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Vision Days Program to Expand in Year 2

Vision Days logo.

By Ashley Cunigan
CCBP Student Program Assistant

A community education initiative begun with the goal of planting seeds of a college education in students for whom a college degree seemed unlikely will reach some 500 students from underrepresented areas in Alabama in 2019, an increase of almost 25 percent over the year before. Vision Days for the fall semester will be Nov. 5 and 7 and Nov. 12 and 14.

Vision Days, a program of the Division of Community Affairs’ Center for Community-Based Partnerships (CCBP), brings to campus high school students to learn about different majors and extracurricular activities.

Students from 17 high schools will be attending this fall, four more than last year. The University of Alabama is proud to bring back this program for a second year allowing in-state high school students to explore a variety of interests and possible majors.

Begun fall semester 2018, the event attracted 400 9th-grade students from Alabama’s Black Belt and other underrepresented areas for a total of four days over two consecutive weeks. This year, Vision Days moves to a cohort model, which will allow attendees to return in their sophomore, junior and senior years.

Director of Community Education Andrea Ziegler, who directs Vision Days, said: “Vision Days provides opportunities for students to explore life beyond high school while developing connections within the University. We want to partner with students to help them see that the path to their future includes the university.”

Daniela M. Susnara, CCBP’s program coordinator for community education, added, “Vision Days not only gives students a glimpse of The University of Alabama, but also a vision of their opportunities beyond high school. Our aim is to give them an eye-opening experience by welcoming them to campus and creating relationships.”

Vision Days is composed of three sessions that explore the possibilities of attending UA. Students go on a tour based on their major or college of interest. They are then invited to a table fair with representatives from Early College (which offers high school students college courses), Honors College, the Graduate School, Capstone Center for Student Success, Career Center, student work programs and student organizations. The day concludes with an information session about scholarship opportunities and financial aid.

As an on-campus recruiting initiative, Vision Days is supported by every college on campus, allowing the entire University to make connections with students during Vision Days and to follow up with them through their high school graduation.

Each high school cohort that visits campus will have a different focus. For example, 9th graders receive an introduction to UA; 10th graders focus on the Office of Student Life, which includes, housing, recreation and student activities; 11th graders concentrate on majors, courses and programs of study. In their senior year, Vision Days attendees prepare for the college application process and applying for scholarships.

Dr. Samory T. Pruitt, vice president for the Division of Community Affairs, said, “Vision Days gives students the opportunity to think about their interests and the importance of higher education for their life’s goals. It also helps students make decisions about their high school courses in relation to their intended college major. Vision Days opens eyes to the future.”

Community Affairs got the idea for Vision Days from the annual New Faculty Community Engagement Tour, sponsored annually by CCBP, as well as from an institutional effort to reach more in-state students from traditionally underserved areas.


Parent Teacher Leadership Academy Launches 2019–2020 Academic Year

Photos by Charlee Lyu

By Sophia Xiong
CCBP Graduate Assistant

The Parent Teacher Leadership Academy (PTLA), a partnership between The University of Alabama and five school districts including Tuscaloosa City Schools (TCS) and Tuscaloosa County School System (TCSS), conducted its first session of the 2019–2020 academic year on Sept. 26 at the Bryant Conference Center.

This is the 12th year of the program, whose purpose is to provide professional and leadership development for parents and teachers through the application of research-based practices that support student achievement by establishing strong family/school partnerships.

The day session consisted of teacher teams from the participating schools. Lynn Evers facilitated the elementary teacher session, and Dr. Liza Wilson of the College of Education facilitated the middle school teacher session. A highlight of the day occurred when last year’s participants shared their projects with this year’s attendees. Teachers from Hillcrest Middle School and Tuscaloosa Magnet Elementary School, respectively, presented their projects “HMS Bootcamp” and “Magnet Math Motivation” from the 2018–2019 PTLA year.

Dr. David Scott, director of professional learning for TCSS, shared with participants about the new platform for each school’s continuous improvement plan. Andrew Maxey, director of special programs for TCS, spoke with the middle school teachers on “Building Accomplished Middle Level Practice.” 

The evening session for parents began as Dr. James E. McLean, executive director of the Center for Community-Based Partnerships (CCBP), welcomed attendees and gave opening remarks. Andrea Ziegler, CCBP director for Community Education, introduced staff and speakers.

To help parents better understand their roles on their PTLA team, Marvin L. Lucas, a member of the Tuscaloosa City Schools Board of Education, conducted a session titled “Parents as Leaders: Building Leaders within Your Schools.” Lucas emphasized the importance of parents participating in their children’s education.

“Where is your heart?” he asked. “Your heart is your child. Now you need to do what you do for your child for other children as well. That’s the reason you came here tonight.”

Karen M. Davis, principal of Hillcrest Middle School, and Preeti Nichani, principal of Tuscaloosa Magnet Elementary School, shared their experiences with PTLA programs. Their session was called “Where Does PLA Fit into the School Puzzle?” In the session, Davis shared her personal experience of how she became a teacher. “I hated math growing up,” she said, “but somehow I began to love math because of the teacher. And because of that, I became a teacher myself. As a principal, I have discovered that the key to any learning is the relationship. I believe that no great learning comes without great relationships.”

