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Educator Spotlight: Lindsey Bloodworth, English Teacher, Ramsay High School

The material that Lindsey Bloodworth teaches in her 9th– and 10th– grade English classes at Ramsay High School can be difficult to get students excited about, so she uses some unconventional methods. When teaching Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 19th-century classic, The Scarlett Letter, a notoriously arduous staple of high-school English syllabi, Ms. Bloodworth imitated character Hester Prynne’s famous stand on the scaffold in town square. “I stood on my desk the whole day to read that opening scene,” she said. After that, the kids were hooked. On a later date, they wanted to keep reading even after the bell. “At the end of the class, when we were getting close to the bell and I told the kids we needed to stop for the day, they all simultaneously yelled ‘No!’ And this was about The Scarlett Letter.” Even Ms. Bloodworth, a devotee of American literature, had not anticipated the emotional reaction from her students: “I thought that would never happen, but it did.” 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

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July 14 is National Summer Learning Day

infographic_updated-1SAIL (Summer Adventures in Learning) Will Celebrate the Importance of Summer Learning in Birmingham and the Black Belt Region

Event Marking National Summer Learning Day on July 14, 2016 Will Be One of Hundreds Across the Nation Aimed at Keeping Kids Learning, Healthy and Safe this Summer

Birmingham, AL – SAIL (Summer Adventures in Learning), in partnership with the National Summer Learning Association (NSLA), will highlight the importance of summer learning opportunities at programs funded by the collaborative. On July 14, summer learning programs in the Birmingham area and the Black Belt Region associated with the SAIL Collaborative, a partnership of 11 funders, will celebrate National Summer Learning Day. Continue reading


Program Spotlight: Camp Invention at Princeton Elementary

During the week of June 6 at Princeton Elementary, third-grader Jihan showcased the ‘prototype’ of an educational toy that he designed as part of Camp Invention. “I made something for little children to learn to read,” he said of the design, which used parts from a retired desktop PC keyboard, the keys popped out and rearranged. “This way my sister has to know what the letter looks like,” he said, “not just  the order.” On the top right corner of the keyboard, a small, green LED light attached with duct tape to a watch battery lights up when pressed. “If you get the letter right, you get the green light,” he explained. 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


Student Voice: Moriah Craig and Christian Addoh-Kondi on Career Development Conference


Wenonah student Kiaria Murray pitches an idea for a Prostate Cancer Walk to honor her late father.

It’s been a few months since our fall Career Development Conference and we have yet to recap the day for you but we hope that it was worth the wait.

Today, we are releasing a short film produced by 1504 Pictures that really captures the excitement we feel for this program, the power of partnership, and the potential of our students. 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


Getting to Know Our Families: Clara Flores, Tuggle Elementary

Flores and family at home.

Flores and family at home.

Upon arriving at the home of Señora Clara Flores, her children Nikolas and Allen greet me before we sit at the family table. The conversation is easy, natural, as we discuss our lives and exchange casual jokes before getting onto a thread about education.

Flores was a stand-out participant at the recent Raise Up! event at Tuggle Elementary, and when asked about her experience, she is quick to say how impressed she was with the community’s expression of strength and unity – and specifically, unity across cultures. Continue reading


Student Voice: Thank you to our partners (in our students’ own words)!

5Last month, Ed and Rotary Club brought together over 50 individual volunteers to pull-off the fall Career Development Conference on Public Speaking for seniors in the Academies of Birmingham at six-BCS high schools.  Over the course of three months, students participated in in-school sessions that equipped them with the knowledge and skills they need to choose a presentation topic, engage their audience, and develop an elevator pitch.  Their hard work culminated in a full-day professional conference, where they learned event more about the art of storytelling, executive presence, and how to develop a presentation.   Continue reading


Student Voice: Jharin Dunson and Walter Carr on Sec. of Education and My Brother’s Keeper

IMG_8882On September 9th, US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro stopped in Birmingham for a roundtable discussion about mentoring as part of President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper Initiative.  Students from all over Birmingham participated in the discussion at Phillips Academy, including two students from the Academies of Birmingham at Carver High School.

This month’s Student Voice feature is a look into the experience from their perspective. Continue reading

SAIL in the News


Press Releases


National Summer Learning Day is Here (July 14, 2016)

SAIL (Summer Adventures in Learning) Will Celebrate the Importance of Summer Learning in Birmingham and the Black Belt Region (June 24, 2016)



Articles in the News


Vulcan Awards (November 2, 2016)

Jim Wooten, SAIL Board Chair, Receives Vulcan Award for SAIL Program (October 28, 2016)

Junior League of Birmingham to Deliver Books to Students on July 14 (July 7 – 14, 2016)

Playing Baseball to Learn Math (July 7-14, 2016)

Foundation Trying to Help End Summer Learning Slide (July 13, 2016)

Theo Ratliff Students Learn the Consequences of Underage Drinking (July 12, 2016)

