Click here to explore valuable GEAR UP Birmingham Resources for students, parents, teachers, & all GEAR UP Birmingham staff members.
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.
- Pre-AP Writing Camp Provides 8 th Graders with Judicial Experience
The rising 8th graders at Wylam K-8 School participated in the GEAR UP Birmingham Pre-AP Writing Camp that provided them with an opportunity to take part in an intense novel study of Harper Lee’s timeless classic, To Kill a Mocking Bird. For four weeks, the students were engaged in daily analytical sessions that unpacked many aspects of the novel, particularly focusing on overarching themes within TKAM and how those same themes are still relevant today. Utilizing the balanced literary approach, students practiced writing character analyses using the argumentative writing structure. Not only did students expand their writing abilities and broaden their knowledge-base as it relates to the novel, students were also grounded in their understanding of the judicial system.
During the course of the summer writing camp, mock trial preparation was emphasized as well.
“It was a natural progression for their learning,” said Ms. Wendolyn Martin, one of the teachers of the summer camp.
Since court scenes were present in the novel, the goal was to provide students with an optimal experience where they could use analytical reading and writing skills. The mock trial activity brought to life aspects of the novel. Students gained experience in writing opening and closing statements, writing arguments for the prosecution and defense, writing jury instructions, and lastly, writing a jury’s verdict. The students were provided with an opportunity to enhance their persuasive writing skills through trial preparation, and they also had an opportunity to incorporate and apply new vocabulary knowledge in a real-world situational context. The mock trial activity was two-fold in that it not only taught analytical reading and writing skills, but it also provided students with insight about different career paths such as attorneys, judges, court reporters, bailiffs, and psychologists.
The summer program’s culminating activity was a visit to two courts. On June 30, 2016, students had an opportunity to visit the City of Birmingham’s Municipal Court where the Honorable Agnes Chappell presided. In Judge Chappell’s court, the students were able to listen and observe the adjudication of municipal traffic and other misdemeanors of the City of Birmingham. As an added bonus, students were provided an opportunity to speak with both a city prosecutor and a public defender for a question and answer session. During recess, Judge Chappell left the bench to speak with Wylam’s GEAR UP students personally and discussed how the city’s Municipal Court works.
The second courtroom visit was to the Jefferson County Circuit Court where the Honorable Katrina Ross presided. There, students witnessed an actual misdemeanor trial in session. They listened as attorneys presented opening and closing statements, heard witness testimony, and waited intently as Judge Ross rendered the final verdict.
Sheila Erby, rising 8th grader from Wylam stated, “This was the best experience! When I grow up, I want to be a judge, too.”
As a result of participating in GEAR UP Birmingham Pre-AP Writing Camp, students improved their reading, writing, and analytical skills and became more cognizant of the judicial system and associated careers.
Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) is a discretionary grant program designed to increase the number of low-income students who are prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education.
- Valuable Lessons Learned at the 2016 Alabama Money Expo
Students from the GEAR UP Birmingham cohort participated in the 2016 Alabama Money Expo/ Financial Education Outreach which was held at G.W. Carver High School on Saturday, March 5, 2016 from 9:00 A.M. to 3:00 P.M. The Alabama Money Expo featured a variety of workshops and activities for youth and young adults to engage in interactive simulations that enhance their personal finance and life skills.
GEAR UP students specifically participated in activities from “Awesome Island.” Awesome Island provided participants with a life like experience of managing money based on their college degree and other choices.
Justin Hibbler, 7th grader from Hayes School K-8, stated, “This whole experience taught me about staying within or below my budget. I also learned a valuable lesson – Don’t cheat or be cheap. It could be detrimental to your money flow.”
Jamie Lewis, an accounting graduate student from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, assisted students with activities. Jamie explained, “The games focus on taxes, salaries, and investments. It is important to understand money early in order to be responsible citizens. We are teaching the value of paying for housing, maintaining a certain lifestyle, and living within your means.” Awesome Island activities also provided students with an opportunity to trade stocks, bonds, and other commodities.
GEAR UP students will have an opportunity to deepen their knowledge this summer by participating in UAB’s Money Math summer camp.
- 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.
- Money Math Club
Regions Institute for Financial Literacy Presents: Money Math Club
The focus of the club will be to teach students how to apply their math skills to saving and investing through a real money investment opportunity. The clubs will meet weekly through March 2016. Students will have instruction on economics, market segments and portfolio management. Students will learn how to perform stock research and how to make buy/sell decisions. Below are the resources you will need to participate in the club. Happy investing!
“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
“Gear Up Birmingham is providing hands on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) experiences that 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 Birmingham