GEAR UP Alabama Kick-Off

by Marva Smith

Shown Above: Mr. Erwin Dudley, former UA basketball player, GCH Assistant Principal Andrea Perry and Marva Smith, Site Facilitator, with GEAR UP students. and Mr. Erwin Dudley, Motivational Speaker, shares his coming-of-age story with GEAR UP students

The Greene County School District kicked off its fourth year of participation in GEAR UP Alabama. GEAR UP Alabama is a federally funded initiative through the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The program had its beginning at Carver Middle School and Paramount Jr. High School during the 2015-2016 academic year when the current tenth and eleventh grade students were in the seventh and eighth grades. The program will follow the students through high school graduation and into post-secondary institutions. September 23-29, 2018 is National GEAR UP Kick-Off Week. This year’s theme is “Super Heroes” which denotes that there is a super hero inside each of them…just waiting to be discovered. The week kicked off with a program in the gymnasium at Greene County High School. The program included a welcome and greetings by Mr. Willie Simmons, principal and Dr. James Carter, Superintendent; respectively. The high school choir under the directorship of Mr. Siegfried Williams rendered two melodious selections that were sung to perfection. The highlight of the program was a speech by Mr. Erwin Dudley. Mr. Dudley played basketball during early 2000s at the University of Alabama. While at the Capstone, he consistently made a name for himself. During his college basketball career, he was named All-American by the Associated Press, a consensus SEC 2002 Player-of-the-Year and an unanimous All-SEC First Team Pick. Dudley led the SEC in rebounding for three consecutive seasons, becoming the first to do so since Shaquille O’Neal. He also holds the University of Alabama school record with 129 career starts, ranks seventh all-time in scoring (1,764 points) and fourth in rebounding (1,184). Dudley recorded 43 double-doubles, giving him the nickname “E-Double-Double”. The message he drove home to the students in his closing remarks was that you can accomplish your goal if you put God first, be committed and work hard. He has had many hardships and obstacles in life but didn’t let that hinder him. His achievements have been abundant during his basketball career. He played thirteen years in an overseas basketball league in Turkey and is currently semi-retired. The National Kick-Off Week Celebration continued with “Teachers Tell Their Stories” of their college experiences on Tuesday, Graduation Commitment Day on Wednesday where students signed a poster committing to graduating from high school with their cohorts. On Super Hero Day Thursday, students dressed as Super Heroes and completed the phrase, “I will be a Super Hero by…”. On Friday, students dressed in that favorite college gear or Fresh Start or GEAR UP tees. Students will culminate their GEAR UP Kick-Off Week activities by attending the Future Proof Let Us Make Man Conference at the University of Alabama Birmingham (UAB) on Saturday. GEAR UP Alabama objective is to cause the students’ hopes, dreams, and possibilities be a reality.