Nichani expressed enthusiasm about a project titled “Math In Motion,” in which UA engineering students worked with third-, fourth- and fifth-grade students in Nichani’s school. She said she even had a few boys come to her and say, “‘I like math. I think I’m going to be an engineer one day.’ So just planting the seed in their mind that they like math is huge.”

She also said when parents, educators and administrators come together, everyone benefits, especially the children.

The teams from Hillcrest Middle and Tuscaloosa Magnet Elementary shared their projects again with the parent participants.

Dr. Blake Berryhill, assistant professor of human development and family studies, introduced attendees to the Parent Teacher Leadership Academy assessment process. 

There will be five more sessions this academic year, on Oct. 24, Dec. 5, Jan. 16, Feb. 13 (parents only) and March 12, with graduation on April 14, 2020.



Saving Lives Program Begins New Year with CPR Training

By Ashley Cunigan CCBP Student Program Assistant

The Division of Community Affairs’ Saving Lives program began a new year of programming on September 11 with a cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) presentation by a representative from the American Heart Association (AHA) in the Center of Community Based Partnerships.

John Tutt, senior community CPR manager with the American Heart Association, met with Saving Lives members to discuss best practices for this year’s initiatives. He expressed enthusiasm about potential health improvements for Tuscaloosa County residents because of the good work of the Saving Lives program.

“There was a bequest specifically designed for Tuscaloosa County before I came in,” Tutt said. “I inherited a new role as the Southeast affiliate for community CPR and wanted to come to Alabama to meet those involved. I believe there are committed community partners in this area. We want to solicit ideas to be as impactful as possible.”

Tutt has been an instructor in first aid and CPR for over 25 years. He expressed strong convictions about the mission of hands-on learning and informed participation that could be completed in just two to three minutes. Using Automated External Defibrillator (AED) trainer kits, Tutt demonstrated the ease with which a person could become CPR certified. Saving Lives advocates were intrigued at the idea of running their own training sessions for their organization using the AED devices

“The clients we serve aren’t always part of a faith-based community, said Lynn Armour, executive director of the Good Samaritan Clinic in Tuscaloosa. “We want to provide resources that will make patients aware of their spiritual and physical health. There are a multitude of community events we could host to make an impact.”

Saving Lives contributors are not only focusing their attention on churches in Tuscaloosa. Community organizations, nonprofits and educational institutions are also helping in the efforts of this campaign. Lawanna Walker, Stillman College student development director, is planning a health fair event to engage students on campus.

“We aren’t looking to reinvent the wheel, we want the wheel to look better,” Walker said. Stillman College administration is looking to start an annual health fair with CPR components for students to be trained. Stillman’s athletics program has encouraged athletes to participate in this program with the hope that other students would become involved.

Dr. Nicole Prewitt, director of community programs and partnerships for community engagement in the Center for Community-Based Partnerships, thanked Dr. Tutt and Saving Lives advocates for their contributions to the CPR program.


UA Students Provide Financial Education and Assistance to First-Time Homebuyers


By Ashley Cunigan
CCBP Student Program Assistant

Dr. Nicole Prewitt believes in student success and emphasizes the importance of volunteerism in the classroom. As director of Programs and Partnerships for Community Engagement, Prewitt leads a service-learning course for University of Alabama honors students preparing them to assist first-time homebuyers in a financial wellness initiative known as HomeFirst.

The mission of the HomeFirst initiative is to serve Greene, Hale and Tuscaloosa County individuals and families on their path toward first-time homeownership. Students in the course completed financial education modules assessing their goals toward money management and savings. Individuals were asked to discuss their results with one another, and many were concerned with student debt and credit building. With the assistance of HomeFirst, these volunteer financial coaches are trained to offer one-on-one support to their clients developing a broad-based action plan for homebuying.

“I read an email for the Honors College about this course and wanted to give back to the community,” said Alex Lang, a senior accounting major from Milwaukee. Lang explained that there are real problems in America, and the HomeFirst training sessions effectively prepare students to coach individuals preparing to buy a house.

Throughout the session, students connected with community partners willing to provide knowledge and resources for successful homeownership. Residents in smaller communities are often overlooked as potential homebuyers, said Anita Lewis, director of the Greene County Housing Authority. “The housing authority is not for permanent stay,” she said. “My dream is to help these families find homes they can stay in. We have to start educating people when they are young. Once we learn better, we will do better.”

In addition to the HomeFirst training, students engaged in a P.I.E. [Practicing Inclusive Engagement] Workshop with the Crossroads Community Center to increase cultural competency skills. They were asked to evaluate positive intentions and negative impacts regarding specific phrases related to social identity. This workshop fostered a welcoming environment for the participants to share their ideas on how they can be inclusive with first-time homebuyers.

“Our student-led, relationship-based approach supports those on their path toward housing stability while building a community of financially and culturally competent citizens. Students are our greatest asset, and it is my hope that they will learn alongside the community participants,” Prewitt said.


