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3/6/2007 - Jackson, Miss.

GEAR UP Mississippi recently awarded $500 scholarships to 15 students who submitted outstanding essays in response to the question, "How will you convince your classmate not to drop out of school?" The essay contest was launched by GEAR UP to support the Mississippi Department of Education's goal to reduce the state's 31 percent dropout rate by half in the next five to seven years.

“School is a challenge,” writes Harold Millsap, a GEAR UP student at Lanier High School in Jackson. “Don’t be afraid to stand up to the challenge. Life would be boring if everything came easily.”

In his essay, Derick Sullivan, a GEAR UP participant from Meridian High School, adopts a tongue-in-cheek attitude. “The first benefit of dropping out of school is sleeping late, but of course there is nothing to do once you get out of bed. Let’s not forget the big bucks you will be making after quitting school. But wait. What will you put on your job application? You will have to get really creative so the employer will not notice that you have no education and no job experience.”

GEAR UP students receiving the scholarships include, from Columbus High School, Erick Brown, Michelle Pilate, and Kelsey Thompson; from Drew High School, Quinton Smith; from Greenwood High School, Ashley Martin; from Hattiesburg High School, Hallie Paul; from John F. Kennedy High School, Robin Johnson; from Lanier High School, Tekita Franklin and Harold Millsap; from Meridian High School, Ashley Betts, Holly Corbitt, Derick Sullivan, and Amy Tolleson; from Ruleville Central High School, Rashae Appleberry; and from South Pike High School, Jasmine Allen.

GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) is a federally funded program designed to increase the number of low-income students who are prepared to enter and succeed in college. Currently, over 5,600 eleventh grade students from 47 high schools are involved in GEAR UP Mississippi and have been since the seventh grade.

GEAR UP operates under the auspices of the Mississippi Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning, which governs the public universities in Mississippi, including Alcorn State University; Delta State University; Jackson State University; Mississippi State University including the Mississippi State University Division of Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine; Mississippi University for Women; Mississippi Valley State University; the University of Mississippi including the University of Mississippi Medical Center; and the University of Southern Mississippi.


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