March 2019 Newsletter

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Save the Date for our Student Kickoffs!

Our Student Kickoffs have been scheduled for May 13th and 14th

at The Boutwell Auditorium from 9:00 AM-1:00 PM.

Areas I & II: May 13th

Areas III & IV: May 14th

Stay tuned for more information!

School Areas

AREA I (Facilitator: Chrystal Tolbert)

Clay - Chalkville Middle School

Hueytown Middle School

AREA II (Facilitator: Tiffany Dukes)

Erwin Middle School

Fultondale High School

Rudd Middle School

Tarrant High School

AREA III (Facilitator: Lauren Stuckey)

Irondale Middle School

Minor Middle School

Pleasant Grove High School

Rutledge Middle School

AREA IV (Facilitator: Kimberly Johnson)

Bessemer City Middle School

Fairfield Preparatory High School

McAdory Middle School

Highlights from School Teams Kickoff

GEAR UP Jefferson County held their School Teams Kickoff on February 28, 2019, at the Alabama Workforce Training Center in Birmingham, Alabama. In attendance were school administrators and GEAR UP school team members which included GEAR UP school coordinators, counselors, parents, community leaders, and more.

School teams received information about the origins of GEAR UP Jefferson County and the services that will be provided to the students within the cohort. Community partners provided brief descriptions of available services for the students. GU-JC academic and supportive services include test preparation, college and career counseling & advising, mentoring, Social and Emotional Learning, STEM and civic engagement.

Attendees received Chick-Fil-A breakfast refreshments compliments of America's First Federal Credit Union.

The School Teams Kickoff wrapped up with the announcement of the Inaugural GEAR UP Jefferson County School Kickoff to introduce all GEAR UP Jefferson County cohort students to the program.

Click here to view more pictures from the day.


Chrystal Tolbert (Area I)

Chrystal L. Tolbert is a native of Birmingham, Alabama. She attended Tuskegee University where she received a bachelor’s degree in biology. In 2010, she entered the teaching profession and in 2011 began graduate studies at the University of Montevallo where she later received her Master’s degree in Education in 2014.

Ms. Tolbert was granted a fellowship by the National Science Teachers’ Association in 2013 and was recognized for her “Outstanding Excellence as an Educator” in 2014 by the Birmingham City Schools District. Additionally in 2014, she relocated to Memphis, Tennessee and worked in Shelby County Schools for 4 years. During her time in Memphis, she was a 7th Grade Science teacher and an Instructional Support Advisor. In 2018, she moved back to Alabama where she currently holds the position of GEAR UP Jefferson County Area Facilitator.

Her inspiration comes from the visionary educator and civil rights activist Mary McCloud Bethune who said, “Invest in the human soul. Who knows, it might be a diamond in the rough.” Chrystal Tolbert is a passionate individual who is committed to impacting and inspiring the lives of others. She is also affiliated with Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated (Omicron Omega Chapter).

Tiffany Dukes (Area II)

Tiffany Goldsmith Dukes is a resident of Birmingham, Alabama and a native of Montevallo, Alabama. After graduating from Montevallo High School, she attended the University of Alabama at Birmingham where she earned a BS from the School of Natural Science and Mathematics and a Masters of Education in Curriculum and Instruction. She also earned a Graduate Certificate in Environmental Health and Safety from the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa.

Mrs. Dukes is a past employee of the Southern Research Institute, where she worked as a Research Assistant in the Organic Chemistry Department of Drug Discovery. She has spent the last 13 years teaching over 11 different courses in the field of scientific education for Birmingham City Schools (A.H. Parker High School) and Miles College Upward Bound. Throughout her tenure, she has had the opportunity to serve in various positions: Science Department Chair, SREB Teacher Leader, Birmingham City Schools Mentor Teacher, Continuous Improvement Plan and Curriculum Leadership Team member, School Advanced Education Accreditation co chair, Senior Class Advisor, Safety Chemical Hygiene Safety Plan writer and team member, Discovery Learning Think Link Assessment Coordinator, Assistant Director of Parent Teacher Volunteer Committee, Hudson Alpha GREAT Scholar, UAB SUSME National Science Foundation Lesson Study demonstration class presenter, and National Science Teacher Association Conference delegate/presenter.

Mrs. Dukes enjoys being a part of the educational system and helping students achieve higher goals. Thus, she believes in the educational process and continues to educate herself in order that she may help others. Tiffany is the wife of Mr. Donnell Dukes of Anniston, Alabama, the mother of Dawn Elle Dukes and daughter of Willie C. Goldsmith, Sr. of Montevallo. Tiffany is also an active member of Ward Chapel A.M.E. Worship Center in Montevallo, AL and a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated.

