ASU’s $24 Million GEAR UP Program Kicks Off for the Summer
By Lois G. Russell
A new and innovative summer enrichment program is in full “gear” at Alabama State University. Hundreds of students from the Montgomery Public Schools (MPS) system rolled up in yellow buses Wednesday, May 11 through Friday, May 13 to learn more about the ASU GEAR UP camps and educational enhancement programs that have been funded by the federal government.
Alabama State University announced last year that the institution had received a grant totaling more than $24 million from the U.S. Department of Education. The seven-year grant will allow the University and collaborative institutions and partners to provide academic preparation and enrichment services to more than 26,000 MPS students. The grant focuses on high-poverty, middle and high school students, beginning with a current sixth and seventh-grade cohort of more than 4,000 students within all 10 MPS middle schools.
GEAR UP organizers say the initiative starts with the 2022 summer camps.
“We not only have camps on our campus, but we also have partnerships with Auburn University and Tuskegee University where camps will also be housed,” explained Alice Zeigler McClain, ASU GEAR UP Project Coordinator. “As far as the camps here at Alabama State University, we are utilizing the different services that we have in our colleges and departments. We’re working with the College of Health Sciences, College of Business Administration, College of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, and the College of Visual and Performing Arts. They’re offering several different types of camps—one-day camps, multi-day camps, weekend camps—all to fit every student’s needs and to help them learn more about the different things that we offer at Alabama State University.”
McClain said the program is more than summer camps. The initiative continues into the school year with assessments by facilitators who will determine students’ needs at each MPS school. McClain will then find partners to help to provide appropriate services.
All of the services, including the summer camps, are free to those MPS students who will return to school as 7th- or 8th-graders in the fall.
“Some of those services may be tutoring, mentoring, seminars, speakers to come in and talk to the kids about different career opportunities, maybe having colleges come for college fairs, or taking students on college tours. We want to tailor our services to fit the needs of a particular school. We do understand that not every school in every part of Montgomery needs the same things, and we want to make sure that all of the students are covered and have what they need to be successful,” McClain added.
Project Coordinator Taylor Johnson said the initiative is expected to have a tremendous impact on MPS students over the next seven years.
“A great outcome would be for students, parents and administrators in the school system to feel that students are better prepared and more knowledgeable, ready to make better-informed decisions about their future, whether that entails going to a two-year college or a four-year college,” said Johnson. “If we can enhance their future in terms of college or career readiness, that will be a really good outcome. We want this to be a widespread impact not only that individual schools can see but also that MPS as a whole can see a difference.”
Dr. Tanjula Petty, ASU’s Assistant Provost for Student Success and Special Initiatives, serves as a co-principal investigator for the program.
“This initiative is important for a number of reasons,” Petty said. “We are preparing nearly 5,000 young people to be college and career ready, which impacts their overall performance, increases high school graduation rates, promotes higher education and ultimately supports the economy. ASU GEAR UP is an innovative and holistic approach that aligns directly with the University’s Strategic Plan to have an impact on the community and to form partnerships that make a difference.”
For more information about the program, Zeigler said parents, students, counselors, teachers and administrators may contact her by phone at 334-604-8341 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Information is also available at www.alasu.edu/asugu.