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Speakers Stress the Importance of Leadership of Elementary and Middle School Parents at Parent Leadership Academy Sessions

By Yiben Liu
CCBP Graduate Assistant

UA’s Parent Leadership Academy (PLA) hosted two separate training sessions for elementary and middle school student parents at Bryant Conference Center on Thursday, October 19. Guest speakers focused on leadership development within parents and students for both elementary and middle school parents.

The guest speakers were Dr. Terri C. Boman, director of The University of Alabama/University of West Alabama In-Service Education Center, who spoke at combined Elementary, Hispanic, and Pre-K PLA. Her title was “Dare to Lead Your Family Differently.” Marvin Lucas, District 6 representative of the Tuscaloosa City Schools Board of Education, spoke about “Parents as Leaders: Building Leaders Within Your Schools” at both the Elementary PLA and the Middle School PLA. Andrew Maxey, director of special programs for Tuscaloosa City Schools, led a session titled “Becoming Leaders: Understanding the Adolescent Brain” for the middle school group.

Boman shared her experience and studies of building leaders in the school community, stressing that the little things parents do for their children every day are what make the difference.

Lucas stressed that to develop leadership in children, parents must first cultivate themselves into leaders. “Leaders are built by other leaders,” Lucas said. He also shared the national standards of the Parent Teacher Association for family-school partnerships, which he described as a new way of leading.

Maxey used scientific data and humor to illustrate why middle school is such a critical time developmentally but is usually underestimated by parents.

Dr. Holly Morgan, PTLA program director and UA director of Community Education for the Center for Community-Based Partnerships, also introduced and explained different types of PTLA partnership projects at both sessions.

Parent participant Jennifer McDaniel from Davis-Emerson Middle School said her experience in PLA so far “has been really good.” Her concerns were helping her children with homework and building better communication with the teachers related to homework. “It [PLA] gives us the outreach we need with the teachers,” McDaniel said.

Tchalla Jones-Jerido is a parent participant from Rock Quarry Middle School and mother of three children ranging in age from elementary school to high school. This is the second time she has participated in UA’s PLA program. The first time, she was in the elementary group. She said the middle school session helps her to develop different perspectives of parenting children at various levels. “Middle school [child] is a different animal,” she said, and she’s glad to see the new session “targeted specifically at middle school” because their needs “are totally different.”

Tucker Moss Brown, a Verner Elementary School mother, said the main goal of parents is to “raise your kid into a good, decent human being,” and parents need strong leadership to do that. “You are a leader in your family,” Brown said, and she thinks that is the specific significance of PLA and programs like it, which are developing leadership within both children and parents.

CCBP Continues Successful Grant Program for University Faculty, Staff, Students and Community Members

  • October 20th, 2017
  • in News

The Center for Community-Based Partnerships continued its successful grant program as university faculty, staff, students and community members. Principles covering government, corporate and foundation grants were emphasized in the first two seminars. A third seminar will be held on December 7. The fourth and final seminar will take place March 8, 2018, followed by coaching sessions, with the final session and celebratory dinner on June 7, 2018.

Global Café Discusses Campus Medical Services with International Students and Others

Global Café met in the Center for Community-Based Partnerships training room on October 12 to discuss campus medical services with international students and others. Dr. Beverly Hawk, director of Global and Community Engagement, founded Global Café in 2013. Global Café programs offer students opportunities to meet with students from different countries, strengthen their skills and explore international customs.

The final program for fall semester will be November 9. The topic will be Faculty and Student Roles in the American Classrooms.

Council on Community-Based Partnerships Holds First Meeting of Academic Year

Tuscaloosa, Ala. — The Council on Community-Based Partnerships held its first meeting of the academic year Wednesday, Sept. 6, in the Bryant Conference Center Birmingham Room on campus. Dr. Samory T. Pruitt, vice president for Community Affairs, opened the meeting.

Pruitt gave an update on plans for a new collaborative space that will be located in Capital Hall. Set to open for the fall 2018 semester, the space will initially house six student groups that are focused primarily on a community engagement mission. They include groups representing the Department of Social Work, the College of Engineering, the College of Education, the College of Communication and Information Sciences, the Honors College and the College of Community Health Sciences. Pruitt said that most of these groups have 20 students on average. He described a high-energy space with the feel of a popular coffee house. The University is investing in excess of $1 million for the necessary space renovation. Considered Phase 1, the space will bring together students across disciplines who are interested in community-engaged scholarship. With an eye toward Capital Hall becoming the community engagement center for The University of Alabama’s campus, Phase 2 will likely include shared space with some of our community partners.