Third in Series of Grant Writing Workshops Holds Closing Ceremony

  • August 21st, 2019
  • in News

Standing with grant-writing specialist David Bauer (center) are, l-r, Dr. Jim McLean, Dr. Nicole Prewitt, Latrisa Pugh, Lynn Armour, and Dr. Samory Pruitt.


By Sophia Xiong
CCBP Graduate Assistant

The 2018–2019 Winning Grants and Sustaining Communities Program, sponsored by the Division of Community Affairs, graduated its third cohort on June 3. The graduates were recognized in a closing ceremony seminar held at Cypress Inn.

Workshops conductor David G. Bauer, internationally acclaimed grants expert and author, said, “I have enjoyed working with the University/community teams in that I know the money the teams receive from these grants will go to improving lives!”

Dr. Jim McLean, Center for Community-Based Partnerships executive director, congratulated The University of Alabama faculty, staff, graduate students, and Tuscaloosa area community members for their work and predicted many would receive the necessary funding to continue their projects.

“A unique aspect of this program,” said McLean, “is that each team is led jointly by a UA faculty or staff member and a community member, and most community participants become strong advocates for the University.”

“In my almost 50 years of experience in applying for and directing grants, I have been to many grant training workshops,” McLean said. “I believe Dave Bauer is by far the best grant trainer, as his approach is based on matching the values of the funder with the values of the grantee.”

In fact, according to reports received by McLean, grants and other funds raised from the first three cohorts total more than $50 million.

Dr. Samory Pruitt, Division of Community Affairs vice president, presented workshop completion certificates to the participants. “The return on investment in these workshops organized by Dr. McLean and conducted by Mr. Bauer is amazing,” he said. “We look forward to seeing the results forthcoming from this group.”

The following participants (followed by their project) received certificates of completion: Jacob Adams and Shannon McCue — Alabama Blues Project; Ashley Waid and Alison Hooper — YMCA on Wheels; Jermaine Mitchell (University of Montevallo), Holly Morgan, Daniella Susnara, Pat Petitt and Mark Harrison — Swim to the Top; Dr. Tracey Hodges, Andrew Maxey, Carol Donovan, Julianne Coleman and Amy Davis — Literacy Bus Project; Kimberly Stowers — Building an Industry for Technology and Human Resource Innovation; Jonnie R. Griffin, Danny Patterson, Slade Prisoc and Chas Shipman — Technology Training (TALA); Jane L. Newman, Nellie Christian, Junfei Lu, Andrew Maxey — Scale Up Summer Programs (Tuscaloosa City Schools); Nicole B. Prewitt, Annettte M. Harris, Lynn Armour, Latrisa Pugh — Saving Lives Academy; Kirsten J. Barnes — Child and Family Services Project; Jonathan Koh and Michael P. Andrews — Tuscaloosa Higher Education Consortium.

Also the following individuals not associated with a project received certificates: Terry Burkle, Larry Deavers, Nona Anchan, Rebecca Watford, Nathaniel Shannon, Emefa Butler, Sally Smith, Chris Spencer, Barja Wilson, Trendle Samuel, Tera Johnson, Rene Jones and Faron Hollinger.


Students from 10 Area Schools Attend UA STEM Entrepreneurship Academy Camp

By Yiben Liu and Luna Yang CCBP Graduate Assistants

Thirty-two campers from 10 high schools in the Tuscaloosa area got a hands-on introduction to science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM) and entrepreneurship during the Center for Community-Based Partnerships’ STEM Entrepreneurship Academy, held July 14–19 on The University of Alabama campus.

The purpose was to provide opportunities for high school students not only to engage in STEM/entrepreneurial activities but also to plan an entrepreneurial project to take back to their schools, interact with UA students and to explore campus facilities. Participating students were from Aliceville High, Amelia L. Johnson High, Central High, Francis Marion High, Greene County High, Greensboro High, Holt High, R.C. Hatch High, South Lamar High and Sumter Central High. Attendees were all sophomores or juniors nominated by their respective schools. Classes began July 15, with a session in math taught by Dr. Kabe Moen, associate professor of mathematics. He presented an overview of the discipline and careers for which math is key. To hold the campers’ attention, he introduced them to Liars Bingo, which helped them think outside the box and find the fun of math. Moen said, “STEM camp builds enthusiasm for science, helps students learn to work as a team and get along with one another, and to think about their future.” Later that day, campers attended a career fair, led by Career Center administrator Tariq Draine. At the fair they were able to ask questions and talk with UA students about potential college courses and extracurricular activities related to their major. During the Monday evening session, students met with Elizabeth Jernigan, STEM Entrepreneurship Academy facilitator and instructor of marketing in the Culverhouse College of Business. She introduced campers to research methods and began leading them in the process of planning a team project to address a problem or need in their school and community. On Tuesday, during a STEM biology session led by Dr. Michael R. McKain, assistant professor of biology and curator of the Herbarium, students learned about food sources and crop processes and how to isolate plant DNA. That afternoon, Dr. Marcus Ashford, associate professor of mechanical engineering, talked students through project design and taught them to build T-shirt cannons. During this session, students began converting their project from ideas to physical design, and plan ways to test their projects’ validity. Ashford said his goal was to introduce students to the hard process of research that leads “to the fun of success.” Students visited the Tuscaloosa Gateway on Tuesday evening, where they participated on several hands-on STEM activities. On Wednesday, Dr. Alexander Hainen, assistant professor of civil, construction and environmental engineering, described how traffic signals and security cameras are designed and assembled. He then led the campers on an observation of some of the duties of transportation and traffic engineers, for example by collecting traffic volume data at the intersection of Hackberry Lane and McCorvey Drive. The group later traveled to Jack Warner Parkway to measure the speed of passing cars using radar guns and to view live-streaming security camera video in the control room of the Tuscaloosa Regional Traffic Management Center. “Transportation and traffic engineering involves a lot of application of math, science and physics,” Hainen told the campers, adding that the field would be a promising career for them to consider. For their part, the campers showed great enthusiasm during the sessions, with several saying they would never feel the same driving through traffic signals. On Thursday morning, campers were taught computer science basics by Dr. Jeff Gray, UA professor of computer science, and were given the opportunity to use the Micro:bit, a computer coding device. That afternoon, they visited The Edge Entrepreneurship Institute, a business project incubator and accelerator in Tuscaloosa that focuses on growing and supporting entrepreneurs. Throughout their six-day camp, students were challenged to design a project that addresses a problem in their school or community using a hypothetical $2,000 seed grant. Under the guidance of counselors, students worked in groups and presented their proposals before teachers, parents and fellow campers during the closing program July 19. This year, for the first time, UA’s Division of Community Affairs provided financial support for selected projects to help students implement their projects in their schools and communities. Teams from Aliceville High School, Greensboro High School and Central High School were selected to receive funding totaling $1,750.

