Partnership Feature: Lawson State Honors College

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As a pillar of the Birmingham community, Lawson State has been serving students in the greater metro area for decades. Over the past year, Ed has partnered specifically with Lawson State Honors College in an effort to recruit volunteers in several service capacities.  The partnership has proven to be mutually beneficial to all involved; in fact, Honors College Director Weymon Holloway explains, “Community service [is] a pillar of the Honors College, [and] many of the Honors Students have expressed an interest in doing more to serve the Birmingham City School System.”

With many of the Honors students at LSCC being former BCS students themselves, Mr. Holloway says that this was a way for his students to give back to their alma maters. Holloway also sees this partnership as a way to enhance the Honors College’s relationship with the district.

The Honors College is still in its early stages of development,” Holloway says, “and as a result, the Birmingham Education Foundation has been vital in providing a platform by which the Honors College can showcase its usefulness as a service partner.”

act prep 4Throughout the past school year, the Honors College supplied volunteers to Ed’s ACT Fellows program as part of the College Prep Institute.  The fellows met every Tuesday and Thursday at Wenonah and Woodlawn high schools to help prepare 11th grade students for the upcoming ACT. As part of this partnership, Mr. Holloway said that the Honors College volunteers were “were required to attend ACT Fellows Training in order to learn how to manage the classroom setting and deliver the content, as well as on-going professional development check-ins throughout the semester.“

When we sat down to talk to Jacquelyn Boyd about her experiences as an ACT Fellow, she explained that the “program helped [her] develop [her] public speaking skills.” Boyd also said that she wanted to take part in the ACT Fellows group because “programs like this weren’t available for [her] to take advantage of when [she] was in high school.”

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Outside of their partnership with Ed and other service projects, the Honors College also seeks to provide the following benefits to their students:

  • Scholarship Opportunities
  • Prestige and Attractiveness to Senior Colleges
  • Travel (nationally and internationally in some cases) Study Abroad Opportunities
  • Mentorship Opportunities
  • Internship Opportunities
  • Enhanced Leadership Skills
  • Exposure to Honors College Classes and Experiences

The Honors College believes that these benefits not only enhance the value of a student’s education, but create more well-rounded and career-ready individuals.

When looking back on the past year, Mr. Holloway speaks excitedly about the partnership that Ed and LSCC’s Honors College have forged, stating “establishing a relationship with the Birmingham Education Foundation has definitely been one of the most significant accomplishments of the Honors College during its first year.” Holloway says that we hopes the Honors College continues to “maximize [its] impact in the community by fostering [its] relationship with the Birmingham Education Foundation,” and we are overwhelmingly grateful for his enthusiasm.

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

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.

Partnership Feature: UAB Admissions Team

IMG_5534This past year, Ed has been enormously lucky to have expanded our partnership with the University of Alabama at Birmingham on several programs and initiatives, including College Prep Institute, Bridging the Gap, and College 101.  This past fall, Ed took over 150 students to UAB for a campus tour, and will follow-up in late April with an academic-focused tour, during which 300 Birmingham City high schoolers will have the opportunity to get a first-hand look at one of seven departments: Nursing, Business, Engineering, Education, Arts/Humanities, Pre-Health Science, and Justice Science. The staff at UAB Admissions have been instrumental in the planning of many BEF tours, especially Kirk Kluver, Frank Paige, Jazmund Walker, Will Buie, and Jessica Bobo.

Director of Admissions Kirk Kluver received his Bachelor’s and master’s from University of Nebraska and has worked in admissions for 13 years.  Before coming to UAB, Kirk served as Assistant Dean and Director of Admissions at the University of Nebraska College of Law, but has worked in undergraduate admissions for most of his career.  “I love working on a college campus,” Kirk says, “Because you get the opportunity to see the personal growth and maturity that takes place as students reach their full potential.”

 Jazmund Walker is a college admissions counselor, life coach, and freelance writer from Birmingham, AL. She holds a BA in communication studies from UAB and has written for publications such as The Birmingham News, Health, Birmingham Home & Garden, and UAB Magazine. In 2008, Walker founded a personal development program for female youth called Leadership, Intellect, and Femininity Training (LIFT), which has been featured in UAB Magazine and the Birmingham Association of Black Journalists Newsdesk.