In other news, Pruitt reported that we plan to recognize members of the original Journal of Community Engagement and Scholarship editorial board at the Engagement Scholarship Consortium conference in Birmingham. He also reminded those present that if they have not yet registered for the conference, Community Affairs can help them with their registration.

Pruitt introduced ACCESS, the Alabama Centralized Community-Engaged Scholarship System, and turned things over to Matthew Hudnall and Laura Myers from UA’s Center for Advanced Public Safety. They have been working with the Division of Community Affairs and its Center for Community-Based Partnerships (CCBP) since early this calendar year to develop a tool that will allow faculty, staff and students to see what is happening at UA in the area of community-engaged scholarship, which will in turn aid in building relationships across campus, in opportunities for collaboration and in shared publishing possibilities.

Hudnall and Myers gave a front-side demonstration of the project, sharing that data is input and then is able to be filtered and searched. At present, the sample data is grouped by counties. They reported that as more data and counties are added, the system will expand in such a way that those interested will be able to search projects with more filtering capabilities, including active and completed projects and other categories. Additionally, ACCESS will have video loading capabilities.

Dr. Jim McLean, executive director of the CCBP, said that once the initial data input is complete, a more thorough test will be conducted and there will likely be campus-wide submissions through a Qualtrix survey. He indicated that the site will go live after faculty have had opportunity to share input and make suggestions, and that the project is being driven through faculty, as they are involved with both students and communities.

Among the noted advantages of utilizing this technology are that ACCESS will provide an effective and efficient means by which to learn about all of these types of projects occurring at UA by gathering all of the appropriate data into one place. This will create additional opportunities for collaboration and will provide an opportunity to expand our students’ understanding of community engagement. The program can also be utilized by President Bell and others while making area-specific presentations to community groups, legislators and others. It was also pointed out that this will change the way we collect data. Rather than collecting for a report, which becomes obsolete almost as soon as it is printed, ACCESS will provide a method for ongoing data collection and reporting.

Questions about ACCESS should be directed to McLean at

CCBP executive committee updates followed.

Dr. George Daniels, chair of the Excellence in Community Engagement Recognition Committee, requested that council members begin identifying projects they believe are worthy of recognition during the Council’s April 2018 Excellence in Community Engagement Awards luncheon. He shared that it is usually February when participants are asked to submit nominations for these awards, as well as for seed grant funding.

Daniels also shared that there are two upcoming opportunities to present work. The first is the Engaged Scholarship Consortium (ESC) conference, to be held September 26-27 in Birmingham. The second is the Gulf South Summit, which will take place April 4–6, 2018, also in Birmingham. The deadline for Gulf South Summit submissions is October 27, 2017. For more information:

Tera “CeeCee” Johnson, co-chair of the Student Involvement and Support Committee and president of the student organization Scholars for Community Outreach, Partnership and Engagement (SCOPE), shared that a calendar for SCOPE meetings is available through her or on the SCOPE website at

SCOPE’s first meeting is scheduled for Monday, Sept. 11, and all interested individuals are invited to attend. SCOPE has several workshops planned that are both presentation-based and skills-based. Some examples of the activities SCOPE will offer throughout the semester are a PIE Workshop, a talk on West Alabama AIDS Outreach and a wide variety of other presentations. SCOPE welcomes all interested individuals at these sessions.

Those interested in speaking to SCOPE students about their work in community engagement should contact Johnson at

Ms. Lane McLelland spoke briefly about Practicing Inclusive Engagement (PIE) Workshops offered by Crossroads Community Center. She explained that the subject of inclusive engagement is a lifelong practice; not just diversity training.

Crossroads typically offers a 1.5-hour or two-hour interactive experience. Subjects included in the workshops are: inclusive activity, language, and the use of interactive activities for skill building. The workshops focus on practicing together while learning to listen to all of the voices in the room, as well as learning how to ask questions in a non-offensive manner.