Central’s winning project would establish an after-high-school life preparedness club. “This camp opened my eyes to my future,” said Central High School 11th-grade student Amelia Knox. “The most challenging part was to develop the plan step by step. It’s a great opportunity for us to bring this project back to school.”

Uniontown’s R.C. Hatch High School 10th-grade student Tralisia Hunter wants to be a neurosurgeon. She said attending the camp strengthened her determination to follow through with her goals. Her favorite part of camp was the computer science activities. The mother of a Greensboro High School camp participant said, “To send my son away for a whole week was hard, but seeing him and his teammates present their project made me proud. He is growing, he is learning, and this is just amazing.” Andrea Ziegler, director for Community Education at CCBP, said, “The STEM Entrepreneurship Academy offered students the opportunity to apply their skills in the STEM disciplines to real-life situations and then carry that experience to the next level by developing a project to help their school and community.”  


Showcase Event Concludes Sixth Annual Swim to the Top Program

By Sophia Xiong
CCBP Graduate Assistant

Swim to the Top, a program of the Center for Community-Based Partnerships (CCBP), concluded its 2019 activities with a showcase event at the Benjamin Barnes Branch YMCA on Thursday, June 27.

LaKeda Smith, executive director of the Benjamin Barnes YMCA, welcomed participants and thanked her staff and the University staff for another successful Swim to the Top year.

Delivering brief opening remarks were Mark Harrison, Tuscaloosa County Parks and Recreation Authority (PARA) program supervisor; Ashley Javine, Barnes YMCA program director; and Andrea Ziegler, CCBP director for community education.

Despite a day of intermittent thunderstorms, attendees were in a joyful mood. The showcase room was decorated in blue and white balloons, participants feasted on Chick-fil-A chicken nuggets, fruit and drinks. A “wall of fame” entrance to the room was displayed with photos of the students going through their swimming lessons.

Swim to the Top, now in its sixth year, is a collaboration of The University of Alabama, PARA,

Barnes branch of the YMCA, and The First Tee, a youth development program that teaches life values through the game of golf. Students, ages 4 to 14, not only take swimming lessons but also learn about nutrition through hands-on science projects and participate in daily physical education.

Research shows that swim lessons can greatly reduce the risk of drowning. Dr. Matthew Curtner-Smith, professor of sport pedagogy in the Department of Kinesiology at UA, speaking at the final showcase, said Alabama has one of the highest drowning rates in the nation. “By launching this program, we hope we can save some lives,” he said.

Learning to swim is not easy, the instructors said. It all starts with the most important lesson: overcoming the fear of water. Victor Montano-Cruz was one of the UA student swim instructors who helped children overcome their fears of water and gain confidence in swimming “It was a lot of work to get them to trust me,” he said. “First, get them into the water, then get them on the water, then swim.”

Not only did the students enjoy themselves at Swim to the Top, but they also formed strong relationships with their teachers. Many children said their goodbyes to their teachers with big hugs. Montano-Cruz said this class of kids got close to their instructors. “What makes the relationship so strong,” he said, “is helping them overcome their fear.” Montanzo-Cruz was also impressed with the meaningful peer relationships that developed.

Dr. Samory Pruitt, vice president for Community Affairs, gave closing remarks, thanking students, parents and members of the CCBP staff for the Swim to the Top tradition. “I can’t say enough thanks to the parents,” he said. “We appreciate the opportunity you give us to work with your young people.”


UA Students win 12 Fulbright awards for 2019–2020

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Twelve University of Alabama students were chosen as Fulbright Student Award Winners for 2019–2020, and four UA students were selected as alternates.

