Category: News

Council on Community-Based Partnerships Holds Second Meeting of Fall Semester; Next Meeting Set for February 2017

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The Council on Community-Based Partnerships held its second luncheon meeting of the fall semester Wednesday, Oct. 26 in the Bryant Conference Center Birmingham Room on campus.

In his opening remarks, education dean Dr. Peter Hlebowitsch, council executive committee chair, spoke of the importance of research, teaching and service, noting that many on campus are involved in research and service simultaneously. He urged using University resources to make a far-reaching and positive difference, noting “we are not The University of Tuscaloosa, but The University of Alabama.”

Dr. Susan Carvalho, associate provost and dean of the Graduate School, discussed the UA graduate education strategic plan. The University of Alabama Graduate School is committed to increasing both the number and quality of graduate students in order to develop the next generation of scholars, as well as to further develop the University’s scholarship activity, she said. This goal is in line with the campus-wide vision to increase the number of tenure-track faculty positions from 900 to 1,200. Carvalho believes that the council can help her meet some of the Graduate School’s “grand challenges,” including a strong push for interdisciplinary engagement research. She also mentioned the opportunities made possible by the (Bill and Melinda) Gates Foundation through its support of creative learning, innovation, global and classical perspectives, authentic experiential learning and development of social consciousness.

Carvalho shared the current statistics and goals in the area of graduate studies at UA, noting that at present graduate students constitute 14 percent of the student population. The goal is to increase that figure to 23 percent, which would grow this area from approximately 5,000 to 8,000.

What will it take to increase graduate enrollment almost 10 percent? In addition to creating additional graduate programs and increasing enrollment in existing ones, Carvalho believes that it’s the idea of what students would do and why they would do it. She noted that the Graduate School can help teach these learners to have a better understanding of how their efforts affect communities, and why that matters. She also spoke to the importance of the University having activities in place that allow them opportunities to speak outside of their jargon world — to talk to real people — about what they do.

Dr. Samory T. Pruitt, vice president for Community Affairs, gave an update on the Engagement Scholarship Consortium (ESC) Conference, noting that the ESC Board met Sunday evening and Monday prior to the beginning of the conference to discuss the ESC 20/20 Strategic Plan. The  plan, which includes a goal of growing the ESC from the current 38 member institutions to 100 by the year 2020, was approved unanimously. Additional components of the strategic plan include exploring the possibility of hosting state and regional conferences in addition to the larger national conference, which could mean additional conference hosting opportunities in Alabama. An item for exploration is finding a way to acquire funds for and implement multi-state engaged scholarship grants.


The meeting continued with no committee report items that needed to be shared with the group. It was announced that the seed funding and award calls for the Center for Community-Based Partnerships (CCBP) Awards opened Saturday, October 1.

Dr. Jim McLean, CCBP executive director, introduced Dr. Holly Morgan, the new director of Community Education, bringing CCBP to full staffing capacity. Morgan joins the CCBP from the UA College of Education. She has previously worked with the Alabama Math Science and Technology Initiative (AMSTI) and other educational groups.

Morgan updated the Council on the Parent Teacher Leadership Academy (PTLA). She reported that PTLA currently consists of four school systems, including 50 teachers attending the Teacher Leadership Academy (TLA) and 78 parents attending the Parent Leadership Academy (PLA), which includes elementary, parent and Pre-K groups. The PLA includes six sessions throughout the academic year, while there are four TLA sessions for teachers. The focus this year is on uniting parents and teachers around their schools’ improvement plans. (Note: The final sessions of the year were held Nov. 17 and Dec. 1.)

Dr. Tonyia Tidline, CCBP director of Student and Community Engagement, reported that she is working to add students to the primary engagement organization under her leadership, Scholars for Community Outreach, Partnerships and Engagement (SCOPE), as well as to increase their interest in and production of research. She shared an informational handout and reported on the group’s recent and remaining activity schedule for the semester. She said the Student Showcase will take place Wednesday, March 22, from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. at the Ferguson Student Center. The theme will be “Brought to You by Students, for Students.” Plans include placing an emphasis on works in progress in hopes of inspiring students with ideas they can use to work with faculty. Dean Carvalho will be the keynote speaker for the event, with Billy Kirkpatrick from West Alabama AIDS Outreach also speaking.

