Published on October 5, 2016 by by Katie Stewart  
Cherysh Sturdivant volunteers an answer.
Cherysh Sturdivant volunteers an answer.

Encouraging learners and affecting the community in a positive way is what Orlean Beeson School of Education strives to do daily. This ongoing goal was realized at this year’s GEAR UP Summer Reading Achievement and Leadership Program.

“Being a teacher, I have an ever-present desire to want others to learn, and as a member of this community, I also desire to give back in a meaningful way,” said assistant professor Steven Wall, who taught in the program. “GEAR UP allows me to realize both of those desires. I have been able to teach a tremendous group of individuals while also being afforded the opportunity to serve the local community. The added benefit is that we are beginning to shape the long-term academic success of students who will influence this community in the future.”

GEAR UP stands for Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs. Orlean Beeson School of Education supports a yearlong reading initiative that focuses on reading enrichment and remediation of middle school students. 

The majority of the students were rising eighth graders from Putnam Middle School. They were exposed to authentic literacy and math experiences through highly engaged small-group and whole-group lessons led by teacher experts. Students also had the opportunity to enhance leadership skills while receiving mentoring and coaching support from community leaders. The exposure to high-quality reading, mathematics and leadership opportunities in turn increases their interest in becoming college and career ready.

“I enjoyed the student workers, doing the work with the teachers, working with other students, and the projects and work we did with teachers in the classroom,” said Amaziah Gross, a participant in the program.

This is the second year of the camp and partnership with Orlean Beeson School of Education. Tarsha Bluiett and Monique Gardner-Witherspoon served as codirectors for the program.

“We had another successful GEAR UP summer program at Samford,” said Witherspoon, assistant professor and director of the M.S.E. program in educational leadership. “It is wonderful to see the maturation level and the academic gains of our students in comparison to last year. I look forward to seeing their continued growth in the program as we continue to provide enriching academic and leadership opportunities to foster their individual interests about going to college.”

The program is part of a greater initiative designed to increase graduation rates and provide early exposure of higher education experiences. GEAR UP prepares students for college, and provides the support and resources necessary for success. The initiative also includes the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Auburn University and Stillman College, among others. Samford received $52,600 from a larger U.S. Department of Education grant to Birmingham City Schools to continue its work of assisting more seventh and eighth grade students from Putnam Middle School this year.

Katie Stewart is coordinator of marketing and communication
for Orlean Beeson School of Education.

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.