IMG_0027Senior Admissions Counselor Frank Paige is a longtime Birmingham resident with close connections to the city and Birmingham City Schools (his daughter graduated from Ramsay High School and his grandson currently attends Wenonah High School).  Frank completed his Master’s in Counseling at UAB and began his second career in the admissions office in 2008 after retiring from the quality assurance division of a local manufacturing firm.  He currently serves as the UAB Admissions representative for Birmingham City Schools.

IMG_5532Will Buie graduated from UAB in 2008 and soon after began working with the Office of Undergraduate Admissions as an Admissions Counselor.  In 2011, he was promoted to the position of Senior Admissions Counselor and currently serves as the Assistant Director of Undergraduate Admissions, for which he supervises a staff of four in-state counselors and is responsible for UAB’s in-state recruitment efforts.

Jessica Bobo is originally from Cartersville, Georgia and has lived in Birmingham for the past 9 years.  She received a BA in History from Samford University in 2009 and and MA in Education from UAB in 2011.  She loves working in the education field and especially working with high school students.  Jessica currently works in the Office of New Student Programs at UAB as the Campus Tour Coordinator.

For Ed, UAB has been an immeasurable ally, providing insight and expertise into the college admissions process for many, many Birmingham City students.

“The unknown can be intimidating to a high school student,”says Kirk, who first visited a college campus with a program similar to College 101. “There is no better way to demystify college than to spend a day on a college campus touring classrooms, meeting current students, learning about academic programs, seeing the residence halls and eating in the dining hall.  We hope that all students leave these visits excited about college and with the belief that a college degree is attainable for each student.”

Partnership Feature: Usama Abbasi, ACT Fellow


Usama Abbasi may be a student himself, but in the months that he has been working as a volunteer for Ed’s ACT Fellows program, he has demonstrated a commitment to improving educational opportunities for others, too.  A member of the University Honors Program at University of Alabama at Birmingham, Usama graduated from the Alabama School of Fine Arts in 2010 as part of the Mathematics and Sciences Department.  At UAB, he is currently pursuing a dual bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry and in English Literature, with minors in Biology and Physics.

“I volunteer for a number of reasons, but mostly because I love the sense of community one gains by volunteering,” Usama says.  “Birmingham is my home; this city has given me a lot and has helped me grow and succeed in many personal, educational and professional ways. It makes me feel really good to be able to do something for this city in return.”


Usama’s first encounter with Ed was as a member of Take CHARGE (College Help and Resources Geared Towards Everyone), a student organisation started at UAB by UHP members Tooba Anwer and Farah Khan.  Take CHARGE operated at Parker High School during 2012-2013, and Ed and Anwar worked together to restructure the program to fit the needs of BCS students, specifically by fitting the curriculum into the school day and scaffolding other programs around it as part of the College Prep Institute.  In addition to being an ACT Fellows instructor, Usama also helps Ed program specialist Daniel Ross with the creation and evaluation of ACT Prep materials.

A recent high-school graduate himself, Usama knows the importance of performing well on standardized tests, and it is this knowledge that drives his participation in the ACT Fellows program.  “I know exactly how important the ACT is in a young student’s life,” he says. “Because of the excellent guidance I received in high school, I was able to use the ACT as a tool to open doors for me in college. I want the students with whom we work at BEF to be able to do the same.”


In addition to his work at Ed, Usama has also contributed to the efforts of organizations such as the Red Crescent Clinic of Alabama (RCCA) and the Birmingham Crisis Centre.  “I really enjoy the opportunity to talk to people,” Usama says, “So I have sought out volunteer experiences in which I can do just that.”

Usama will graduate in April 2014, and at Ed, we will be sad to see him go, but wish him continued success in academics and life, as he pursues an MD.  In the meantime, if you are interested in volunteering with any of our programs, fill out the inquiry form here.  We think it’s a great opportunity, but you don’t have to take our word for it: as Usama says, “ To anyone considering becoming involved with our schools, let me be a loud voice of encouragement: we would love your participation (and we suspect you would have a lot of fun too).”