Reporting on engagement scholarship in action were representatives of the Alabama TOP Program and the Dallas and Marengo Counties Veterans Needs Assessment Project.

Dr. Tania Alameda-Lawson, assistant professor in the School of Social Work, and Dr. Michael Lawson, clinical assistant professor in the Department of Educational Studies in Psychology, Research, Methodology and Counseling, with Dr. Andrew K. Richards, assistant professor of Kinesiology and UA student Victoria Shiver, discussed the Alabama TOP Program. Their research explores two fundamental problems of education: 1) the rapidly growing student populations in the U.S. that are underserved by schools and 2) the phenomenon that less than 15 percent of variance in children’s academic achievement relates to their schoolwork. The challenge educators face is how to address these non-school factors so that classroom engagement and learning can occur for all students.

Working through an interdisciplinary effort to integrate best practices, the program follows a framework that includes: 1) positive engagement with student peer groups, 2) families, 3) helping children see that school is a positive place for them and 4) academic engagement.

Program leaders hope to synchronize these four pillars through intervention, utilizing the involvement of faculty members, students and community members working together in teams. The primary objective is to train families to provide programs and support to other parents in the community through door-do-door outreach, as well as by convening parents to identify barriers and challenges so as to identify potential solutions. The program will provide technical and financial support for the parent-run program development. Primary partners for the project are Tuscaloosa One Place, Holt Elementary, the UA College of Education, the UA Department of Kinesiology and the UA School of Social Work.

Dr. David Albright, associate professor and Hill Crest Foundation Endowed Chair in Mental Health, reported on the Dallas and Marengo Counties Veterans Needs Assessment Program. Funded through the CCBP Council Awards, this program assessed gaps and opportunities within Dallas and Marengo counties for approximately 4,000 veterans. Albright reported that additional funding has been received and the program is now being extended to include Wilcox County. There are two phases to the program: 1) interviews and 2) focus groups of providers offering services to veterans in the tri-county area. (A report documenting Phase 1 findings was to be generated by December 2016.)

The next Council on Community-Based Partnerships meeting is scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017, at 11:30 a.m. in the Capital Hall training room.

The Annual CCBP Awards Luncheon will take place Friday, April 14, 2017, with poster presentations at 10 a.m. and the luncheon at 11:30 a.m. in the Bryant Conference Center, Sellers Auditorium.

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 to Host Speaker Marsha Greenfeld December 1


TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The Parent Teacher Leadership Academy (PTLA) at The University of Alabama will host Marsha Greenfeld, senior program facilitator at Johns Hopkins University, as a guest speaker at its all-day teacher workshop, to be held Thursday, Dec. 1, at the Bryant Conference Center on the UA campus.

“We are happy to have Marsha Greenfeld, of the National Network of Partnership Schools, with us to share her knowledge and experience regarding school, family and community partnerships,” said Dr. Holly Morgan, director of community education in the Center for Community-Based Partnerships.

Greenfeld, who works with the prestigious university’s National Network of Partnership Schools (NNPS), will lead the second session of the Teacher Leadership Academy (TLA), titled “Communicating Academic Goals Necessary for Student Success.” Her knowledge of goal-oriented partnership programs stems from time spent as a teacher and district-level facilitator for partnerships in the Baltimore City Public School System. Additionally, she worked in the technical assistance branch of the Office of Federal Grants Programs in Washington, D.C. Public Schools and as a partnership coordinator in the national office of Communities in Schools.

Established at Johns Hopkins University, NNPS provides professional development for schools, districts, states and organizations, utilizing research-based approaches to implement and sustain programs of family and community involvement to increase student success in school.

The PTLA is expanding the NNPS model during the 2016–2107 school year to foster leadership and develop partnerships with members of the Parent Leadership Academy (PLA), Teacher Leadership Academy (TLA), Hispanic Parent Leadership Academy (HPLA) and Pre-Kindergarten Parent Leadership Academy (PKPLA) in their respective classrooms, schools and communities.

“We believe that [Greenfeld] will help us to ‘connect the dots’ between the framework set forth by the National Network of Partnership Schools and the goals of the Parent Teacher Leadership Academy,” said Morgan.

The NNPS framework is comprised of six types of involvement: parenting, communicating, volunteering, learning at home, decision making and collaborating. Informed by these central concepts of involvement, parents and teachers of participating schools will join together to build a one-year action plan to improve school, family and community partnerships.

