BECKLEY, WV (WVNS) – Over 3,500 sixth and seventh graders gathered in the Beckley Convention Center to learn about a unique educational opportunity.

Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs, also known as GEAR UP Southern West Virginia, held its kickoff event today.

Students from Monroe, Summers, Mercer, Raleigh and Wyoming County joined in the event.

The program is designed to help students find tools and resources available to them to get into and attend college or other post high school education.

As part of the event, motivational speaker EJ Carrion spoke to the students.

Concord University’s Dean of Students, Dr. Sarah Beasley, said its never too early for a student to begin thinking about their college career.

“It’s important for them to start learning about the opportunities and resources out there so they know it really is a viable option for every sixth and seventh grader in this part of the state,” said Beasley.

As part of the event, representatives from Concord and New River Community and Technical College each gave away two $500 scholarships apiece to their respective schools.

But it wasn’t just those working with the colleges that were excited about the event.

Attending students and teachers were visibly having a great time.

Travis Allen is a physical education and health teacher at Mount View Elementary and Middle School.

He says the students were excited about the event.

“They seemed really excited about coming here, learning about what they can learn in the future, career path wise,” said Allen. “And getting together with their peers and talking about what they want to do together after they get out of high school and stuff like that. And its just a good program to learn about and help them find a way to go to a university or a trade school or something like that.”

The GEAR UP program helps students plan college tours, prep for exams like the SAT and ACT, and even seek financial aid.