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

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.


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.”


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.”

Student Voice: Birmingham City Students Sound Off About College 101

IMG_0059_2One of Ed’s most long-standing signature programs is College 101, a college-prep initiative supported by Birmingham Coca-Cola Bottling Company United and bolstered by partnerships with the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Miles College, Samford, Birmingham Southern, and other Alabama colleges and universities.

IMG_0033_2With College 101, Ed seeks to provide Birmingham City students with a comprehensive knowledge of college admissions and access to best equip them for life after high school.  This year, College 101 included two bi-annual tours, two high achievers tours, FAFSA completion workshops, HBCU presentations, and Entrance Requirement seminars.

IMG_0010_3 The spring bi-annual at UAB was designed to complement fall tours at UAB and Miles – which focused on the social aspect of college life, highlighting achievements of current students, and featuring step performances by fraternities and sororities – with an academic-themed tour.  Student participants had the opportunity to rank their interest in seven departments, and attended break-out sessions and tours that illustrated a major-specific view of life at UAB.  Students in all sessions engaged with faculty regarding popular majors, the job market, and course load, while also asking questions about how best to prepare in high school, choose a post-secondary institution, and prepare for admissions standards, such as the ACT.

At day’s end, many students were eager to talk about their experiences, and lucky for us, we got it all on film.  So check out this month’s Student Voice video to hear from four students about this year’s College 101 tour.

Partnership Feature: Alabama Possible

image_6 At Ed, we believe that old cliche – it takes a village to raise a child – and so we dedicate a large part of our efforts to building relationships in the community, capitalizing on our local assets, and strategically organizing our efforts around common community goals.  That is why we feel to grateful to have such a productive partnership with Alabama Possible, another organization dedicated to “leveraging collective assets to develop creative solutions” to address issues of poverty and education.

The Birmingham-based non-profit works to reduce poverty and its impacts through strategic partnerships with higher education institutions, community partners, policymakers and faith-based organizations. Its programs equip partner organizations with the tools, information, and outreach activities they need to understand poverty and address it effectively.

image_7This year, Ed has been a huge benefactor of Alabama Possible’s expertise and experienced staff.  In the fall, Ed launched the College Prep Institute, a program geared at 10th- and 11th- grade students in the career academies at Wenonah and Woodlawn High Schools; and enlisted the help of Alabama Possible to incorporate its Blueprints College Access curriculum into a program centered on career-exploration and academic planning.

Blueprints is a statewide initiative that matches current college students with high school students from low-income families, who then mentor their younger peers through the college-going process and connect them with resources to make college more affordable. The program seeks to demystify the process, helping students to make structured decisions so that they can navigate the college admissions process successfully.

keviBlueprints program coordinator Kevi Martin understands how important it is to empower students to master the college-admissions process.  Martin graduated from Agnes Scott College in 2012 with a B.A. in Women Studies, and as a first generation college student, was instinctively drawn to a career in education.  Martin began her professional work as an AmeriCorps VISTA with Alabama Possible’s Blueprints College Access Initiative, and was promoted to program coordinator soon after.  At Woodlawn High School, Kevi quickly became a part of the culture, eventually taking on the role of volleyball and basketball coach, in addition to her work with Alabama Possible.

“I dove in head first and made myself as accessible as possible,” Kevi says. “I kept showing up and after a few weeks, the students, faculty, staff and administration became my family.”

image_1As a part of Alabama Possible’s partnership with Ed, AP was able to sustain relationships in Woodlawn and create new relationships in Wenonah, and used the success of the College Prep Institute framework to inform plans to expand into other schools and strengthen existing partnerships.  Alabama Possible also assisted Ed with College 101 FAFSA workshops, an effort, Kevi says, that was mutually beneficial.

“Leaving Birmingham,” says Martin, who moves this month to attend training for the Georgia Teaching Fellows – Atlanta Cohort, “I know it’s not for ever.  There will always be more proms to chaperon, graduations to attend, basketball games to watch, and late night FAFSA questions to answer. These are the sorts of relationships that will last a lifetime.”

Thank you for your time, partnership, and friendship, Kevi and best of luck.  We’ll see you when you return.