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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 Begins Career Café Initiative
  • On March 7, 2017, GEAR UP Birmingham kicked-off its first Career Café at Wylam K-8 School. Career Cafés are a GEAR UP Birmingham initiative designed to increase cohort student awareness of different career fields. Through the GEAR UP Birmingham Career Café, students are able to speak directly with community members about careers and college planning in a small group atmosphere during the student lunch period.

    Mr. Brandon Wilson, of Wilbron Inc. — a Public Relations and Marketing Company located in Birmingham, Alabama, was the guest speaker. Mr. Wilson provided lunch from Carlile’s Barbecue and provided an inspiring message to a small group of 8th graders about how he started in the business. He started his message with a catchy phrase, “P. M. B. repeat after me.” The students recited the alphabets — “P. M. B.” Mr. Wilson went on to share a message about public relations, marketing, and broadcasting. He stated as an effective communicator, he gets to emphasize public relations, marketing and broadcasting. He engaged students’ understanding of the science of public relations — the brands, the marketing of the brands and the ability to help big brands relate to the public. Students were immediately familiar with brands such as McDonald’s, Taco Bell and Adidas.

    Mr. Wilson conveyed to students the idea that marketing is all about research; it is a form of communication that is displayed through ads, TV commercials, magazines and celebrity endorsements.

    The final alphabet “B” stands for broadcasting. Mr. Wilson tied broadcasting to his desire to be a communicator. His career journey actually began when he was a 6th grade student at Birmingham’s Lincoln Elementary School (now Lincoln Professional Development Building). He recalled how his 6th grade science teacher asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up.

    “I remember Ms. Gaines asking me what I wanted to do. I can recall three things popped into my mind – a teacher, an engineer or a communicator. When I shared my answer with the class, I said a communicator.”

    One student asked Mr. Wilson if he had to overcome any obstacles as a student.

    “Yes,” was his immediate reply.

    Mr. Wilson shared an intimate story about being homeless as a senior in high school. During this time in his life, he focused all of his attention on his participation in extracurricular activities. Football, track and school clubs — he did it all just to stay at school as long as he could possibly stay. He went on to share that while he wasn’t even focused on a next step beyond high school because of the obstacles in his life, he had a teacher that tricked him into completing an application for Auburn University. She bet him $20.00 that he could not complete the application by the end of class. He did, and therefore received a $20.00 bill. However, the teacher quickly pointed out the fine print which read, Application fee $20.00.

    Of course, the rest is history. Mr. Wilson was accepted to Auburn University, graduated and has held several different positions within the Public Relations industry. While he continued to answer countless questions from Wylam’s enchanted 8th graders, Mr. Brandon Wilson left them with a lasting message to be applied in their lives for many years to come. “Refuse to listen to the doubt of others. You can accomplish anything you want.”

    Mr. Wilson also was the guest speaker for Washington K-8. The GEAR UP Birmingham Career Café initiative will continue to be an ongoing event. We are sure this initiative will prove to be a viable way of encouraging students to have a growth mindset about future career interests.

  • GEAR UP BIRMINGHAM OFFERS FREE SUMMER CAMPS
  • GEAR UP Birmingham to Offer 31 Free Summer Camps to Rising 9th and 10th Graders

    (BIRMINGHAM, Alabama – March 14, 2017) GEAR UP Birmingham is offering 31 free summer camps to rising 9th and 10th graders in Birmingham City Schools. The camps cover subjects that include: math, writing, earth science, theatre, game design and much more. Registration begins on March 15, 2017, and ends April 17, 2017. Transportation is provided for all camps for the upcoming summer.

    Auburn University, University of Montevallo, Samford University, Alabama State University, UAB and Girls, Inc. will partner with GEAR UP Birmingham to host the camps. Each camp is uniquely designed so all students can explore subjects or future careers in which they are interested. Daily activities include computer programming, writing, reading, culinary, sports, stock trading, college tours and more.

    University professors and trained professionals will lead these activities in a hands-on, interactive manner. Students will also experience life on a college campus and, in some cases, explore the cities surrounding these campuses.

    Space is limited so make sure your student is prepared for the upcoming school year by registering today.

    “We encourage our students to take advantage of the free summer camps for an enriching and educational summer. These camps help prepare our students to excel in a college going atmosphere,” said Dr. Spencer Horn, Director of Academic and Strategic Initiatives, Birmingham City Schools.

    To learn more about the camps and register, visit GEARUPbham.com.

    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-genera1on 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 (BCS) was awarded a $19.6 million GEAR UP grant from the USDE.

Featured Events

“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