“All academy members will work collaboratively in their respective school teams in order to design a PTLA partnership project,” said Morgan. “The partnership project should be guided by at least one of the school’s improvement goals.

“We are thrilled to have 43 teachers from Tuscaloosa City, Tuscaloosa County, Lamar County and Alabaster City Schools as participants in the Teacher Leadership Academy for the 2016–2017 school year. Additionally, the Parent Leadership Academy hosts 75 parent participants from these same school districts,” said Morgan, who went on to note that both parents and teachers are selected for participation by their school’s principal.

“We look forward to welcoming all who are participating in the December 1 workshop, and to a productive day of learning and planning for the future,” said Morgan.

The Parent Teacher Leadership Academy (PTLA) is a leadership program that utilizes research-based practices to provide professional development to parent and teacher leaders who use their knowledge to support student achievement through strong family/school partnerships. It is a joint initiative of the Tuscaloosa City and County School Systems, The University of Alabama’s Center for Community-Based Partnerships and the faculty in the University’s College of Education and College of Human Environmental Sciences.

Student’s Prize-Winning Photos Capture UA Spirit


By Taylor Armer
CCBP Graduate Assistant

A Center for Community-Based Partnerships (CCBP) senior student assistant, Jianlong Yang, won first and second place in the “Crimson Captured” category at the 2016 Education Abroad Photo Contest.

While entering the competition was his opportunity to show his work, Yang, a management major from Zhengzhou, China, said that he also wanted to “share his view of the University of Alabama campus.”

These captured moments earned Yang, a self-taught photographer, a $150 credit toward tuition and fees for Spring 2017, frames for his winning photos, and recognition at the competition display on the 2nd floor of the Ferguson Center.

His first place winner, “Roll Tide,” captured a Million Dollar Band member playing the trombone during UA’s Homecoming Parade on Oct. 1. Yang’s attention was drawn to the University’s battle cry emblazoned on the banner attached to the instrument.


“The banner, and the band’s uniform, are symbols of campus pride,” Yang said. “It’s special and provides meaning for all of us.”

The second place winner, “We Were Here,” captured a group of graduating seniors seemingly propping up Denny Chimes, reminiscent of tourist photos of the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy.


“It took many attempts to get this one right,” Yang said, “but it was a moment that makes you want to capture it.”

At CCBP, Yang works under Dr. Edward Mullins, director of research and communication, and other directors.

“Jianlong is an exceptionally talented photographer with both the eye of an artist and the technical precision of a scientist,” Mullins said. “In my many years as a professional journalist and a teacher of journalism, I’ve not seen many with both of these traits to the degree that Jianlong has them.”

Although an undergraduate management major, Yang hopes to attend graduate school at the University to continue his study of photography.

His love of photography developed after his father gave him his old camera, exposing him to another way of life. From that moment, Yang transitioned from a “nerd playing computer games” to a visual artist intent on “exploring new things.”

“I started going outside more to find beautiful places to shoot,” he said. “It was my chance to see the world, [to make life] meaningful.”

Among the many places he has explored are the Rocky Mountains, the Alabama coast, and, of course, many aspects of the UA campus.

Other first place winners were Danielle Whitehurst, landscape, Mackenzie Senogles, local color, and Olivia Boswell, UA spirit.

Seven from UA Present at Annual Engagement Scholarship Consortium

Tuscaloosa, Ala. — The University of Alabama was well represented at the 2016 Engagement Scholarship Consortium (ESC) annual conference, held Oct. 11-12 in Omaha, Nebraska. UA was the first non-land-grant institution selected for membership in the ESC and regularly sends a large delegation to the annual conference. In addition to those presenting, many staff members and students were in attendance.

Dr. James McLean, executive director of UA’s Center for Community-Based Partnerships (CCBP), and Dr. Samory T. Pruitt, UA vice president for the Division of Community Affairs and president of the executive committee of the ESC Board of Directors, presented their work at the conference.

“The Engagement Scholarship Conference provides a wonderful opportunity to share our engagement research experiences and learn from others,” said McLean. “For example, Dr. Pruitt and I shared our experiences developing and implementing UA’s Winning Grants and Sustainability Program. This program trained University/community teams to successfully acquire external funding through grants and sustain their programs through fundraising.”