Crossroads is available to conduct PIE Workshops for classes, interns, community members and organizations, churches, etc. Workshop activities can be adjusted to meet specific organizational goals.

Following McLelland’s report, McLean gave a brief overview of the Grants and Sustainability Workshop, sharing that the first round of this workshop has secured around $10 million in funding for the 10 teams that participated.

The second round of workshops began in mid-August. This second round will occur over a 10-month period that more closely matches the University calendar. The focus of the first session covered obtaining funding through federal grants and through corporate and foundation grants. These workshops were immediately followed by individual coaching sessions.

The next session is scheduled for December and will be on the topic of sustainability and fundraising. The final session in March will be on the topic of forming effective teams to write grants and also on drafting a proposal and quality circle reviews of the proposals.

There will be a final coaching session and a celebratory dinner in June 2018.

Dr. McLean is arranging a third round of workshops for next year. He has negotiated with David Bauer and there are tentative dates for the third round of workshops.

The purpose of these workshops is ultimately to make a positive difference in our communities — a difference we are already seeing from the first round of workshops.

Dr. Holly Morgan, director of Community Education at CCBP, shared an update on the Parent Teacher Leadership Academy (PTLA). Morgan reported that PTLA is beginning the new academic year with several additions to the PTLA family, including the addition of two additional district partners, bringing the total number to six. Additionally, a middle school academy has been added for the current academic year.

Morgan reported that the academy is comprised of 65 percent elementary schools. The numbers for this year’s PTLA are as follows, and represent impressive growth over the previous year. For 2017–2018, there are 32 elementary participants (up from 24 elementary participants last year) and 17 middle schools. That is a grand total of 49 schools this year that will include 227 academy participants.

The six academies included in the program are: Pre-K Academy, Elementary Parent Academy, Hispanic Parent Academy, Teacher Academy, Middle School Parent Academy and Middle School Teacher Academy. The PTLA hopes to grow in the future at the middle school level. Teams are working together on a collaborative model project.

Additionally, PTLA has an upcoming ESC presentation this year.

Dr. Beverly Hawk, director of Global and Community Engagement at CCBP, gave brief updates on Global Café and the Fulbright Scholarship program.

Global Café will begin Sept. 19 with international faculty. Additionally, anyone who is interested is welcome to send his or her students to participate. All are welcome to serve as a conversation partner or to seek one. This includes graduate students and community members. Global Café also welcomes people who are considering traveling internationally and wish to brush up on their foreign-language conversations skills. Last year, conversation partners completed 1,300 hours of one-on-one English language practice conversation, doubling the number of hours from the previous year.

Speaking on Fulbright, Hawk reported that The University of Alabama has 14 Fulbright participants around the globe this year. She encouraged those present to send prospective Fulbright Scholars to her as soon as possible so that she may help them get the application process started. She also reported that many countries participating in Fulbright don’t require fluency in a local language to obtain a certificate to teach English, and shared that Fulbright participants receive a stipend, an airline ticket and a medical insurance policy through the program, and that their student loans are frozen during their participation.

Engagement scholarship in action reports followed.

Dr. K. Andrew Richards, assistant professor of sport pedagogy, and UA student Ms. Victoria Nichole Ivy shared information with the group about the Alabama TOPS program, which focuses on Teaching Personal and Social Responsibility (TPSR) through an after-school physical activity program.

The program offers pre-service teachers the opportunity to teach in an alternative environment, to combine a focus on physical activity with responsibility, to gain 60 hours of teaching experience over two semesters and to develop long-term relationships with students. It provides them with opportunities to understand the realities of teaching grounded in real-world experience, to get to know students as people first and foremost and to overcome the struggles that come with the challenge of developing culturally appropriate lessons. Additionally, this experience helps pre-service teachers learn to maintain patience and teaches them how to formally collect data that will indicate children’s needs, as well as use that data to adjust the curriculum to address those needs. Another observation was that these pre-service teachers’ social justice values increased over the year.