“Congratulations to UA’s 2019–2020 Fulbright winners and alternates,” said Dr. Teresa E. Wise, associate provost for international education and global outreach. “During their year abroad, these leaders of tomorrow are putting into action the diverse and intercultural experiences and education that UA provides.”

The highly competitive U.S. Student Fulbright Program provides grants for individually designed study and research projects or for English-teaching assistantships to 160 countries. More than 10,000 applicants compete for approximately 2,100 awards each year. In February, for the third time in four years, The University of Alabama was recognized as a Top Producing Institution for Fulbright U.S. Students.

“These students have emerged from the national Fulbright competition as the best in the nation,” said Dr. Beverly Hawk, UA Fulbright program adviser and director of global and community engagement in the Center for Community-Based Partnerships “Through their individual community engagement activities overseas, these Fulbright winners will develop lasting international ties for Alabama and the USA.”

Twelve UA graduates received Fulbright Awards for the 2019–2020 academic year:

Tommy P. Brazie of Huntsville, a 2019 graduate in international studies and German language and literature with a minor in French and the certificate in global studies, was chosen to teach in Germany.

Amanda Filardo of Prospect, Kentucky, a 2019 Honors College graduate in international studies with minors in Russian and Italian and the certificate in global studies, was chosen to teach in Kazakhstan.

Courtney Geary of Somerset, Pennsylvania, a University Fellow in the Honors College, a Blackburn Fellow, a 2019 graduate of New College majoring in interdisciplinary studies with minors in international studies and educational studies, and language competency in Arabic was chosen to teach in Jordan.

Cole Jones of Nashville, Tennessee, a University Fellow in the Honors College and a 2019 graduate in management information systems with a minor in social innovation and leadership, was chosen to teach in Malaysia.

Ciara Malaugh of Madison, a member of the Honors College, a 2017 graduate in political science and a Truman Scholar, was chosen to teach in Romania.

Larry Monocello of Erie, Pennsylvania, who holds a bachelor’s in anthropology (2015) from Case Western Reserve University and a master’s in biocultural medical anthropology (2017) from UA with language study in Korean, was chosen to conduct research about Male Body Ideals and Mental Health among Men in South Korea.

Amica Rapadas of Homewood, a member of the Honors College and a 2019 graduate in international studies and geography with a minor in Chinese and the certificate in global studies, was chosen to teach in Taiwan.

Pamela Grace Turner of Fairhope, a member of the Honors College and a 2018 graduate in public relations and international studies with a minor in Spanish, was chosen to teach in Colombia.

Sophia Warner of Birmingham, a Blackburn Fellow and a 2019 graduate in international studies with minors in German, Russian and liberal arts through the Blount Scholars Program, was chosen to teach in Germany.

Samantha Wetzel of Hudson, Illinois, a 2019 graduate in public relations and foreign languages and literature with a concentration in German, was chosen to teach in Germany.

Ellery Wiemer of Lombard, Illinois, a 2019 graduate in marketing with a concentration in global business, a minor in German and the certificate in global studies, was chosen to teach in Germany.

Madeline Willoughby of Houston, a 2019 graduate in elementary education with classroom leadership expertise and international English teaching experience, was chosen to teach in Malaysia.

Four UA graduates were selected as alternates in the Fulbright competition. Alternates may be brought forward to serve at any time should winners be unable to travel to the designated country, or if additional funds become available. The alternates are:

Julia Coursey of Washington, D.C., who holds a BA in liberal arts from St. John’s College and is a UA graduate student in creative writing, to conduct research in Hungary.

Jennifer Reaves of Muscle Shoals, a member of the Honors College and a 2019 graduate in finance, to teach in Malaysia.

Claire Stebbins of Miamisburg, Ohio, a University Fellow in the Honors College and a 2019 graduate in journalism and political science with minors in educational studies and social innovation and leadership, to teach in The Netherlands.

Olivia Turner of Cumming, Georgia, a member of the Honors College and a 2019 graduate in Spanish and art history with a minor in English, to teach in Argentina.

Students with an interest in next year’s competition should contact Fulbright coordinator Megan Wagner of the Capstone International Center, 135 B.B. Comer Hall,, or Fulbright advisers Dr. Matthew Feminella of modern languages and classics, 263B B.B. Comer Hall,; or Dr. Beverly Hawk of the UA Center for Community-Based Partnerships, 1114 Capital Hall,


Third Annual New Faculty Community Engagement Tour Informs, Inspires

By Sophia Xiong, Yiben Liu and Kirsten Barnes Center for Community-Based Partnerships

The Division of Community Affairs hosted the third annual New Faculty Community Engagement Tour, visiting towns and landmarks in the Black Belt region of Alabama, Wednesday through Friday, May 8–10.

Faculty members, graduate students and University staff visited various sites in Eutaw in Greene County, Greensboro and Newbern in Hale County, Aliceville in Pickens County, Livingston and York in Sumter County, Marion and Uniontown in Perry County, Selma in Dallas County, Thomasville in Clarke County, and Tuscaloosa County.