CCBP, an initiative of UA’s Division of Community Affairs, designed and implemented the 15-month program, which enrolled 10 University/community teams that are partnering to solve community problems.

Also presenting in Omaha was UA doctoral student Vicky Carter, along with Drs. Cassandra Simon and Josephine Pryce, associate professors in UA’s School of Social Work. The trio co-authored “Navigating Authentic Engaged Partnerships: A Workshop for Community Partners.”

“The voices of community partners throughout the research process are vital in authentic community-engaged partnerships,” said Carter prior to the conference. “Unfortunately, community partners are oftentimes not included in a substantial way, but rather limited in their involvement. This presentation will include an initial description of authentic community engagement with an emphasis on the elements of ideal engaged partnerships.”


Carter went on to say that such partnerships include trust, respect, mutual benefit, good communication, resource sharing, democratic decision-making, commitment by all partners (university, students and community), and agreed-upon vision, mission, goals and evaluation.

“Community partners will be informed of the importance of participation in research due to their position as experts and cultural brokers in the community, their wealth of knowledge and resources, and knowledge of the dynamics of the community,” Carter said. “Guiding principles of engaged research will be discussed, such as inclusion of partners from beginning to end of the project and inclusion in reporting and dissemination of the project results.”

Dr. George Daniels, assistant dean in the College of Communication and Information Sciences, and UA doctoral candidate Douglas Craddock Jr. (Higher Education Administration), presented “My Brother’s Keeper After the Obama Administration: Three Approaches for Engaged Scholarship.” Their work, along with that of Dr. Austin Jackson, assistant professor in the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities at Michigan State University, and Joshua Bates, a program assistant at The Ohio State University’s Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity, answers the question: What happens when three research institutions answer the call to expand opportunities for men of color? Their workshop showcased three approaches to President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper Initiative — one in rural West Alabama and the others in urban communities in Columbus, Ohio, and Detroit, Michigan.

Daniels’ and Craddock’s work utilizes youth engagement sessions to bridge the gap and connect concerned, passionate individuals in the West Alabama area. Craddock went on to say that the investigators plan to build upon existing ideas, programs and services as they relate to young men and boys of color.

“The central focus will be to answer the call to action as it pertains to aiding and improving the status of our young men and boys of color,” said Craddock. “By bringing together individuals who have a real passion and genuine desire for the betterment of our youth, we intend to create solution-focused dialogue and engage in action-oriented discourse.”

The ESC is a non-profit educational organization comprised of 36 public and private higher education member institutions. The organization’s goal is to build strong university-community partnerships, anchored in the rigor of engaged scholarship, that emphasize collaboration and that are designed to help build community capacity. This is accomplished through community-based partnerships and programs implemented by member institutions and community organizations working together. Academic leaders and students from these member institutions meet annually to share their research and to discuss issues, information and theories regarding campus-community partnerships.

In addition to those presenting at the conference, the 31-member University of Alabama delegation included Marcus Ashford, associate professor of mechanical engineering; Carol Agomo, director of Community and Administrative Affairs; Karyn Bowen, marketing coordinator for Community Affairs; Diane Kennedy-Jackson, publications coordinator for Community Affairs; Dr. Patricia Sobecky, associate provost for Academic Affairs; Dr. Tonyia Tidline, CCBP director of community engagement; and students Dominique Anderson, Brenna Barber, Cameryn Blackmore, Dillon Drew Connors, Aaron Cornelison, Thometta Cozart, Krystal Rena Dozier, Tera Johnson, Sarah Keller, Ashley Brook Loftis, Kyle Marowski, Sarah Saeed, Neil Shah, Elizabeth Tillotson, Mary Elizabeth West and Undraquetta Williams.

The institutions within the consortium are separated into five regions: East, North Central, South, West and International.

The 2016 conference is hosted by the North Central region, which includes Iowa State University, Kansas State University, Michigan State University, The Ohio State University, Purdue University, The University of Kansas, University of Michigan, University of Minnesota, University of Missouri, University of Nebraska at Omaha and University of Wisconsin.

The 2017 conference will be hosted in Birmingham by the South region, which includes Auburn University, East Carolina University, Fayetteville State University, North Carolina State University, The University of Alabama, University of Georgia, University of Louisville, University of North Carolina – Asheville, University of North Florida and The University of Tennessee – Knoxville.