Program participants spend three days each week at the Holt after-school program, which utilizes games and activities to facilitate enjoyment and engagement and use that as a way to open the door to have conversations with after-school program participants about respect, self-control, and a variety of life skills that children need to be able to learn, as well as teach them how to transfer the lessons they have learned beyond the gym. Two physical education (PETE) courses are integrated into the curriculum. The program includes relational time, awareness talk, lesson focus, group meeting, and finally, reflection time. Through this program, the Holt children build positive personal relationships with mentors and each other, gain an understanding of the TPSR goals and their meaning and improve movement concepts and physical activity skills. Following participation, the Holt children indicated a strong appreciation of University time and presence.

Ms. Amanda Lightsey, chair of the Community Partnership Support committee and executive director at Tuscaloosa’s One Place, shared that she is working with other non-profits around Tuscaloosa to learn how to better engage community partners and then get them to engage with The University of Alabama. She has learned that many community partners do not know how to pursue opportunities with UA, and she and those with whom she is working have created a list of six questions geared toward helping them figure out how to move forward to solve that dilemma. Questions include:

  • Do you partner or have you currently partnered with local colleges and universities?
  • Would you know how to find a research partner, faculty member, or department with a local college or university if you had a research project or idea?
  • Would you be willing to participate in a research project?
  • Have you partnered on a research project before?
  • What are the reasons that you would be willing to partner with a college or university?
  • What are the reasons that you would not be willing to partner with a college or a university?

Lightsey discussed how Tuscaloosa’s One Place partnered with different universities throughout the state and shared that the organization works with family issues and impacts about 8,500 people, or 2,500 families, per year. She indicated that one of the things that is most impactful for Tuscaloosa’s One Place is having UA faculty members on their board. These members provide oversight to the agency, expertise into programming, research grants and help with fundraising.

Lightsey also reported that there are more than 2,000 student volunteers at Tuscaloosa’s One Place every year. She said that UA interns are always quality interns and they provide invaluable help to her and her team. Additionally, she reported that Tuscaloosa’s One Place can also count those internship hours as match on their grants.

She also indicated that UA does a lot of staff development such as the Doing What Matters conference. She has found that once people get involved in one way, they tend to stay on and begin to get involved in other ways, as well.

Announcements followed. The next Council meeting will take place Wednesday, October 25, from 11:30 a.m.–1 p.m. at the Bryant Conference Center, Rast B. Spring semester meetings are scheduled for Thursday, February 15, 2018, from 11:30 a.m.–1 p.m. at the Bryant Conference Center, Rast B, and Thursday, March 22, 2018, from 11:30 a.m.–1 p.m. at a location to be determined. The date for the 12th Annual CCBP Awards program is Wednesday April 18, 2018. The time and location are to be announced.

Meeting was adjourned at 1:08 p.m.

The Council exists to connect faculty, staff, students and community partners in research-based projects designed to solve critical problems identified collaboratively by community members and the University. All academic disciplines, as well as a number of students and community members, are represented on the Council. The Council conducts an awards program, oversees project funding, proposes methods to integrate teaching and research and seeks outside funding, all with the goal of fulfilling the Division of Community Affairs’ motto: “Engaging Communities and Changing Lives.”

The Division of Community Affairs was created in 2004 and is recognized nationally and internationally for its leadership in community engagement. The division provided the leadership for the recent reaffirmation of the University’s Carnegie curricular and community engagement classification. The division publishes the Journal of Community Engaged Scholarship, one of the leading refereed journals in the field.

Parent Teacher Leadership Academy Groups Launch Fall Semester Activities

By Yiben Liu
CCBP Graduate Assistant

The Parent Leadership Academy and the Teacher Leadership Academy met jointly to open the fall semester of the Parent Teacher Leadership Academy (PTLA) at the Bryant Conference Center on Thursday, September 21. Marsha Greenfeld, senior program facilitator of National Network of Partnership Schools at Johns Hopkins University, was the guest speaker.

PTLA is a leadership program that provides selected parents and teachers with opportunities to develop their knowledge and abilities as leaders within their school communities. Each parent is selected for participation by their school’s principal.

Dr. James E. McLean, executive director for the Center for Community-Based Partnerships gave the welcome speech, thanking attendees for their commitment to those who benefit from the program. “I know you came here because you want the best for your children and your students,” he said.

