Photography by Hon Low
During my childhood in Savannah, Ga., I came across many opportunities to help advance my education. As I matriculated from middle school to Alfred E. Beach High School, I was introduced to the U.S. Department of Education Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP). GEAR UP assisted me academically and prepared me for enrollment in the Savannah State University College of Business Administration, where I am majoring in accounting.
During my 9th grade year of high school, GEAR UP provided a tutor and mentors who worked alongside my teachers in all my core curriculum classes. They were typically SSU upperclassmen who shared their journey to college enrollment. The tutor and mentors were alongside me and my classmates during the school day, encouraging everyone to finish high school and enroll in college.
I also received one-on-one counseling services from the GEAR UP coordinator, Sherrie Jackson, and the program specialist. It was beneficial to have the program onsite in my school building as I was able to stop by the GEAR UP office for assistance with all my college preparation needs. The GEAR UP staff shared many scholarship opportunities with me, and they assisted me with signing up for my college entrance exams. Throughout my four years at Beach, I visited Savannah State University, Emory University, Georgia Southern University, Georgia State University, Albany State University and Kennesaw State University, but I ultimately chose to attend SSU.
Additionally, I participated in a female-only mentoring group that featured guest speakers and tips for dealing with real-life situations. The mentoring group met monthly and focused on how to foster positive relationships with others, and I received tips on how to stay motivated to complete high school on time. I also attended summer program activities at Savannah State and spoke with admissions office representatives during their visits to our high school campus. I played basketball at Beach, so I was excited to have the opportunity to join the SSU Lady Tigers basketball team this year.
SSU’s GEAR UP program had a positive influence on my life and on my college decision. GEAR UP helped me to become aware that the world is bigger than Savannah. The program played a huge role in me attending Savannah State. During my last few weeks of high school, I was offered a $1,500 scholarship from the university president, Dr. Cheryl D. Dozier. I also received a basketball scholarship from Savannah State.
The GEAR UP program continues to provide services throughout my freshman year of college. We meet monthly and I am already excited about looking at graduate school programs. GEAR UP provides tutoring and assistance with book purchases. I am so grateful for the opportunity to be a SSU GEAR UP student. The program has provided me with the best opportunity possible.
Ja’Brekia Bass is a freshman business accounting 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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