Partnership Feature: Alabama Power

200px-AlabamaPowerAt Ed, we know that the work we do cannot be done in isolation: it is only possible through the collective effort of so many partners in Birmingham and the input of our students and teachers.  We are constantly amazed by the way our community steps up to improve educational outcomes for our students, and from so many different corners: from the individual level to the group, and from the non-profit sector to major corporate industry.

One such corporate partner is Alabama Power, a subsidiary of Southern Company that provides electricity to 1.4 million customers in Alabama.  Alabama Power has been a partner to Ed – supporting the Foundation through a consistent presence on the Board of Directors – and a partner to the Academy of Engineering at Carver High School – representing the company on the school’s Advisory Board and regularly engaging with students on BEST Robotics, Alabama Power’s E-Day, and most recently, Bridging the Gap.

IMG_0060

Students at the Gaston Steam Plant in March.

The inaugural year of Bridging the Gap at Carver High School included trips to the Alabama and Lyric Theater, Alabama Power Corporate Headquarters, and the E.C. Gaston Steam Plant in Wilsonville, AL.  At the Gaston Plant, students heard from chemical and process engineers about the plant’s daily operations and also met operators in the control rooms who explained to students how they monitor the various functions, activities, and outputs in the plant.

Later in the year, students attended the company’s E-Day showcase, a full day event that included presentations from employees in fields ranging from substation engineering to safety/procedures to storm watch.  At year’s end, a representative from Alabama Power joined others on a post-secondary panel to talk to students about expectations for the profession and continuing education in the field.

IMG_0012

Students in the Storm Center as part of Alabama Power’s E-Day activities.

“We are fully invested in the process of preparing Birmingham’s students to be successful in the real word,” says Alabama Power HR Consultant Melissa Hyche.  “Similarly, we are committed to making sure that students who are interested in pursing a career in engineering or the related fields are well-prepared to do so.”

Jim Dorsten, Advisory Board member at the Carver Academy of Engineering, says it is the interaction with students that compels him to participate in Academy activities: “Being there when students gain new knowledge about a topic that they are interested in, watching them come up with a vision for their futures, and being a part of that process is worth every effort.”

Alabama Power has a history of investing in local education, as evidenced by programs such as the Brighter Minds initiative, which seeks to give back to our state with a focus on three key areas of education.  Additionally, the company is focused on giving students a jump start on developing the skills they need to be successful students by supporting 4-year-olds in high needs communities through preschool programs and engaging students through quality summer learning programs.  Alabama Power Company is also putting funds into classrooms and providing schools the support they need to help students learn about stewardship and conservation. The company also recognizes the importance of developing students for careers in the STEM field and is providing scholarships and interactive curriculum to assist students as they pursue this growing area.

Educator Spotlight: Herbert Clark, Carver HS

image-4Herbert Clark knows Birmingham City Schools.  In fact, he has had the unique opportunity to experience the district as a student and, now, as a teacher.

Clark is a pre-calculus teacher and head track coach at G.W. Carver High School. He holds a Bachelors in Mathematics from Alabama State University, a Masters in Secondary Mathematics, and a Masters in Educational Leadership from UAB. Clark entered the teaching field in his hometown in 2002, teaching math at Wilkerson Middle, then Whatley, and Hayes K-8. It was in the summer of 2013 that Mr. Clark finally moved back to Carver, his alma mater.

At Carver, Mr. Clark is now a part of the teaching teams for the Academies of Engineering and Health Sciences – programs that seek to make high school subjects relevant to students’  career interests, a theory that shows in Clark’s work. To keep his students interested in math, Mr. Clark sticks to three main ideas: “Relate math to the next time they’ll be using it, relate math to career fields they may be interested in, and relate math to everyday and/or standard life uses.” But Clark knows that there is more to teaching kids than getting them to pick-up classroom content; he said that most important piece of advice he has for fellow educators is to “establish relationships with students and continue them.”  This can help you anticipate their needs, Clark says, but it doesn’t hurt to also “expect the unexpected.”  He says, “[Our] kids are always coming from left field.”

This year Ed was lucky enough to work with Clark as school liaison for College 101. When asked to reflect on the experiences students got as part of College 101, Clark said the program was “a great resource for introducing kids to colleges and careers, the different functions of college, and the whole of college life,” a point that Ed and UAB were hoping to emphasize.  “These are the experiences our students need,” Clark said. “They need that perspective on what will expected of them once they attend college – because we’re going to do everything we can to get them there.”

Partnership Feature: YouthServe

P1020357Local non-profit, YouthServe, knows how important community service is to the development of young adults. “We believe that, if given the appropriate skills and opportunities, every youth has the potential to become a leader,” says Program Director Tiffany Brown.  “They all have the potential to make positive changes and contributions to their community.”

It is this shared sentiment that paved the way for a partnership between Ed and YouthServe.

IMG_0037In December, YouthServe helped place over 130 student volunteers from the Academies of Birmingham at Jackson-Olin, Wenonah, Huffman, and Woodlawn High Schools for a single day of group service.  Students were sorted based on interests and spent the day volunteering at one of six sites across the city, including the Greater Birmingham Humane Society and Toys for Tots.  You can hear more about the Academy Service Day in our January Student Voice segment here.