During the 2017–2018 school year, teachers and parents in the program will attend sessions to acquire skills that will support student achievement through family/school partnerships. Topics will include Goal-Oriented School, Family and Community Partnerships, Teachers/Parents as Leaders, Collaboration and Communication, School and Board of Education Relations, and Supporting Safe, Healthy and Connected Schools/Communities.

Dr. Holly Morgan, CCBP community education and PTLA program director, said that it was a night of “many firsts.” Now in its 10th year, PTLA is launching the Middle School Academy, bringing parents and teachers from 17 middle schools into the program.

Additionally, two more school districts, Fayette County Schools and Sumter County Schools, have joined the program, bringing the total number to six. The other members are Tuscaloosa City Schools, Tuscaloosa County Schools. Alabaster City Schools and Lamar County Schools. The number of participants has also increased dramatically, from 90 last year to 227 this year.

Greenfeld conducted a motivating session titled: “You Matter and What You Do Matters: Partnerships Help Make the Difference!” This is possible, she said, through building strong and enduring partnerships among schools, families and communities to ensure students’ success. Audiences also participated in a puzzle game promoting the idea of collaboration among schools, families and communities and the roles that the different groups play.

Rock Quarry Elementary School 2nd grade teacher Andrea Ziegler, a native of Tuscaloosa, said: “So many trainings that we have as teachers are based upon academics, and we forget about the relational part of it.” She was “very excited” about getting the right training of how to build the trust and relationships with the parents and the community. She said the workshop “was really helpful tonight. I think I can walk away and start tomorrow [to] build our relationships in the little things that we can do,” Ziegler said.

Shan Jiang, a PhD student from China, who is also a mother of two elementary students, said that huge challenges exist for foreign parents trying to raise their children in the United States. By attending PTLA, she hopes to let her children know that their mother is working hard on their behalf. She also believes that PTLA provides her with a good opportunity to promote diversity in the community and make the voice of minority parents heard by the schools.

PTLA Schedules First Session for Fall 2017; Looks to Year Ahead

By Sophia Xiong
CCBP Volunteer

Two components of the Parent Teacher Leadership Academy (PTLA) will have their first meeting of the fall semester Thursday, September 21. Marsha Greenfeld, senior program facilitator at Johns Hopkins University, will be the guest speaker.

PTLA is a leadership program that provides selected parents and teachers with opportunities to develop their knowledge and abilities as leaders within their school communities. Each parent is chosen for participation by their school’s principal.

The first session of the year will be held in Sellers Auditorium at the Bryant Conference Center on campus. Both the Parent Leadership Academy (PLA) and the Teacher Leadership Academy (TLA) will participate in this collaborative session.

During the 2017–2018 school year, which marks PLA’s 10th anniversary, teachers and parents in the program will have sessions to help them acquire skills that will support student achievement through family/school partnerships. Topics will include Goal-Oriented School, Family and Community Partnerships, Teachers/Parents as Leaders, Collaboration and Communication, School and Board of Education Relations, and Supporting Safe, Healthy and Connected Schools/Communities.

Last year, PTLA provided leadership training for members of the PLA, the TLA, the Hispanic Parent Leadership Academy (HPLA) and Pre-Kindergarten Parent Leadership Academy (PKPLA). This year, in addition to the 32 elementary schools that will participate, the Academy is expanding to include parent and teacher participants from 17 middle schools.

“We are thrilled to launch our new Middle School Academy based upon the requests of our district partners and advisory committee,” said Dr. Holly Morgan, director of community education in the Center for Community-Based Partnerships, an initiative of The University of Alabama’s Division of Community Affairs. “The sessions are based upon the foundational structure of our PTLA curriculum, but each topic will be adapted to the needs of the middle school academy participant.”

In addition to the launch of the Middle School Academy, two additional school districts — Fayette County Schools and Sumter County Schools — will join the program this year, bringing the total number of district partners to six. The other members are Alabaster City Schools, Lamar County Schools, Tuscaloosa City Schools and Tuscaloosa County Schools.

After fulfilling participation requirements, participants are formally recognized by the UA Division of Community Affairs, as well as the respective school superintendents, at the PTLA graduation ceremony. This year’s ceremony is planned for April 10, 2018, and will include a special celebration marking the 10-year anniversary of PLA.

