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"It starts with all of our 6th and 7th graders in the district, a little under 3,500 students, and these students will be exposed to all kinds of academic enhancements,” Horn said.

Those enhancements include tutors, mentors, college counseling through the group College Admissions Made Possible and more.

"We will systematically walk them through middle school and through high school, through their first year of post secondary education and successfully enter college without having to take and remedial courses and be ready for anything that's in front of them,” Horn explained.

He said getting ready for college needs to start as early as 6th and 7th grade.

“Those middle school years are so formative in a child's education You can easily win or lose them during this middle school time. We've got to win more than we lose,” Principal Judith Ross

UAB was awarded the state Gear Up grant to reach 10,000 students in 21 counties in the poverty stricken Black Belt at $3.5 million a year.

"We are trying to strategically address the needs of the whole child so it's not just about academics, it's about the other components and factors that create success,” Dr. Veronique Brown said.

“They gave us seed money to get things started, but ultimately the responsibility is with us in making sure that our kids are educated and prepared for college,” Brown said.

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