Published on May 27, 2015 by Hannah Henderson  
Front Gates

A $25,000 annually renewable grant from the U.S. Department of Education will fund Samford University’s portion of Birmingham City School System’s GEAR UP initiative designed to increase graduation rates, prepare students for college and provide support and resources necessary for success.

Samford’s grant is part of a larger $19 million GEAR UP initiative, which includes collaboration with other universities such as the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Auburn University and Stillman College. Samford’s Orlean Bullard Beeson School of Education will use its funds to develop a summer reading program targeting students who need academic enrichment. Samford’s program is hosted on campus and is directed by Tarsha Bluiett and Monique Witherspoon, education professors at Samford.

“Based on all that is taking place in the lives of middle school students, it was vital for us to design a program focusing on the best ways to encourage student engagement, critical thinking and problem solving skills,” said Bluiett.

GEAR UP, Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs, is a grant awarded to high-risk communities for the purpose of developing programs to prepare students for higher education. The program will serve over 3,500 middle school students enrolled in certain Birmingham City middle and K-8 schools. The students will be followed for seven years until the 7th graders reach their first year of college.

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.