Last year, 90 parents and teachers graduated from the PTLA program. This year, the number of participants has increased to 227. “The overall growth of the Academy is a testament to the support of each of our parents, teachers, administrators, superintendents and community partners,” said Morgan. “Our Academy is truly a collaborative effort, and we are blessed to have all 227 members this year.”

Global Café Announces Fall 2017 Schedule






By Luna Yang
CCBP Graduate Assistant

Global Café will launch new initiatives for the fall semester in the student organization’s continued efforts to engage the diverse campus community at The University of Alabama. The first meeting will be held 5–7 p.m. on Sept. 19 at Capital Hall. The event is open to all students and refreshments will be served.

“Global Café is connecting the world right here in Tuscaloosa,” says Dr. Beverly Hawk, the director of Global and Community Engagement at the Center for Community-Based Partnerships. Through Global Café people with international interests meet visitors from around the world. The program helps students with international interests strengthen their language skills and explore customs. Additionally, during the semester, Global Café’s programming will offer students new paths to campus leadership.

Global Café is an organization that attempts to help international students navigate their new lives in Alabama. It aims to create a safe space for students from diverse backgrounds to talk and gain information related to culturally sensitive issues.

According to the organization’s website (, Global Café invites “participation from individuals who share our goal of an active community. We welcome people from across our community and around the world.”

This fall, students can choose to participate in the language program, designed for U.S. students to practice a foreign language before visiting another country and for international students to improve their English skills.

Lunchtime seminars will be offered to provide useful information regarding campus safety, medical care and campus culture.

Life can be hard for international students and their families when they come to the United States for the first time. Thus, the first Global Café meeting will focus on providing information about family resources on campus and in Tuscaloosa. Leaders from campus organizations and community agencies will be available to answer questions and discuss individual needs.

Global Café is sponsored by UA’s Center for Community-Based Partnerships, located inside Capital Hall, 413 Bryce Lawn Drive. Free parking is available and there is also a bus stop nearby. For more information, please visit, email, or call (205) 348-7392.

Each event is created in partnership with the Capstone International CenterGraduate Parent SupportTuscaloosa’s One Place, the CCBP Student Leadership TeamShelton State Community CollegeStillman College, Tuscaloosa City Schools, the Tuscaloosa County School System and Tuscaloosa Public Library.

For more information and map:

Interfaith Event Helps Students Understand Different Views

By Yiben Liu
CCBP Graduate Assistant

UA Crossroads hosted Explore Better Together on August 29 in the Ferguson Center Great Hall. About 50 students, faculty, staff and community members attended the interfaith event.

The main goal of this third session in the series, according to Crossroads Director Lane McLelland, was to share religious and secular beliefs. “We have held it each year during UA’s Week of Welcome to emphasize that interfaith cooperation is a value supported and upheld at UA,” she said.

One activity was “speed faithing” in which different believers and non-believers listen to belief summaries, giving all attendees an opportunity to discuss and learn. This activity draws on work of the national organization Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC).

Attendees met with Ben and Kylee Hansen, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints Campus Ministry, representing Mormon traditions; Bianca Levy and Paulina Bullard, Bama Hillel Student Center, representing Judaism; Rev. John Fleischauer, Wesley Foundation, United Methodist Church, representing Protestantism; Sarah Saeed, Tuscaloosa Muslim community member, representing Islam; Parnab Das, South Asian Society, representing Hinduism; Father Rick Chenault, St. Francis Church, representing Catholicism; and Stephen Cooper and Alex Hoffmann, representing the Crimson Secular Student Alliance.

Ben Hansen, sophomore accounting major from Provo, Utah, said misconceptions about his religion happen occasionally, and people coming together from different backgrounds can build greater understanding and respect for each other.

Paulina Bullard, a sophomore dance major from Olive Branch, Mississippi, said Judaism is often not well understood and that the event was a “great way to communicate because it is safe.” Noting the atmosphere of the event was respectful and professional, she said, “Only positivity can come out of this.”

Junior marketing major Corey Harris from Montgomery learned of the event only two hours beforehand and immediately decided to come. He found Hinduism the most interesting because representative Parnab Das explained how Hinduism overlaps with and differs from Buddhism.

“I think a lot more students should come,” said Harris, “because it gives you new ways of thinking of your own religion.”

