Career fair, pep rally highlight Gear Up’s DMS debut

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Local businesses and entities took part in a College and Career Fair Monday at Demopolis Middle School, an initiative of the new Gear Up grant that will track current seventh and eighth graders through their senior year.

“This program is seven years. It’s going to follow them all the way until their senior year. They’re implementing everything for undergraduate preparedness. They’re going to address things like ACT prep. We’re going to do character ed. We’ve implemented this advisement period this year into the classroom. It’s not only character ed, it’s motivation, it’s stress levels. We’re looking deep into the demographics of these children based on these surveys that were done,” site coordinator Brooke Luker said of the grant. “We’re looking at everything and making sure that we can allow them to be successful and then on into their junior and senior year, we’re going to do mock interviews. We’re going to do college visits. We’re going to do resume prep. We’re going to do everything that we can to make sure they’re where they need to be and ready to go on into college.”

Monday’s event served as the opener of Gear Up’s kickoff week but also acted as a kind of preparatory fair for middle schoolers who will have more serious networking opportunities down the line.

“This is not only a kickoff week, but this is practice for down the road. They’ve never done a college fair before, so they have this question sheet in front of them,” Luker said. “This is supposed to train and mold them for college fairs, for college visits down the road. They’re supposed to walk around to these different tables and ask questions.”

Finding success in Monday’s endeavor, as well other wrinkles the program will implement down the line, requires a high level of community support “It’s huge. We can’t do it without them. We need our businesses to support us,” Luker said. “If we don’t have support from the community and they don’t care, what do you have?”

Greater, still, for the Gear Up program’s success is the level of parental involvement the initiative draws over the months and years to come.

“It starts with parents. We have not had good parental involvement in the past. It was very encouraging that I showed up for schedule pickup, passed out Parent Night invitations and had eight people sign up to bring food that night,” Luker said. “We’ll implement different things throughout the year. Gear Up is going to be specifically programmed differently for each school in the Gear Up program. For me and my team in the Demopolis school system, our team has a focus which was our advisement period that we’ve implemented this year in the school. We will be doing surveys during the year. We’ll be doing ACT prep. We’ll be teaching some other programs. We’ll be having parent nights throughout the year to educate them on how to save money. We’ll be doing FAFSA workshops, things like that. That way the parent stays engaged all seven years as well. That way they’re not surprised junior or senior year and they’ve got no money saved up for college.”

The program guarantees to pay dividends for students who follow through as it guarantees scholarship money down the line.

“Every seventh and eighth grader in Gear Up gets a full tuition scholarship to the community college or technical college of their choice,” Luker explained.

Gear Up’s kickoff week also includes a parent night, a door decorating competition and a pep rally.