“The importance of this annual tour is borne out by the growing number of successful engaged-scholarship projects that have been inspired by the tour,” said Dr. Samory T. Pruitt, community affairs vice president, who came up with the idea for an annual tour of the neighboring Black Belt counties as a means of prompting research ideas for new faculty.

Day 1 took the visitors to Greene, Hale and Tuscaloosa counties, Day 2 took them to Pickens, Sumter and Perry counties, and the final day added stops in Clarke and Dallas counties, plus a return to Perry County. During each stop, participants discussed local initiatives and partnerships in a panel format.

The group left Coleman Coliseum at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday. The first stop was Robert Brown Middle School in Eutaw, where panelists and local artists shared stories about their programs as well as their needs for further development.

Panelists were Drenda Morton, lead teacher of the after-school program; Iris Sermon, director of Greene County E-911; Marilyn Gibson, librarian at the James C. Poole Library; Mildred Morgan, coordinator of Greene County Community in Action and facilitator of the Strengthening Family Program; Dr. Carol Zippert, director of the Greene County Society of Folk Art and Culture;, and John Zippert, board member of Greene County Hospital. The Zipperts are also publishers of the local weekly newspaper, The Greene County Democrat.

Morton introduced visitors to the 21st-Century After-School Program, now in its second year of providing after-school activities such as recreation, dance and field trips. Faculty and graduate students discussed potential partnerships with panelists and several mentioned how helpful the discussions were for considering partnerships.

At the Salem Missionary Baptist Church luncheon in Greensboro, in Hale County, Dr. Nicole Prewitt, UA director of Programs and Partnerships for Community Engagement, discussed the role partnerships play in area projects. She encouraged attendees to consider how the assets of a research university could be leveraged through local partnerships. “We are pleased to visit Greensboro and Newbern and learn more about these communities and the ongoing economic development efforts underway focused on human capital — ranging from education to job training to innovative housing research and development,” Prewitt said.

Dialogue with new faculty, staff, students and community members was spearheaded by local panelists including Tyler Clements, ALFA Insurance agent and co-owner of Puddle Jumpers LLC; Mattie Harris, director, Hale County Department of Human Resources; William “Bill” Hemstreet, retired fish health specialist for Alabama Fish Farming Center, Auburn University; Emily McGlohn, assistant professor, Auburn University Rural Studio; Aubrey Larkin, assistant superintendent, Hale County School System; and registered nurse Andrea Whaley, clinical director, Hale County Hospital Home Health Agency.

Llevelyn Rhone, founder, Greensboro Regional Opportunity Works, Inc., which is supported by members of Salem Missionary Baptist Church, was the local site coordinator for the Hale County visit.

A group of youth from the National Association for the Prevention of Starvation (NAPS) and NAPS Abundant Life Academy (NALA) also joined the lunch and panel. NAPS and NALA began working in the Black Belt in 2010 and 2013, respectively, through providing students with educational classes and service learning. After a short introduction, the students from NALA performed songs for the UA visitors.

In the afternoon, the group visited Rural Studio in Newbern County. Rural Studio is a design-build program of Auburn University dating to 1993. The program gives Auburn’s School of Architecture, Planning & Landscape Architecture hands-on projects while meeting community needs at the same time. More than 200 projects have been completed by Rural Studio since its inception. The UA group toured several Rural Studio projects, including the fire station project and library project.

The group’s last visit on Monday was The EDGE Incubator and Accelerator in Tuscaloosa. After a short tour, participants heard a panel discussion concerning Tuscaloosa’s Five-Year Consolidated Housing Plan, whose purpose is to promote housing diversity, assist lower-income households and preserve the character of Tuscaloosa’s neighborhoods.

Ashley Crites, Tuscaloosa planning director, hosted the panel. Other panelists were Brock Corder, president of the Builders Group; Daphne Curtis, agent for RealtySouth; Chris Hall, director of development for the Tuscaloosa Housing Authority; Heather Hill, associate director of Tuscaloosa’s HOME Investment Partnership Program; Brandon Kasteler, construction manager for Habitat for Humanity; and Dr. Theresa Welbourne, executive director of the Alabama Entrepreneurship Institute and The Edge.

UA faculty members expressed their appreciation for the chance to explore areas near the University, which provides opportunities to create new partnerships. As Dr. Holland Hopson, assistant professor from New College, said, “You need to find yourself a place in the community, and then start to engage and serve in it.”

He continued: “As was discussed during the luncheon panel, combining Rural Studio’s development of affordable, sustainable housing in rural areas with our College of Engineering’s wastewater treatment research addresses two critical issues faced by residents throughout the Black Belt. Partnerships like these, with two of the state’s leading research institutions working together right here in Hale County, can make a difference.”

On Thursday, the tour visited the Aliceville Museum in Pickens County, Hill Hospital in Sumter County, and Judson College and Francis Marion High School in Perry County.

At the Pickens County Aliceville Museum, the tour group viewed the Aliceville World War II Prisoner of War Camp documentary and attended a panel discussion with Pickens County officials. Sarah Quick from UA/Pickens County Health Care Teaching Partnership facilitated the discussion. Panelists were Terrence Windham, Aliceville city council member; Cynthia Colvin, Aliceville First Baptist Church member; Chelsie Skinner, nurse practitioner with Pickens County Medical Center; Shawn McDaniel, vice principal, Pickens County College and Career Center; and Edgar Pruitt, Aliceville Chamber of Commerce director.