Beyond their involvement with Ed, YouthServe provides a wealth of service opportunities and activities for students across the Birmingham Metro Area.  Born of the 2004 merger between First Look and the Birmingham Youth Service Corps, YouthServe currently operates four main initiatives for youth ages 13-18: monthly Community Action service days, an in-school Service Learning Education curriculum, the summer Urban Service Camp, and two year-long leadership programs – the Youth Philanthropy Council and Youth Action Council.

IMG_0054This menu of programs is designed to enlighten, enlist, and engage students in service learning, because YouthServe believes that service is a crucial part of developing a strong community, through the cyclical act of giving, receiving, and giving back again. Through these programs, YouthServe hopes to help convey to students the importance of community involvement  as a life-long commitment, one that can affect all facets of a young person’s life from graduating high school, to gaining access to higher education and employment, and finally being a part of the hands-on volunteer work that will transform our community.

“Above all else, we want to empower our young people in Birmingham,” says YouthServe Executive Director Jennifer Hatchett. “We want them to see their own potential and help them establish a solid foundation for the transition from student to citizen so that they, too, can be a part of the future of our city.”

To learn more about YouthServe programs, or to apply to the YouthServe leadership councils, visit their website at youthservebham.org.

Student Voice: Corina Shipp and She’Lah Shreve

IMG_0030It is easy to go to work when you have days like the one we shared with students in the Academy of Engineering at Carver High School at the end of May.  As part of Bridging the Gap, tenth-grade students brought the school year to a close with a three-part trip to explore career options in the related fields of architecture and construction.

IMG_0004

The day began with a tour of the Alabama Theatre, during which students learned about the history of the theatre and its artworks and observed the engineering of the historic Big Bertha Wurlitzer in action, with her intricate pipe system set inside the theatre walls.  Inside lobby, Carver student Corina Shipp had an epiphany.  “This is what I want to do,” she says. “I want to design beautiful things.”

IMG_0055

Next, community outreach coordinator and TEDxBirmingham speaker Glenny Brock led students through the Lyric Theatre, a Birmingham landmark that is currently under massive reconstructive.  Students observed the building through the lens of its scaffoldings, walked on the top-level ‘dance floor’ to examine its murals, and followed in the footsteps of theatrical legends on the 100-year-old stage.  Brock spoke candidly with students about the era of segregation, its implications in the construction of the building, and the city’s decision to preserve that history in the reconstruction.

“This is the magic of Birmingham,” said student She’Lah Shreve. “People need to see these places and know our history.”

For the last part of the day, students travelled to Dunn Construction Company, where Bo Walters and Ryan Ferris talked with students about their educational and career paths, the perks of being a building science major, and the differences in the day-to-day jobs of the people who build roads and the people who build buildings.

In this month’s Student Voice, Corina and She’Lah tell us more about the day from their own point of view.  Watch the video below and check out more pictures from the event here.

 

Educator Spotlight: Christine Hall, Wenonah High School

IMG_2205Christine Hall has a sense of humor.

When she sees Ed program specialist and chief College 101 staffer Ballard Jones peek through her door, she’ll often say, “Oh, no, Ballard.  We don’t want you here today,” with a smirk and a short laugh.

Hall, curriculum coach at Wenonah High School, has been Ed’s main contact for coordinating and scheduling College 101 events during the 2013-2014 school year; this has been no small task, as Ed quickly expanded the program to engage students in over 1000 conversations about college prep and admissions this spring alone.

Jones appreciates the humor, but even more so, he appreciates her dedication to her students and her support of Ed programs.  “Dr. Hall is excellent to work with,” Jones says. “She and the other College 101 contacts have spent a lot of time coordinating programs and students and we are very grateful for their partnership. Our programs aren’t possible without the support of staff at the schools.”

Hall brings a bevy of academic credentials to her work at Wenonah.  She completed her BS in Biology at University of Alabama; a BA in English, MA in education, and EdS in educational leadership at UAB; an EdD in educational leadership from UA/UAB; and is currently working on her PhD in English through UA/UAB.  On top of that, she has dedicated 25 years to working in Birmingham City Schools.  IMG_2214

As you can imagine, after two decades here, Hall has seen her share of changes in Birmingham City Schools; but when asked about educational innovation, she cited the new and expanding Academies of Birmingham, an initiative started in 2011 that relies on the structure of national career-academy models.  “Through that paradigm, kids are exposed to more college and career choices, networking opportunities, and cultural experiences beyond the classroom,” Hall says.  “The principals of work-based learning provide opportunities to partner with professionals that align with students’ future career choices.”

Ed has worked with students in Wenonah’s Academy of Hospitality and Tourism, providing ACT prep through the work of long-term volunteers from UAB Honors College and Lawson State, and enlisting Alabama Possible to expand their Blueprints College Access curriculum to the school.  Hall has served as the main point-of-contact for most College 101 programs, and has been the sponsor for the school’s College Champions, an elite group of students that promoted events to the rest of the student body.  

Despite her jokes and good humor, Hall is serious about her job and about supporting her students.  “Teaching is a unique profession,” she says, “because it is a journey that lends itself to many avenues, both positive and negative. But by capitalizing on the positive, a teacher can make a difference in a child’s life by giving him the opportunity to succeed.  And that is worth all the work.”