Plant a Seed: The Yellowhammer Learning Project (May 1, 2016)


Summer Adventures Prepare Students for the School Year (August 13, 2015)

Breakthrough Birmingham Summer Program Simultaneously Sharpens Students and Budding Teachers (March 18, 2015)


Not in My Backyard (September, 2014)

2014 Sawyerville Day Camp Sessions to Incorporate A New Literacy Project (June 12, 2014)

SAIL Partnership awards more than $675,000 in grants to prevent summer learning loss (January 22, 2014)


Setting SAIL (July 17, 2013)

SAIL Program helps Birmingham Students Close the Summer Learning Gap (July 9, 2013)



Combating the Summer Slide: Birmingham Coalition Gives Nearly $500,000 in grants to Prevent Summer Learning Loss (December 18, 2012)








Educator Spotlight: Aimee Castro, Spanish Teacher, WJ Christian

aimeecastroheadshotTalk to any number of our teachers and I bet they’ll share one thing in common: a passion for kids. But what cool things happen when a teacher combines her personal passions with her passion for the classroom? Enter, WJ Christian’s Aimee Castro, Spanish teacher and travel aficionado.

A native of New Orleans and a 2003 graduate of Loyola University, Aimee moved to Atlanta after college to work for AmeriCorps. It was then that she began to experiment with travel. In 2004 , Aimee explored Europe and South America and lived in Argentina for four months, during which time she learned Spanish. With this new skill, Aimee decided to go back to school to earn her master’s in English as a second language and a degree in Spanish. In 2001, she joined the staff at Birmingham City School’s WJ Christian as a Spanish teacher, and she has been there ever since.

Aimee has experienced first hand the impact of travel on the lives of students, including her own, and she is intent on creating similar opportunities for students in Birmingham City School. This year, she plans to take a group of students to Costa Rica to expose them to a new culture, while also contributing to their academic credentials: middle school students will get a high school credit and high school students receive a college credit for participating.

“My passion is culture and history,”Aimee said, “And it is an untapped market in Birmingham City Schools. Our kids often miss out on these opportunities because of the lack of resources…but it’s possible. That’s where we see Ed step in, collaborating with us teachers to make our projects successful.”


Educator Spotlight: Melissa Cottrell, Career Academies Program Specialist

image1“I am just happy to be around my students”, says Career Academies Program Specialist Melissa Cottrell. A graduate of P.D. Jackson-Olin High School, Ms. Cottrell received a BA in Finance from  Alabama A&M University and an MA in Education from Alabama State.

Ms. Cottrell began her professional career working in the finance department of a corporation and soon found out that was not the right field for her. After leaving the finance industry, Ms. Cottrell began to teach at Hayes Middle School and then Woodlawn High School. “I knew then that education is where I was supposed to be,” she says of the transition.

In her career with Birmingham City School, Ms. Cottrell has served in many capacities: as teacher, as assistant principal, and most recently, as Program Specialist for the Career Academies, where she has lent enormous support to Ed . No matter what the job title, though, Ms. Cottrell insists that the “interaction with students and watching them reach milestones in education is [her] favorite part of the job”.

image3Last year, Ms. Cottrell introduced students in the Parker Academy of Urban Educators to the world of public school district-level administration, putting together a truly one-of-a-kind tour of Birmingham City’s Central Office and introducing students to a number of employees that work behind the scenes to deliver education to our students – including then interim Superintendent Dr. Spencer Horn.  Parker Academy Coordinator Cornelia Davis noted that the students so enjoyed the behind-the-scenes tour that they spent the short bus ride back to the school making up a song that articulates the difference between classified and certified employees.

Ms. Cottrell agrees that sometimes the work isn’t easy, but it is always worth it. “It’s exciting to see kids grow and transition from one place to another,” says Ms. Cottrell. “Ed makes collaboration with Birmingham City Schools fun and the students are getting truly original experiences in the field.”


10/9/15: Career Development Conference on Networking

Last Friday, we hosted our first Career Development Conference on the new school year with out partners at Birmingham Rotary and Rotaract Clubs. Students sat through several conversations about dinner etiquette, elevator pitches, and coffee conversations; experience several rounds of speed-networking; and each got a professional headshot from volunteer photographer Jonathan Purvis! Check out photos below to see how the day unfolded. Continue reading


Let’s Get Ready to Network!

There is no better indicator of the extent to which Ed has grown over the past couple years than the Career Development Conference. Through a robust partnership with the Rotary Club of Birmingham, what originally began as a one-day mock-interview event has grown into a five-year, multi-part curriculum on skills like entrepreneurship, interviewing, public speaking, and, now, networking. This Friday, we will host our first Career Development Conference of the 2015-2016 school year at The Club for over 300 10th-grade students in Birmingham City Schools. To help us put on a great show, we’ve enlisted the help of some of the regions’ most interesting professionals. Check out the line-up below. Continue reading