Partnership Feature: Denise Gregory, Director of Diversity & Intercultural Initiatives at Samford University

Denise Gregory 8.12The response to touring Samford’s campus from students in Birmingham City Schools has been overwhelming.

“I didn’t know a campus this private existed in Birmingham,” one student says.

Or: “The chapel is beautiful,” says another.

Or, my personal favorite: “I didn’t think I could go to Samford, or that I would want to, but after going there, I am definitely going to apply.” Continue reading

10/29/14: Alabama College Preview Day at Carver High School

Yesterday, Ed kicked off a brand-new College 101 initiative at Carver High School with the first Alabama College Preview Day.  This year, Ed will support a series of in-school presentations for Carver Juniors featuring over 10 different post-secondary institutions from around the state of Alabama.  Each time, a group of 15-20 students will be selected to eat lunch with the admissions representatives after the informational sessions, ask questions, and learn more about the institutions that catch their attentions.  Check out pictures from our inaugural event featuring UAB, Birmingham-Southern, Samford, and Miles College.


Educator Spotlight: Herbert Clark, Math Teacher, Carver High School

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.”

Educator Spotlight: Rameka Davis, Principal, Ossie Ware Mitchell Middle School

20130313_112736-1Rameka Davis can be a hard person to get a hold of.

“Ballard! You finally tracked me down!” Davis says to Ed staffer Ballard Jones, from behind her desk in her new position as Principal at Ossie Ware Mitchell Middle School.

Over the course of a year, Jones and Davis have built an easy rapport, working together on College 101  during her time as interim principal at Woodlawn High School. Davis also played a major role in many of the successes that Ed enjoyed with other programs such as the College Prep Institute and Bridging the Gap.

Ms. Davis has been in Birmingham City Schools for sixteen years, beginning her career at Woodlawn as a special education teacher, and moving through the ranks as assistant principal, interim principal, and now principal.  Davis graduated from Jackson State University with a Bachelor’s in Early Childhood Education; she also holds a Masters in Collaborative Teaching and Special Education from ASU and an EDS in Educational Leadership from UAB.

When asked about what it is that she does to ensure her students are getting the most out of their education, Davis explained that partnering with outside organizations – such as Ed and Church of the Highlands – helps keep learning fresh and lessens the load on teachers by utilizing the strengths of community organizations. Davis also said that she wants her students and teachers focused on college and career readiness, which, at Woodlawn, was emphasized in the Academy of Business and Finance, and the new Academy of Arts and Environmental Science. Ms. Davis also places special emphasis on project based learning, which she says “gives students the opportunity to collaborate and push their own thinking.”

As for her work with Ed, Ms. Davis said that Ed “not only talked about what [Ed planned] to do, but actually brought resources to the table to accomplish those outcomes.” Davis said that working with Ed helped her accomplish her mission for the school because the “programs are consistent with what [staff are] trying to do at the school level.”

Then she, pauses, shoots a glance at Ballard and adds with a laugh: “you were definitely persistent as well.”

Educator Spotlight: Tolanda Ramsey, Woodlawn High School

photoAt Ed, we like to make a point of recognizing all of our wonderful teachers, past and present. This year, Ed had the pleasure of working with Tolanda Ramsey during her final year as an English teacher at Woodlawn High School.  Ms. Ramsey was a great ally for Ed, specifically when it came to our College 101 program. Without teachers like Ms. Ramsey, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do.

Ms. Ramsey’s five years with BCS were just one piece of her interesting and varied life story. A native of Phoenix, Arizona, Ms. Ramsey attended Troy University where she earned a B.S. in English, and a Masters in Public Administration. She has worked in the accounting department of the Alabama Legislature and as a Senior Management Assistant in the Community Services Division with the City of Glendale, Arizona.

Ms. Ramsey became a teacher because she believes that “in order for our society to flourish, we must take the necessary steps to prepare future generations.” Having worked in government, Ramsey saw firsthand the challenges that cities face.  “That first step [towards civic improvement],” she says, “begins with the education of our youth.”

It was this realization that led Ramsey to leave Glendale and get her certification to teach as an English Language Arts teacher.

When asked about her teaching style, Ramsey says that she strives to “motivate and support [her] students in all aspects of their educational careers.” She takes a unique approach to teaching because she wants students to learn from their peers as well; so Ramsey utilizes the students that already understand certain concepts to help teach others in her classroom. Ms. Ramsey also stays abreast of technology and the ways that it can be beneficial to the classroom environment, and includes using “social media and cell phone technology in [her] daily lessons.”

Ramsey’s support of Ed’s programs, like College 101, is informed by her interest in exposing her students to post-secondary options.  College 101, she says, “has provided the students with a wealth of information that has helped the students with college planning – and as an awesome bonus the students [that participated in College 101] also went on various college tours and information sessions. The feedback from the students was always positive.”

Ramsey makes her way now to Starkville, Mississippi and the folks at Ed will most certainly miss getting to work with her at Woodlawn.  But her spirit and wisdom will not be soon forgotten; even in our final conversations with her, Ramsey made a comment that rings true with the staff at Ed: she said, as educators, we have to stay open minded and open to change. “We teach every day,” she said, “but becoming a great educator takes many years.”

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.

4/16/14: College 101 Spring Academic Tour at UAB

What a day – in the latest iteration of College 101, students from all Birmingham City high schools traveled to UAB this week to get a glimpse into the academic side of college.  Students got a full campus tour and also participated in one of seven break-out sessions facilitated by departmental faculty and students in Business, Education, Engineering, Pre-Health, Pre-Nursing, Arts/Music, and Criminal Justice.