Birmingham Rotary Club members help prep Academy students for Career Development Conference

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On March 14th, eleventh-graders in the Birmingham City Schools Career Academies will have the opportunity to participate in the first Career Development Conference, sponsored by Birmingham Education Foundation and the Birmingham Rotary Club.  At the Conference, students will participate in three break-out sessions on professional skills and sit for a live fifteen-minute interview with a local Birmingham professional.  In preparation for the conference, members from Birmingham Rotary and the Urban League are visiting each Academy to relay to students some basic information about interviewing, and giving them an idea of what to expect and what to do.  

This past week, students at in the Academy of Urban Educators at A. H. Parker High School heard from Rotary Club member Kennon Walthall about the importance of interview preparation and presentation.  Walthall is the President of RDS, Inc. in Birmingham, and he relayed to the students the importance of using interview skills at anytime and anyplace during interactions with others and gave examples from careers in health, law, sales, and research.  Walthall also told students that they should get to know the company with whom they are interviewing, be prepared to ask questions during the interview, and send letters to the interviewers thanking them for the opportunity.  At the end of the presentation, students shared their own experiences in being interviewed and what they took away from it. 

Untitled Similarly, Rotarian Kelly Bownes, founder and CEO of MedPlan Recruiting, spoke to students at Carver’s Academy of Health Sciences two weeks ago.  At the beginning of the program, Bownes talked about the importance of a good first impression, and gave students pointers on body language, especially how to sit upright in a chair and give a good handshake.  After sharing the information, Bownes shook hands with each student and delivered feedback n how to improve.

The Career Development Conference is part of Ed’s Educate Local programming and will take place March 14th 2014 from 9a-2p at the Harbert Center in downtown Birmingham.  Approximately 200 students and 50 local professionals will participate in the event, and Cedric Sparks and Sanjay Singh will deliver the event’s keynote address during lunch.

Regions area-President Bill Horton visits Woodlawn Academy of Business and Finance


On Thursday, February 20, students at Woodlawn High Schools’s Academy of Business and Finance were given the rare opportunity to expand their professional circles to include Regions Financial Crop. North Central AL area-President, Bill Horton.

Participating in a session that was part-Bridging the Gap and  part-College Prep Institute, Horton spoke about his journey through the banking industry, gave an overview of corporate careers in business, and invited students to participate in a series of on-site tours to take place at Regions through the spring semester.  Over the course of three sessions, students will get to visit both Regions Center and Regions Field to learn about the wealth of career possibilities in the industry, and specifically, the ones that support Regions Financial.  In May, students will be invited to attend and view the New Venture Challenge, a business-plan contest sponsored by Regions in partnership with the Brock School of Business at Samford.IMG_0002

Horton was also joined by Leslie Doyle, Vice President of Marketing for North Central AL, who also talked about the ins-and-outs of her career at Regions and gave students an overview of their tour schedule.

Throughout the semester, students at Woodlawn will be exposed to over 20 different careers in the business and finance industry, through partnerships with Regions and the Birmingham Business Alliance.  To visit more, visit our Signature Programs page.

Student Voice: Michaelca Miles on Community Service

IMG_0022On December 12, 2013, tenth-grade students in the academies at Woodlawn, Jackson-Olin, Huffman and Wenonah High Schools participated in the inaugural Academy Service Day as part of Ed’s College Prep Institute.  Ed, in partnership with local non-profit YouthServe, assigned over 130 BCS students to six local service sites: Greater Birmingham Humane Society, Community Food Bank, YWCA’s Toys for Tots, Firehouse Shelter, Ronald McDonald House, DHR’s Foster Care Toy Shop.


Click the video below to hear from Michaelca Miles, a student from Woodlawn’s Academy of Business and Finance who joined Ed and YouthServe at the YWCA’s Toys for Tots site, and learn about the experience from the perspective of our students.