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Marshall student selected for “GEAR UP” leadership academy

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James “Ikie” Brooks, a College of Science student at Marshall University, was chosen to participate in the “GEAR UP Alumni leadership Academy” (GUALA).

GUALA is an initiative created by the National Council for Community and Education Partnerships (NCCEP) designed to strengthen leadership and advocacy skills of GEAR UP alumni.

NCCEP selects thirty alumni members, one of which was Brooks, each spring to participate in GUALA, a twelve-month program beginning in May. Brooks will participate in a weeklong training from June 12 until June 18 in Washington, D.C.

“This program has allowed us to really harness our voices and tell our stories,” Brooks said. “We have been given the opportunity to take these leadership qualities and take [them] back to our communities and try and change the college-going culture.”

Brooks said the training offered networking dinners with businesswomen and men, political leaders and philanthropists with whom he made lasting connections.

Brooks said his GEAR UP coach and local director, Elizabeth Manuel, had been an excellent mentor from his initial involvement in seventh grade through his training. Without Manuel, he said, this would not have been possible.

“I now believe that through everything this program has taught me, I can make a difference on a bigger scale by influencing policy change and really getting involved with the political process,
Brooks said. “I am now so invested in politics that a career in that field seems like a real possibility.”

Alumni commit to performing approximately ten hours of community service each month that benefits local, state, and national GEAR UP.

The objectives of GUALA’s alumni leaders are to strengthen leadership, knowledge, and advocacy skills. The academy focuses on building awareness of and commitment to community service and civic engagement. The academy also encourages active participation in GEAR UP activities, particularly those that inspire younger peers.

Brooks is pursing a degree at in biology and plans to go to medical school upon graduation. He is currently a member of Red Cross Club, MedLife, and the Optometry Club.

Donyelle Murray can be contacted at [email protected]

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