Health care for women prisoners and retaining teachers in early education systems were two major needs panelists identified. Health care in prison, Windham said, is understaffed, especially for female prisoners. “They [women prisoners] do need care and they are very grateful to get care,” Skinner said. McDaniel said it is very hard to keep the teachers in early education; most leave after a year. “You can fool adults, but you can never fool children,” he said. He asked for support to enhance the sustainability of teachers.

At Hill Hospital in Sumter County, the panel discussion was facilitated by Chris Spencer, director of Resource Development for Community Engagement at UA’s Center for Community-Based Partnerships (CCBP). Panelists included Rev. Edmond Bell from Shiloh Zion Baptist Church; Loretta Wilson, administrator of Hill Hospital; Lindsey Truelove, director of the Sumter County Chamber of Commerce; and Anthony Crear, board member of University Charter School in Livingston.

Bell emphasized the importance of developing young people by increasing the literacy rate and maintaining summer programs of arts and sports for youth. Bell welcomed UA faculty and students to become involved. “We don’t want our young people to think they have to leave Sumter County to be someone. We want young talent to stay here,” he said.

Speaking for York Mayor Gena Doggett Robbins, Truelove discussed the “Sumter Renaissance” initiative, which promotes Sumter to the outside world. She encouraged UA students to join in the effort.

The third stop on the tour took participants to Judson College and Francis Marion High School in Perry County. Former Circuit Clerk Mary Moore facilitated the discussion. Panelists were Frances Ford, executive director and healthcare coordinator of Sowing Seeds of Hope; Dr. Cathy Trimble, Francis Marion School principal; and Col. Ed Passmore, vice president of Marion Military Institute.

Trimble said there were two major jobs she and her group are endeavoring to do: First, to guarantee the basic living condition for the students when they are studying in school. “If they don’t feel well, they will not learn,” she said. And second, “We need to train them to be productive citizens.”

Panelists stressed that health care was Perry County’s most urgent need. With no hospital in the county, they said, it takes hours for people to get medical care. Col. Passmore hopes for long-term, deep collaborative initiatives with Perry County because so far initiatives have been limited to brief visits several times a year.

Moore concluded: “We are not sitting on our hands but looking for every possible way to help ourselves. We are not looking for a handout, but a ‘hand up’.”

After each panel discussion, UA faculty and students talked to the panelists and discussed the possibility of building collaborative initiatives.

Day 3 made stops in Uniontown and Thomasville, and ended in Selma with the crossing of the Edmund Pettus Bridge, the historic civil rights landmark.

During a stop at R.C. Hatch High School, the group was served a hot breakfast of catfish, grits and biscuits before being led in a discussion by Emefa Butler, founder of C.H.O.I.C.E. (Choosing to Help Others in our Community Excel).

“When we come together as a community we can make great changes, not only in Uniontown but for all of rural Alabama,” said Butler, who also teaches at Hatch. “For those of you who don’t know, community and opportunity both end in unity. So, we must unite to bring about changes.”

Tour participants heard from Dr. Leslie Ford, principal of R.C. Hatch High School, police corporal Jamarus Allen, schoolteacher Kay Dudley, Shawn Hall, pastor of Cowboy Church of the Prairie and Detre Langhorne, librarian at the Uniontown Public Library.

Dr. Julia Brock, assistant professor of history, began working at UA in 2018 and wanted to know more about rural Alabama and how she might use this knowledge in her research. “I work for and in partnership with the community to share and preserve the past,” Brock said. “Because my work is so community based I’m looking to see what the community needs are and see if I can connect with community members and other faculty.”

From Uniontown, the group put on their hard hats and toured the still-under-construction Thomasville Regional Medical Center, led by Thomasville Mayor Sheldon Day. The group was shown a state-of-the-art facility that will provide residents with a full-service hospital that includes an emergency room, urgent care center, 32-bed hospital, and a full-service surgery center. There will be a helicopter on-site to transport patients to larger facilities when needed.

The facility “will prevent our residents from having to travel great distances for diagnostic services such as CAT scans. Instead of having to go to Tuscaloosa, Birmingham or Mississippi, they can have those services here,” Day said.

After this tour, the group dined at the Thomasville Civic Center where they heard from Thomasville City Schools Superintendent Garth Moss, Dr. Charles Shepherd of Coastal Alabama Community College, Erika Turflinger, a UA co-op student from Centreville and Liz Megginson of the Thomasville Public Library.

Once again the panelists discussed how their ability to work together as a community has created and attracted industry so that the city can retain its residents — especially its youth — with jobs.

“We are southwest Alabama’s rural success story,” Day said. “We service the Black Belt and we partner with the Black Belt on many initiatives.”

Dr. Drew Pearl, director of Community Engagement Research and Publications, attended all three days of the tour. “Being new to Alabama and Tuscaloosa, this was an eye-opening experience, especially as it related to the overlap of needs from the different communities that we visited,” said Pearl, who joined UA during the 2018–2019 academic year. “My research focuses on community engagement, so I wanted to learn how we can connect our resources to some of these issues.”