Lauren Stuckey (Area III)

Lauren McDougal Stuckey, Ed. S. joins GEAR UP Jefferson County from our nation’s capitol in Washington D.C., where she served as a teacher and Department Chair in the Montgomery County Maryland School System. Mrs. Stuckey’s career spans over 15 years, and she considers herself a life-long educator. As a graduate of Hofstra University in New York, she received her Bachelors in Secondary Education and American Literature. She went on to earn her Masters in Administration and Supervision from the prestigious Hood College in Frederick, Maryland.

Whether she is focused on improving a student’s GPA by coordinating the Student/Teacher Mentorship Program or serving on the board of The PEARL Project (a D.C. based Nonprofit that provides STEM training for middle and high school-aged girls) or working as educational consultant, Mrs. Stuckey’s passion for cultivating the minds of our future leaders vacillates in and out of traditional classroom settings. Her years of teaching experience and leadership roles have allowed her to be a strong asset in any work environment. She is a certified educator in 5 states: Alabama, Maryland, New York, California, and Virginia. These diverse environments give her a unique perspective and have challenged her to be the best leader and educator possible.

Mrs. Stuckey moved to Birmingham in 2018 after marrying her husband, Mr. Brandan Stuckey, in Destin, FL. They both are avid NFL fans and enjoy spending time with one another playing tennis, hiking, cooking, and traveling to new places. Mrs. Lauren Stuckey is a seasoned educator and a fearless leader who is ready to “hit the ground running for GEAR UP!”

Kim Johnson (Area IV)

Kimberly Renee Johnson is a proud native of Bessemer, Alabama. She was educated in the Jefferson County School system. She received her B.A. degree in English Education from Talladega College. She later obtained a Masters of Science in Instructional Leadership from Alabama A & M University. She is currently working towards the completion of her Educational Specialist Degree at the University of Alabama in Birmingham.

Ms. Johnson is a passionate and enthusiastic educator and has served in the public school system since 1995. Her professional tenure includes Fairfield City Schools, Jefferson County Schools, Birmingham City Schools, Lawson State Community College, and Alabama State University by way of the Miles College Extension Center. She has served in various positions: English teacher, Alabama Reading Initiative Reading Coach, Reading Consultant for Midfield High School, Curriculum Coach, AVID Site Coordinator, College Board Advance Placement Certified Teacher, English Department Chairperson, Title I School Improvement Coordinator, School Test Coordinator, District-wide Professional Development Presenter, Principal Designee, and Adjunct English/Reading Instructor.

Ms. Johnson's professional philosophy is "Every child has untapped talent that must be groomed by the right educator.” She credits her success to the mentorship provided by her brother, Dr. Rushton Johnson, Jr., her aunt, Dr. Viola Acoff, her beloved uncle, the Late Reverend Roosevelt Acoff, and her parents --Mr. Rushton Johnson and the Late Reverend Linda Acoff Johnson.

Ms. Johnson's professional distinctions include: Outstanding Service/Leadership and Teacher awards, Teacher of the Year (School and District-wide recognition), Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Accreditation (SACS) Steering Committee Chairman, Alabama State Department of Education Direct Writing Assessment Pilot Committee, and recipient of the Attorney General's Outstanding Educator Award presented by Governor Don Siegleman. Additional accolades include motivational speaker and accomplished vocalist. She currently serves as Local Coordinator of the Young Adult Missionary Society, Director of Vacation Bible School and Youth Choir Director at Petty’s Chapel AME Zion Church in Bessemer. She gives God the glory for all the things he has allowed her to do. Additionally, Ms. Johnson is a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated.

GU-JC Student Kickoff for Schools in Areas I & II

Monday, May 13th, 9am-1pm

1930 Reverend Abraham Woods Junior Boulevard

Birmingham, AL

GU-JC Student Kickoff for Schools in Areas III & IV

Tuesday, May 14th, 9am-1pm

1930 Reverend Abraham Woods Junior Boulevard

Birmingham, AL

About Us

Principal Investigator: Dr. Jennifer Alexiou-Ray

Co-Principal Investigators: Dr. Cassie Raulston, Dr. Amy Samuels, Dr. Greg Samuels, & Dr. Alvin Taylor

Project Director: Dr. Marsha Savage

Financial Manager: Sharon Hardie

Area Facilitators:

Tiffany Dukes

Kimberly Johnson

Lauren Stuckey

Chrystal Tolbert