Appalachian Kentucky Class of 2018 GEARs UP for College


Corbin, KY— More than five-thousand 8th-graders from Appalachian Kentucky gathered Wednesday to commit to high school graduation and college going. The Berea College Partners for Education event kicked off GEAR UP month in Kentucky and included a motivational message from Hasan Davis, Commissioner of the of Kentucky Department of Juvenile Justice, as well as musical performances by the Hall Pass Tour, Chad Warrix and Keith Anderson.

Davis opened the event by vocalizing the expectation that the students will graduate high school and attend college. He led the crowd of 5,000 8th graders, all dressed in blue “Class of 2018” t-shirts, in chanting, “I commit not to quit!” Davis shared that Berea College will bring the students back together in the spring of 2018 to celebrate their high school graduation and college acceptance.


Next, The Hall Pass Tour, a high-energy hip-hop group based out of New York City motivated the students to use education to achieve their dreams. Hall Pass Tour selected two local students, Rachel Hayes, 13, from Jackson County, and Bailey Wright, 13, from Garrard County, to join them onstage to open the show.


“At first I was nervous,” Hayes said, “but I got really relieved when everybody was cheering for me.” Hayes was glad to join the event because she wants to see all her classmates succeed. “It’s for GEAR UP, to help you get ready for college and encourage kids to go and get a higher education,” she said. “Go to college, do what you’ve always wanted to do. Even if it sounds impossible, do it, no matter what it is.”


Wright also enjoyed the experience. “It was just extravagant for me to be able to do that,” Wright said. “This is by far the biggest crowd I have ever performed in front of, and I’m surprised I was not nervous. It was wonderful.”

Wright said she was glad to participate in the event because she wants to see all her classmates succeed. “GEAR UP is college readiness for kids all over Kentucky, and the nation, actually, but this is GEAR UP Appalachia,” Wright said. “Schools from all over eastern and southern Kentucky came here in Corbin to unite and celebrate being the Class of 2018 and just get ready for college.”


Nashville recording artists Chad Warrix and Keith Anderson then provided the students with a concert experience. Warrix and Anderson gave students the opportunity to ask questions such as what role college played in their career success.


The Berea College GEAR UP program provides tutoring, mentoring and college planning activities in 19 school districts in 17 south-eastern Kentucky counties. The goal is to increase high school graduation and college-going rates in these counties. Dreama Gentry, of Berea College, explains “Without intervention, more than 1,000 of these 5,000 8th graders will drop out of high school, and less than 2,200 of these students will go on to college. It is critical to the economic success of our region that we increase the number of students who graduate from high school and attend college.”

For more information about Berea College’s GEAR UP partnership, check out the program page at