The final stop on the tour was a visit to the Selma Interpretive Center, where the group heard from Sheryl Smedley, executive director of the Selma Chamber of Commerce, Black Belt Community Foundation President Felecia Lucky, District Judge Bob Armstrong, Black Belt Community Foundation Head Start Director Patricia Stiles, and UA Director of Resource Development for Community Engagement Chris Spencer.

Not only did this group talk about combining resources for a better community, they also discussed how helping and supporting youth, including helping and supporting their parents, has been key to their success.

“In 2008 I sent more children to juvenile prisons than any judge in the state. I wasn’t proud of that,” said Armstrong, who has since solicited grants and set up a policy council to help prevent some of these children from being incarcerated. “We created a system of services that deal with root causes of problems and we revamped the juvenile court so there are very fair, but consistent and appropriate, consequences for their actions. In the last three years, we’ve only sent four children to the Department of Youth Services.”

After a period of informal conversations with the panelists, the group ended the tour by embarking on a walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

Site coordinators for the tour were Emefa Butler, Uniontown; Ashley Crites, Tuscaloosa; Lillie Jones-Osborne, Eutaw; Mary Moore, Marion; Amy Prescott, Thomasville; Sarah Quick, Aliceville; Llevelyn Rhone, Greensboro; and Chris Spencer, Livingston and Selma.

Members of the Planning Committee from The University of Alabama were Dr. Peter Hlebowitsh, dean of the College of Education; Dr. Jennifer Greer, associate provost for administration; Dr. Susan Carvalho, associate provost and dean of the Graduate School; Dr. Samory T. Pruitt, vice president for Community Affairs; Dr. Jim McLean, CCBP executive director; Carol Agomo, director of Community and Administrative Affairs for the Division of Community Affairs; Dr. Nicole Prewitt, CCBP director of Programs and Partnerships for Community Engagement; and Whitney Sewell, Community Affairs program manager.

The value of the trip, Pruitt said, “is hearing firsthand from community members, which helps us to be a better partner, one aligned with local priorities and needs. This enables us to fulfill our mission of forming life-changing partnerships with the communities with whom we work.”



Saving Lives Sponsors Have Faith in Heart Tent at Annual Tuscaloosa Heart Walk

By Kirsten J. Barnes
CCBP Graduate Fellow

For the fifth consecutive year, The University of Alabama’s Saving Lives Initiative participated in the American Heart Association’s Tuscaloosa Heart Walk at the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater.

This year the event was held on March 2 and Saving Lives used the opportunity to spread its message of spiritual and physical health.

“I am so happy to be here today. I had such a good time last year,” said Letrell Peoples, of New Zion Missionary Baptist Church. “This is a great opportunity to encourage people in the community to improve their health through awareness, just as we do in our congregation. We all need good information about heart disease and stroke prevention.”

This year the group, which falls under the umbrella of UA’s Center for Community-Based Partnerships, sponsored the Have Faith in Heart Tent, as one of 18 area organizations and businesses that took part in the annual community event.

The Rev. Tyshawn Gardner, pastor of Plum Grove Baptist Church, and some of his church members came out to show support for the event. Plum Grove is a Saving Lives member church.

“I think activities like this are important to live healthy lives, for longevity of life, and overall physical health,” Gardner said before heading to the track.

Saving Lives partnered with UA student organization Eta Sigma Gamma to get students involved in educating the public about the importance of staying healthy and active.

“This is an opportunity for our students to get experience working out in the community and interacting with community members,” said UA Associate Professor Jen Nickelson, who holds a PhD in public health and serves as the faculty advisor for Eta Sigma Gamma. “For many of the students, this is one of the first times that they have interacted with the community, promoting health and encouraging healthy habits. It gives our students experience and gets them excited.”

Nickelson said she and her students discussed ways people can improve their health, increase exercise, improve their diet, and lower body fat while distributing fruit, nuts and water.

Saving Lives and Eta Sigma Gamma often partner for community outreach events.

Sally Klimek, a senior from South Bend, Ind., said she worked with the group at the Holt Health Fair as well.

“I like that it gave me an opportunity to not only get involved with health education, but also with the American Heart Association,” Klimek said.

Maruka Walker, a graduate assistant from Mobile, Ala., works with the Saving Lives Initiative and skipped her hometown’s Mardi Gras activities to attend the worthwhile cause.

“I think it’s an opportunity for the University to use its resources and engage with the community, while providing credible health information,” said Walker, who has been involved with Saving Lives for more than a year. “We get to share the resources that are needed so people can get on the journey to wellness.”

Saving Lives is under the direction of Dr. Nicole Prewitt, director of programs and partnerships for Community Engagement at UA’s Center for Community-Based Partnerships, which is an initiative of the Division of Community Affairs.

For more information about the program contact Prewitt at or at (205) 348-9819.

Saving Lives is a faith-based wellness program established by The University of Alabama’s Center for Community-Based Partnerships to advocate for healthy families and communities through faith.