Sophomore biology and religious studies major Jarred Collins from Birmingham said he believes science and religion do not contradict each other. “[Tonight] really opened my eyes,” he said. Although one can learn about religions from books and professors, nothing can be compared to “talking to people who really believe in them,” he said.

STEM Entrepreneurship Academy Helps Prepare High Schoolers for World of Rapid Change

By Yiben Liu
CCBP Graduate Assistant

How do you get youngsters ready for a world in which science and technology seem to be moving at warp speed?

For 35 high school students from West Alabama counties, a starting point was attending this year’s STEM Academy, Sunday through Friday, July 16–21.

“This was our third very successful STEM Academy,” said Dr. Holly Morgan, director of Community Education in the Center for Community-Based Partnerships. Her assessment of the camp’s success is borne out by the record 110 students, guests and families who attended the closing program on Friday evening of the camp.

The students came from 11 high schools — Aliceville, Amelia L. Johnson High, Fayette, Greene County, Hale County, Holt, Oakman, Pickens County, Sumter Central, Central (Tuscaloosa), and Greensboro — in eight counties.

“In an incredibly short period of time, we introduced students to each of the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics),” Dr. Morgan said. “They were taught by exceptional members of the UA faculty and staff. Students also got to explore their career interests, talk about related fields of study, and ask questions about college life.”

To top it off, students worked on an “entrepreneurship challenge” in which they designed a product or service based on the needs of their school or community. Before arriving at camp, students had submitted ideas for the challenge.

Dr. Morgan recruited an impressive teaching and administrative staff from the University and community for this year’s Academy. They were Dr. Marcus Ashford, mechanical engineering; Dr. Ryan Earley, biological sciences; Dr. Kabe Moen, mathematics; Dr. Rebecca Odom-Bartel, computer science; Mary Loyd Lowrey, UA Career Center; Tommie Syx, Alabama Entrepreneurship Institute; Tim Lewis and Slade Prisoc of The Gateway, an innovation and discovery center; Adriane Sheffield, educational psychology; and Whitney Sewell, Community Affairs.

“The feedback we received from students, parents and community partners this year was both positive and supportive,” Morgan said. “Students particularly enjoyed the inclusion of the hands-on activities at The Gateway and our mini career fair.”

The Career Center administered a career inventory and conducted a strengths assessment as part of a simulated career fair involving representatives from several University colleges and departments.

The camp’s goal is to offer a fun but challenging and innovative hands-on approach to help students understand STEM as fields of study. They were also introduced to entrepreneurship concepts essential to the workplace and for business start-ups to connect STEM areas such as computer science and geometric art to the entrepreneurial model.

For the first time, eight of the 11 camp teachers attended sessions on either Tuesday or Wednesday as participants in order to improve and expand their STEM skills. Teachers engaged also in the Google Classroom learning platform to communicate with Dr. Morgan and her staff regarding students’ entrepreneurship projects during the 2017–2018 school year.

Prior to their arrival, students had submitted entrepreneurial ideas that meet current needs in their community and/or school to Google Classroom. Under specific parameters for their project, the campers designed a product or service that addresses the identified need in this year’s Entrepreneurship Challenge with a hypothetical $2,000 budget and a mentor’s guidance to implement it.

Students had plenty of mentors to choose from this year, as CCBP has expanded its partnerships to more campus and community entities such as the UA Career Center and The Gateway, a City of Tuscaloosa innovation and discovery center on University Boulevard in Alberta City.

“The Academy can benefit students in a variety of ways,” Morgan said.  “Students not only increase their problem-solving skills but also have the potential to benefit their communities. All eleven school teams presented their final project designs during the closing program and plan to seek funding in order to implement the projects in their schools and/or communities.”

UA’s CCBP and Barnes YMCA Celebrate Another Successful Swim to the Top Partnership

By Yiben Liu
CCBP Graduate Assistant

About 150 children, parents, teachers and local officials celebrated the success of the four-week Swim to the Top swimming program at a showcase event Thursday, June 29 at the Benjamin Barnes Branch YMCA. The program is led by Dr. Holly Morgan, Community Education director of the Center for Community-Based Partnerships (CCBP), an initiative of the Division of Community Affairs.

