Photography by Hon Low
I am from Savannah, Ga., and attended DeRenne Middle School, graduating from Alfred E. Beach High School with honors in 2018. I enrolled in Savannah State University in Fall 2018. Thanks to earning college credits in a dual enrollment program at Savannah Technical College, this is my sophomore year at SSU. I am majoring in behavior analysis with a minor in forensic science.
I started participating in the U.S. Department of Education Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) while in 6th grade. When I first started participating in the program, I was eager to see what GEAR UP had to offer. I had future career goals in mind but was undecided on how to achieve my goals. There was no doubt that I was going to enroll in college, but I needed guidance to get there. GEAR UP provided me with the guidance I needed to successfully transition from middle to high school and college.
GEAR UP had a big impact on my middle and high school years. The program taught me how to be a productive student. The program leaders took me and my mom on college tours. They coordinated community service activities for me and other students at my high school.
My favorite experiences with GEAR UP were my participation in the annual summer programs on the Savannah State campus, as well as the visits to local and out-of-state colleges. GEAR UP influenced my decision to attend Savannah State thanks to the mentorship I received from SSU students while in middle and high school.
GEAR UP also had a major impact on my academics. The program provided me with SAT/ACT classes, writing workshops and summer programs, all in preparation for my first year of college. I still participate in GEAR UP activities today. I maintain a strong connection with the GEAR UP staff and my fellow classmates.
I plan to continue my education at SSU and eventually obtain a doctorate degree in psychology. My experience with GEAR UP has prepared me for my future because I have become more confident and willing to participate in more organizations while giving back to my community. GEAR UP is an excellent opportunity for any young person who wants to get a head start on a great future.
Kayla Hughes is a sophomore behavior analysis major from Savannah, Ga.
This article first appeared in Arising, 2019.
Established in 1890, Savannah State University is the oldest public historically black college or university in Georgia and the oldest institution of higher learning in the city of Savannah. The university's 3,600 students select majors from 30 undergraduate and five graduate programs in four colleges ‐ Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, Business Administration, Sciences and Technology, and Education.
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