ABAC- Bainbridge helps Shiver Middle School GEAR UP!

Published 4:32 pm Friday, July 6, 2018

Grady County’s Shiver Middle School has adopted the GEAR UP Georgia Program, and the school has recently received recognition as the most successful in the state with implementation. In an interview with Assistant Principal Ms. Leigh Stalvey, she recounted being directed by the Board of Regents to the ABAC-Bainbridge Program Coordinator named Dawn Harrison to help with planning and development. Stalvey commended Harrison for a job well done, and her dedication to the kids’ futures, as they both talked about the process of drafting a program schedule and budget. Stalvey said, “This was a learning experience for both administration, and the kids, as everyone involved was exposed to new territories.”

GEAR UP Georgia is a college and career readiness grant that provides cohort and priority students a means to mapping their futures. They are exposed to college campuses, testing, admission and financial aid information before they transition from middle to high school, in the hopes that they will be able to better select a college and career path. When asking Stalvey about her Shiver School’s progress, she and Harrison only had positive comments about the students’ motivation and testing success. They began the process with a kick-off event hosted by Mr. I’m Possible (Keith L. Brown), celebrating the graduating class of 2022. The kids responded energetically to his presentation during which he referred to the students as “Shiver Scholars,” which is exactly what GEAR UP Georgia wishes to inspire and awaken in all participants: their inner scholar. Soon, this became their mantra as administration used this title to further the program’s effects.

Stalvey made it her personal goal to involve the parents, and to make this program something her eighth graders wanted to be a part of, and she did an outstanding job. Thom Butler, from the Scholarship Academy came and conducted a workshop to discuss opportunities for students after high school. Angie Wilson, outreach representative for the Georgia Student Finance Commission also helped with informing parents and students about financial aid and scholarships. Shiver also held a PTO GEAR UP Georgia stem night that was praised at an Atlanta Executive Leadership meeting for their detailed projects. These projects were led by instructors, but created by GEAR UP Georgia students. They centered on student research regarding their college of choice after high school. Every month the school has a Local Coordinating Counsel meeting which involves community members and other people within the school system that help connect students to tools outside the classroom. All of these components have brought the children closer to their dreams.

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Dawn Harrison will follow these kids through high school, and help them through their early academic college and career. When asked how she would describe GEAR UP Georgia in her own words, Mrs. Stalvey noted “Dawn came into our school and introduced us to opportunities we would have never had without this program. We have laughed, learned, and grown together, and we feel confident and proud sending the students to high school after having implemented our tutoring/mentoring program.” She then went into detail about the AccuPlacer with Diagnostics exam given to eighth grade students at the beginning of the year.  GEAR Up Georgia partnered with the Technical College System of Georgia and Southern Regional Technical College to administer this exam.  The students were tested to determine their tutoring needs at eighth grade level. Some students scored so high that the Technical College System of Georgia GEAR UP Georgia Coordinator, Stacey Prescott and Southern Regional Technical College’s High School Coordinator offered to test those kids with the actual AccuPlacer — a college entrance level exam. 21 out of 25 students were ready to begin college level courses at the age of 13/14. In other words, Shiver Middle School is truly acting as an avant garde for other institutions to model.  Ms. Laura Kelly and Ms. Stacey Prescott were awarded Certificates of Recognition for their test administration assistance and dedication to the children’s education.

It’s no surprise that Shiver was generously rewarded at a GEAR UP Georgia Executive Leadership Meeting in Macon, GA. The awards included: Highest Parent Participation Rate in a County, Highest Consent Form Completion Rate in a County, Highest AccuPlacer Success Rate in a County, Highest AccuPlacer Completion Rate in a County, and last but surely not least, GEAR UP Georgia Exemplary School of 2017-2018.

When told that GEAR UP Georgia did not normally focus on developing Leadership until 10th grade, Ms. Dawn Harrison mentioned Stephanie Garcia.  Stephanie stepped up and asked about Leadership Opportunities in August 2017.  Ms. Melissa Gattusso, GEAR UP Georgia Director of Implementation at the Board of Regents, suggested that Stephanie be named the ABAC-Bainbridge/Shiver Student Ambassador.  Stephanie was also named the 8th grade Valedictorian for Shiver Middle School’s graduating class. Stephanie has participated in a GEAR UP Georgia Leadership Summit in Athens, Georgia this year as well.

Stephanie’ sister, Chasity Garcia, indicated that Stephanie was always very shy and quiet. She kept to herself and her schooling, until she decided she wanted to be a leader. Chasity beamed while revealing her sister’s plan to immerse herself in leadership development and qualities in order to curb her anxiety. Chasity attended the GEAR UP Georgia Leadership Summit as Stephanie’s guardian.  The students were all required to give presentations. Stephanie had a classmate with her on the trip, but a major component of the training involved the students being forced out of their comfort zone. Therefore, Stephanie was separated from her classmate. Even though this was an adjustment, Stephanie assimilated into her role with ease and made a number of friends on the first day. By the time the summit was coming to a close, it was time for the students to give their presentations to an audience of the State of Georgia’s District Members, School Principals, School Assistant Principals, Counselors, and GEAR Up Georgia employees. Stephanie had been nervous beforehand, though on the day of the closing ceremonies she was confident and prepared. Now Stephanie has minimized her social anxiety, and groomed herself into a fine leader with the help of family and friends. She and her sister are very involved at Shiver Middle School, and they both possess a strong urge to change lives.

Not only does GEAR UP Georgia teach kids to change lives, but Ms. Dawn Harrison and Fire Fighter Mr. Jamie Earp (pictured left, center) also want youth to value not only their lives but the lives of others as well. Ms. Dawn coordinates a number of stem labs and college and career activities when the kids visit the ABAC-Bainbridge campus. She asked Decatur County Fire and Rescue to assist with a Shiver campus tour earlier this year and to inform the students about how and why to contact public safety affiliates, and to remind them of career paths that include public service.

GEAR UP Georgia is now in the process of GEARING UP Grady County’s Cairo High School as Dawn Harrison follows her Shiver Scholars to the 9th grade.  To learn more, be sure to visit the GEAR UP Georgia grant website at www.gearupgeorgia.org and the GEAR UP Georgia Facebook page at www.facebook.com/GEARUPGeorgia