schools – Phillips Academy, Jones Valley Middle School, South Hampton School K-8 and Huffman Middle School. Students endured a rigorous three hours of math. Each MATHCOUNTS competition consists of several parts: the Sprint, Target, Team and Countdown Rounds. Round one (the Sprint Round) had 30 questions in which the students had 40 minutes to complete them. The Target Round consisted of eight questions. Students received only two questions at a time and were given six minutes to complete each pair of problems. In the last round (The Team Round) students as a team were allowed to work together on 10 problems for 20 minutes.

    For several weeks, student teams have been participating in virtual coaching sessions and site prep sessions sponsored by the UAB Regions Institute for Financial Education/COLLAT School of Business. All this was made possible through the GEARUP Birmingham Partnership Grant.

    Daniel Harris, 8th grade student from Jones Valley Middle School, said that he thought the competition was very interesting.

    “At this competition, there are so many different races and different cultures competing. The tests were hard, and I mean hard! They were so hard that when I was trying to work them out, I felt like a freshman in college,” said Daniel. He can’t wait for the opportunity to compete again.

    Dr. Marsha Savage, West Area Site Facilitator, stated, “By participating in events such as this, our students further understand their need to take more academic risks and participate in more challenging activities. When our students compete, they can see that they are on the receiving end of a world-class education where they will one day be able to reach their full potential and succeed.” This is the main message of GEARUP.

    The MATHCOUNTS ® Chapter Competition hosted a total of 17 schools and 100+ students. Participation at any level in MATHCOUNTS qualifies a student to apply for a future college scholarship.

    Phillips Academy

    • Elizabeth Green
    • Joy Branch
    • Alexis Harris
    • Gabriel Barch

    Jones Valley

    • Jatlin Lee
    • Pierre Prince
    • Daniel Harris

    South Hampton

    • Jadien Boykins
    • Brandon Pope-Giles
    • Akera White
    • Antania Holmes

    Huffman Middle

    • Javier Garcia
    • Jordan Westbrook
    • Jamaya Jackson
    • Katherine Anderson


  • 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
    • 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. 

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“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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