For the first Alumni Feature of the school year, Kendal Harris sat down with Robyn Gulley, a Political Science major and sophomore at Birmingham-Southern College. Robyn graduated from Ramsay High School in 2016, and during her time at Ramsay, she was very active in Ed’s programs, including Ed Family Game Night.
At BSC, Robyn is currently involved in the Bonner Leader Program, Black Student Union, and RUF, and within the Birmingham community, she is involved with Steel City Connection, STAIR, and the Birmingham-Education Foundation. Gulley got her start with the Ed Foundation in her junior year of high school when she attended a Network Night, and now in college, she continues her participation with Ed by creating and leading the Ed Alumni Group. Here what she has to say about this new group:
KH: Why did you continue volunteering with the Birmingham-Education Foundation after high school?
RG: All the while when volunteering in high school, I got the opportunity to build close relationships with the staff who helped me with different stages in the process of going to college. J.W. Carpenter, the Executive Director, helped me with financial aid and learning which schools were giving me the most money. Victoria Hollis, the Strategy Director, would help me with my writing, and she even helps me now. Victoria is so inspiring and sweet, and I appreciate her for giving me the opportunity to let me grow. I can also thank Ed for connecting me with my current mentor, Jasmine Walker. We met at a Network Night where we were both connectors at the same time and having to do the same work. She came into my life at a dark time, and she was like the light at the end of the tunnel. She is very encouraging and reminds me a lot of myself.
KH: What is the purpose of the Ed Alumni Group?
RG: The Class of 2016 is the first group of people to graduate that were involved with Ed during their first time being in the Birmingham City schools. This group came together so that we could about ways to still be involved after leaving high school. Including myself, there were two Carver students and one Parker student in this initial group. Victoria Hollis gathered all of us together to come up with an idea of something to benefit students coming right out of high school and students currently in college. We came up with the program called Adulting With Ed to teach basic life skills. For all our sessions, we had different people from different areas come and speak. We held a session on finance, so students could learn about credit, budgeting money, and all the things they don’t really teach you in high school. We also held a session on emotional support because we felt coming into college was a very tough, emotional transition that we never anticipated, and we it was important to talk about that transition and being in tune with your mental health. We also held a session on balancing a social and academic life where we had someone come and share his college experiences and give advice about time management. Lastly, to cater to the students who were just about to go to college, we had a panel on College 101 where we had admissions counselors and a student from Fisk University come and speak.
KH: What are some future goals of the Ed Alumni Group, and what do you hope the group will bring to these graduating seniors and college students?
RG: I hope that the alumni group brings a support system for students. One of the key things the Birmingham Education Foundation teaches us is that we network with people to reach our goals, to learn from one another, and so that we can share our talent and resources. I see the Ed Alumni Group being our own huge network of people that will last post-graduation and for long time.
Kendal Harris is a Montgomery, Alabama native and current junior English major at Birmingham-Southern College. Her passion for education began when after shadowing a Jefferson County middle school teacher, she noticed the injustices and difficulties that ESL and non-English speaking students faced in the classroom. She is working with the Development and Communications Director in implementation and strategy for the promotion of Birmingham Education Foundation. After college, Kendal hopes to use her love of photography and writing to pursue a career in the Communications and Marketing field.