Partner Post: GEAR UP Birmingham

GEAR UP Birmingham Prepares Birmingham City Schools 9th and 10th Grade Students for Collegiate Success

GEAR UP Birmingham (GUB) is a federally funded initiative, currently serving a cohort of 9th and 10th grade students attending Birmingham City Schools. The initiative began in 2014, when the current cohort of students were just entering 6th and 7th grades.

“The grant was written with longevity and sustainability in mind”, said Dr. Kisha Tolbert Simmons, NBCT, Project Director, GEAR UP Birmingham. “It offers cohort students opportunities to participate in college awareness and preparation services throughout their middle and high school years, in an effort to promote and support postsecondary education attainment”, she said.

Continue reading

Lessons in Game-Changing: Three Internship Short Stories

Imagine us last summer, our program staff of six – the Hexapod – spread out across the city in different board rooms and different office buildings, sitting across a conference table or a desk making the same ask to twenty different partners:

“We think this idea is the game-changer. Are you in?”

What we were talking about, of course, was Ed’s Executive Internship Program (EIP), a pie-in-the-sky idea four years in the making, a seed planted on our first site visit to UAB Hospital, the answer to the questions we’d been asking ourselves since 2012: “How are we making a difference in the lives of our kids in Birmingham City Schools?” Continue reading

Program Spotlight: The SAIL Collaborative helps summer learning blast off in Birmingham

Entering a Birmingham elementary school in June, one might expect to hear nothing but silence; but on a Tuesday morning last month, Oliver Elementary in Crestwood was just as busy as ever. In a computer lab on the second floor, Henry Thornton, an intern for the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama (PARCA), was quietly conducting a room full of whisper-reading, finger-counting Kindergarten and first-grade students through two 34-question tests—one in reading and one in math. While the tests were being administered over desktop computers, Tamarah Burney—Birmingham City Schools teacher and Camp Director for Summer Advantage—walked around the room to assist the students and give praise for good behavior. “Let me see if I can catch anyone else doing what they’re supposed to be doing!” she said, as she punched a hole in a smiling first-grader’s index card. He’d get to redeem that punch in a gift shop on a field trip the next week, along with his fellow classmates who got punches in their cards. Continue reading

Partnership Feature: Rebecca Brown, Director of HR at Brasfield and Gorrie

RB headshot

“I always knew that I wanted to work with business and people,” says Rebecca Brown Director of Human Resources at Brasfield & Gorrie – the largest privately owned general contractor in the Southeast, As the chief liaison to Ed’s Bridging the Gap program at Huffman High School, Rebecca has demonstrated an immense talent for working with people by creating engaging ways for students to learn more about the jobs they may want to pursue in the future. Continue reading

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

Partnership Feature: Yawntreshia Coleman, Managing Director, Coleman & Company, LLC

Super-volunteer and jack-of-all-trades, Yawntreshia Coleman.

Super-volunteer and jack-of-all-trades, Yawntreshia Coleman.

Yawntreshia Coleman is the kind of volunteer that you all dream about.

I could use a whole slew of GRE words and resume adjectives to describe her – reliable, consistent, punctual, effervescent – and they would all be true. But at the end of a school year during which we have engaged over 400 individual volunteers in our work, the thing that has meant the most to us is that Tresh is always hungry for more. Continue reading

Partnership Feature: Birmingham Rotary Club


Group tables gave students the opportunity to get feedback from Rotary mentors and their peers on pitching a presentation topic.

If you ever start to doubt the magnitude of the investment that the Birmingham community has placed in the success of our students, let me borrow an hour of your time and introduce you to Sanjay Singh, President of the Birmingham Rotary Club.

“Our members look forward to the Career Development Conference each semester,” says Singh. “Sitting across from these students, what stands out the most is their potential, their ambition, and their genuine desire to be change-makers in their community. It is an honor and a privilege to work one-on-one with Birmingham’s youth, supporting them as they prepare for their futures.” Continue reading

Partnership Feature: UAB Hospital’s Amanda Dubois

UAB Hospital Guest Services manager Amanda Dubois

UAB Hospital Guest Services manager Amanda Dubois

If there is one person that is responsible for helping to define Ed’s Bridging the Gap program, it is our friend and partner, Amanda DuBois.

A longtime resident of Birmingham, DuBois grew up in the UAB Hospital System, and received her BA in English from Tulane University in 1988 and a Masters in Social Work from the Univ. of Alabama in 1994. Continue reading

Partnership Feature: Greater New Antioch Baptist Church

 IMG_0731Ed believes that there are great stories being told on every street and corner in the Magic City. The good people of Greater New Antioch Baptist Church (GNABC) tell and create stories through leading, loving and serving others. If you visit with them, you’ll see members tutoring students, hosting youth council meetings, singing beautifully during choir practice, and serving the church and surrounding Ensley community in numerous other ways. The church believes wholeheartedly that ‘it takes a village to raise a child,’ and the members act on this passion partly because of the example of leadership set for them by their pastor, Dr. E.O. Jackson.

“When I was growing up,” Dr. Jackson says, “My community played a vital role in raising me and my siblings. There were expectations, and everyone played a role ensuring we met them.”

Now, Jackson leads a church that takes its role as the “village” very seriously. During the past few months, Ed had the distinct pleasure of partnering with Greater New to live out this role together.

In the fall, Ed began a discussion with Dr. Jackson and his assistant, Ms. Dorothy Burl, about hosting a Raise Up! for Education Community Chat at GNABC. What we learned is that this was already a vibrant conversation occurring in and around the church community. The church is made of many retired educators, some who run the church’s STAIR afterschool reading program. Many members also mentor Birmingham students in their free time. Lisa and Desmond Smoot who both grew up in the church now help run the church’s youth council.

We know that our kids are our future,” says Smoot. “We make sure that our kids are actively involved in the church and in the community, and that their voices are heard.”

Along with receiving individual support, children at Greater New are also encouraged to influence their peers and the community around them.

IMG_0844On December 11th, Ed and Greater New hosted the Raise Up! Chat and close to 100 community residents and church members were present. Ms. Thomasine Hightower, church member and leader, led a gracious crew of cooks in serving a delicious spaghetti dinner. The topic of the chat was “The Village: Looking Back to Look Forward”. During the chat, students, parents, local residents, teachers and the business community had the opportunity to raise up their ideas, hopes, concerns and experiences as members of the village. What was heard? A common desire to be present in the lives of all kids in order to ensure that they are able to realize their potential, hopes and dreams.

Ed is so thankful to be a partner with Greater New Baptist Church. We are excited that by continuing our partnership, the hopes and dreams of all Birmingham’s kids will become more of a reality.

See more pictures from our December Raise Up! Chat here.