A Letter from Ed

This Letter from Ed comes from Strategy Director Victoria Hollis. To learn more about Victoria, visit our Staff page here. To learn more about her role as Strategy Director, go here.


Ask me why I do what I do and I’ll hand you a list like a phonebook. 25,000 names of kids in Birmingham City Schools and I am not lying when I tell you I do it for every single one.

I met Triniti and Josselyn when they were in the tenth grade. Continue reading

Ed Family Game Night Enters its Third Year

This September, college-bound students from five of Birmingham’s high schools will take the stage with executives from some of Birmingham’s best companies for the third annual Ed Family Game Night at UAB’s Alys Stephens Center.

In the first two years of the event, eight students were awarded more than $10,000 in scholarships. Those students are now studying in colleges across the country—fFR_GN_Alumni-Robyn&Jamerialrom locally at Birmingham-Southern College and UAB, to Georgetown University, Berea College, Tuskegee University, and Wilberforce University.

On Tuesday, September 26, 2017 at 6:30pm, students from five schools will participate–competing for increased scholarships along with returning teams of local executives from Protective Life Corporation, UAB-University of Alabama at Birmingham. New this year is the Lightning Round, sponsored by al.com, where one student will compete a brand new scholarship this year.

Jamerial Gardner, graduate of George Washington Carver High School was winner of the first Ed Family Game Night. In reflecting on her participation in the first Ed Family Game Night, she says, “Ed’s Game Night hit me emotionally because just knowing that there are people who believe in me was a blessing to me.” As she begins her second year at Wilberforce University, Jamerial is majoring in Biology and hopes to eventually earn a Master’s degree in Genetic Counseling.

FR_GN2_ParticipantQuotes-CarlosCarlos Torres, also a Carver graduate, was a co-winner of the second annual Ed Family Game Night, playing along with executives from UAB. He says, “Being part of the Family Game Night was one of the best opportunities I’ve had.” Carlos is now a freshman at Berea College in Berea, Kentucky.

The Birmingham Education Foundation’s mission is to ensure more students are graduating from Birmingham City Schools ready for college, career, and life—and Ed Family Game Night highlights the talented students who participate in Educate Local programs. At the same time, the event raises funds to support Ed’s programs and to increase scholarships for our deserving students. You can support the event by purchasing a ticket to the event, through the box office at UAB’s Alys Stephens Center, or by clicking here.FR_GN_Alumni-Robyn

Get ready to show support for the team of your choice by purchasing your ticket today. Each ticket includes the food and drink reception from 5-6pm, and your seat to the 6:30pm show.

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

Educator Spotlight: Erik Batson, Academy Coordinator, Jackson-Olin High School

Despite the impressive list of places where he has taught—from the Bronx, to Austin, Texas, to the Cherokee Indian Reservation in North Carolina—you’d be hard-pressed to
find a teacher anywhere that has as much enthusiasm for their system as Erik Batson has for Birmingham City Schools.

Sitting at a table at Starbucks in Five Points South, wearing cycling clothes complete with a “Brooklyn”-emblazoned cycling cap, he professed, “I love my job. I love working for Jackson-Olin, and I love working for Birmingham City Schools—much better than other places I have been.” 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

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

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

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

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

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. Continue reading