Greeted by white and blue balloons symbolizing the sea and beach, these summer campers ages 4-14 were recognized for their achievements. Attendees enjoyed a meal, sponsored by Chick-fil-a Northport, of bread, fried chicken, fruit, rolls and a home-made cake emblazoned with the program’s sea-turtle logo.

In its fourth year, Swim to the Top is a swim training and survival program designed to save lives of at-risk children and youth. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were more than 3,500 drownings annually from 2005 to 2014. About one in five were children aged 14 and younger. This year, Swim to the Top program was a collaborative effort among Center for Community Based Partnership (CCBP), Benjamin Barnes Branch of the YMCA, Tuscaloosa Park and Recreation Authority (PARA) and UA’s department of kinesiology.

The swim-safety program received prominent local television coverage during this year’s sessions, as well as a follow-up interview of its leaders by Fox 6 News after a near drowning over the pre-July 4th weekend in Blount County. Fortunately, the child survived, but the incident served to emphasize the importance of partnerships like that of the University and Barnes YMCA.

In addition to swimming lessons, participants were taught leadership development, nutrition education, fitness training and academic enrichment. And each Thursday, they took golf lessons with the assistance of members from Tuscaloosa’s First Tee nonprofit. Lessons in putting, chipping, pitching and full swings were taught in the gymnasium using modified clubs and tennis balls in lieu of golf balls.

On Thursday June 15, students conducted a special science experiment called the egg-drop challenge. Children were challenged to find effective ways to wrap eggs to help them survive an approximately 8-foot drop. The teacher then dropped the eggs to test their ideas. The aim of the experiment was to give the students some basic cognitions of physical rules such as gravity and packaging.

At the final showcase, Benjamin Barnes YMCA Youth Programs Director Laura Payton gave the welcome and thanked parents for their trust in allowing their children to participate.

Tuscaloosa County PARA Program Supervisor Mark Harrison pointed out that the program not only provides life-saving skills but also leadership that will be useful to the youngsters when they occupy responsible positions as adults. He said the PARA junior lifeguard program always welcomes advanced swimmers. “We’ve got the position for you,” he said.

UA kinesiology professor Dr. Matthew Curtner-Smith noted another important aspect of the program: Research shows that more physically active children perform higher academically and their psychological satisfaction is higher than inactive children. He also urged the parents to keep their children active after the program, both in swimming and other sports.

Dr. Morgan thanked all the people in the room for helping to build the “community” that makes who everyone is. “We appreciate and are honored that we have gotten the chance to make memories with you this summer,” she said.

She also announced that the program was granted six scholarships from the Tuscaloosa’s First Tee worth $2,500 in First Tee instruction. The first scholarship was issued to Swim to the Top participant Blake Easterwood, who also gave the invocation before dinner.

During dinner, attendees enjoyed a special step show presentation led by Swim to the Top physical fitness instructor Bernel Jones and members of Omega Psi Phi.

After the dinner, UA swim leader Jenni Jensen and fitness leader Colin Pennington, Tuscaloosa County Schools enrichment leaders Mishon Flanigan and Julia Sanders gave short talks on behalf of the instructors and teachers. They reviewed the lessons learned, recognized students’ achievements and thanked supporters.

“This year has been incredible,” said Jenni Jensen, a PE teacher and a former UA student. “We were extremely well organized. The kids came ready to swim.” According to Jensen, now in her fourth year with the program, many participants have come every year and showed great improvement. She said she and the team of nine other instructors — all UA students majoring in kinesiology or sports pedagogy — were thrilled to see the children “exceed expectations.”

“On the first day they screamed and ran away from the water, and today we are able to see them floating by themselves, swimming with noodles on their own, no need to hold onto anybody, jumping in off the side,” Jensen proudly listed the skills her students had gained. “There is a complete 180 change, and it wouldn’t have happened without this program,” she said.

Lazhaiva Lyles, 9, said she had joined the program every year and will come back next year. “I’ve learned how to dive in a pool, how to float on my back and front,” she said. “It’s fun!” Her friends gathered around her and cheered when she was talking.

Dr. Samory Pruitt, vice president of UA’s Division of Community Affairs gave the closing remarks and thanked participants and leaders. “This program just keeps getting better every year and I look forward to seeing how these great program leaders and teachers will make it even better next year.”