Helping Younger Students Gear Up for College and Career

Ensuring high school seniors are college and career-ready starts long before their graduation day. Thanks to the recently launched Gear Up Jefferson County initiative, students in 13 middle schools across the region are already receiving support to help ensure their future success.

Gear Up grants through the U.S. Department of Education are an approach that has proven effective in increasing the number of low-income students who are prepared to enter and succeed in post-secondary education. The program begins working with middle-school students and follows a cohort all the way through high school graduation. The initiative is currently working with almost 5,000 7th and 8th grade students in Bessemer City Schools, Fairfield City Schools, Jefferson County Schools, Midfield City Schools and Tarrant City Schools.

Gear Up aims to improve academic performance and increase the knowledge of students and families regarding post-secondary education options. A variety of partners are working together to offer aligned services to advance these goals, including implementing more rigorous secondary-school courses, hosting camps focused on STEM and computer science, launching tutoring and mentoring programs, offering workshops for financing college and career pathways and coordinating campus visits to colleges and universities across the state.

Our Bold Goals Coalition’s goal for education is to have 90% of high school seniors college and career-ready, and 125,000 highly skilled adults added to the workforce, by 2025. Getting to that mark requires collaborative efforts and innovative approaches at all levels, and this initiative reflects the different strategies that can move us closer to that goal.

In order to help move our work forward, Kristy Plump recently came on board as the Gear Up Jefferson County Evaluation Specialist. She is working with Gear Up Jefferson County staff, grant evaluators, school staff and community partners to identify and address service gaps and students’ needs. By aligning resources and working toward common metrics, the partnership is positioned for broad impact across the region and meaningful change in the lives of students and families.

The Bold Goals Coalition is 200 organizations solving big community problems by aligning partners, resources and agendas.