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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

  • Pre-AP Writing Camp Provides 8 th Graders with Judicial Experience
  • 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.

Featured Events

  • 2016 Parent Summit
  • Click Here to Register


  • 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 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

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