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Parents learn about GEAR UP

Parent’s Scholar Night attracted several parents from Greenville, Georgiana, and McKenzie for an informational session on GEAR UP Alabama, held recently at LBW Community College in Greenville.

GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) offers students in Butler County schools a two-year tuition waiver from the Alabama Community College System, with the same offer extended to the students’ parents.

“There was a significant amount of interest in this program with about 36 parents attending,” said Jason Jessie, LBWCC dean of student affairs.

“They heard from several supporting organizations, including Dr. Samantha Briggs with GEAR UP, Taylor Hilyer with the Alabama Community College System, who is financial aid and veteran’s affairs coordinator, and Jessica Byrd, one of LBW’s honor graduates who is now teaching in Montgomery,” he said.

Byrd, a graduate of LBWCC and Athens State University, spoke to the parents about this unique opportunity to help further the education of their children and also themselves. She related her own story of how taking advantage of an educational opportunity helped her and her family, and told the parents they now have a similar chance to help themselves.

“Don’t miss this opportunity. It will help you, and it will also help your family,” she said.

GEAR UP Alabama focuses on helping students pursue education and training beyond high school, and is a statewide initiative coordinated by the University of Alabama at Birmingham and funded by the U.S. Department of Education. Over the next seven years, 50 Alabama schools in 17 counties in the Alabama Black Belt will participate, including schools in McKenzie, Georgiana, and Greenville.

“We are thankful to have parents from all three of these locations attend the Parent’s Scholar Night informational meeting,” said Jessie.

“Each parent met individuals with the College that can help guide them through the various processes of applying for financial aid, which is a required first step for any type of grant or scholarship, and they met staff to help with the admissions process and how to get assistance through Student Support Services.”

Renee Goss and Gayann Burkett, both with GEAR UP Alabama Butler County, challenged the group to get started on the process, whether to first start in adult education with GED preparation, sign up for the next placement assessment, or complete an admissions application.

“Going back to school can make it tough to juggle kids and all the other responsibilities of adult life,” said Goss. “Let’s face it, we all want better for our children than we had, right? More opportunities, better income, and a higher comfort level is all possible for them; if we set the example and show them how to get it.”

Burkett, quoting John Quincy Adams, said, “If their actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.”

“How do you get started? Take a class you’ll enjoy and build from there. Don’t get discouraged and give up. Sometimes the smallest step in the right direction ends up being the biggest step in your life. Tip toe if you must, but take the first step,” said Goss.

Jessie encouraged parents to get started now toward a better future for their families.

“Students and parents in Butler County have the chance to achieve a college credential at LBWCC, improve their marketability and earning power, and be a positive role model in encouraging their children to do the same,” said Jessie.

For more information on GEAR UP, call Gayann Burkett, Georgiana and McKenzie high school site facilitator, at 334-662-8575, or Renee Goss, site facilitator at Greenville Middle School, 334-313-2189.