Pruitt, in his role as president of the executive committee of the ESC Board of Directors, presented a strategic action plan to consortium leaders in Omaha.

“Our vision is to promote excellence in the leadership, scholarship and practice of engaged scholarship both locally and globally,” Pruitt said. “Our current impact can be seen in the increasing number of successful and sustainable community/campus partnerships that address critical societal issues and improve the quality of life for individuals, families and communities through the scholarship of engagement.”

“As we plan for the future of the ESC, we in the South region look forward to hosting this annual conference in 2017,” he said.

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 also publishes the Journal of Community Engaged Scholarship, one of the leading refereed journals in the field.

Parent Teacher Leadership Academy Holds 2016 Graduation

Photos by Fuyan Zhang
CCBP Student Assistant

The Parent Teacher Leadership Academy (PTLA) culminated its year-long program in a celebration dinner and graduation ceremony on Thursday, April 21 at the Embassy Suites Hotel in downtown Tuscaloosa. 

Graduates received certificates that signified their completion of the two-semester program that began in fall 2015. Parents and teachers from Tuscaloosa city and county, Alabaster city, and Lamar county schools, along with their family and friends, attended the event.

Dr. Rosianna Gray, community education director in the Center for Community-Based Partnerships (CCBP), congratulated the graduates for their successes and praised their “inspiring dedication” to being more active in their schools. “This year’s PTLA cohort is an amazing group of parents and teachers who are extremely enthusiastic and compassionate about their roles in school involvement. I am exceptionally proud of each and every one of you and we look forward to next year’s cohort,” she said.

Rose Bryant, a 2015-2016 graduate of the Elementary Parent Leadership Academy and parent of Aaron Bryant from Central Elementary School, thanked the leaders and participants for their commitment to excellence and diversity. “At these sessions, I met parents from all walks of life, and from different schools. I learned that it didn’t matter where your child went to school, but that every child matters,” she said.

Bryant, a special education major at Stillman College, also said she appreciated the program’s emphasis on building parent leaders and mentors at the participants’ host schools. Many of the parents in the program created leadership projects and displayed their work on posters at the event.

All PTLA projects addressed key areas parents thought would improve the lives of students, teachers and the administrative staff of their perspective schools. Among them were the following projects acknowledged at the luncheon:

— An Evening of Etiquette, by Stephanie Mixon and Tyeishia Davis from Big Sandy Elementary of Tuscaloosa county schools, recognized for its promotion of positive social interaction in a social setting.

— Moms on Board, by Malaya M. Johnson of Matthews Elementary School of Tuscaloosa County Schools for helping in and around the school and for adding a “motherly touch.”

Parent and teacher involvement in the Elementary Parent Leadership Academy (EPLA), Hispanic Parent Leadership Academy (HPLA), and Pre-K Parent Leadership Academy (PKLA), and the Teacher Leadership Academy (TLA) resulted in 78 graduates from the 2015-2016 cohort. 

TLA graduates are as follows:

Tuscaloosa county schools: Laura Barnes, Morice Bowden, Stephanie Chess, Melissa Coleman, Brenda Davis, Jessica Heron, Dr. Nicole Hill, Vicky Hoggle, Amy McCown, Beatrice Nichols, Caitlin Parker, Kylie Phillips, Angela Pinion, Chelsey Summerrow and Alison Wright.

Tuscaloosa city schools: Teresa Bryant, Cyrinthia Burrell, Katy Busby, Tiffany Craig, Taylor Crawford, Racheal Goggins, Sylvia Hollins, Kantrele King, Cheryl Lewis, Sara Beth McCartney, Sara Ogonowski, Julia Sanders, Tracey Sanders, Juerette Thomas, Shamikka Walker-Dudley, and Susie Wheat.

Alabaster city schools: Holly Alverson, Amanda Burks, Cheryl Dominguez, Mandy Heatherly, Kathryn Owensby, Kelly Preveaux, Laura Reina, and Kathy Savage

Lamar county schools: LoriAnn Butler

The graduating parents across EPLA, HPLA, and PKLA are as follows:

Tuscaloosa county schools: Amy Beasley, Kim Bryant, Heather Corder, Tyeishia Davis, Shawnee Franklin, Shelley Gregory, Charity Guyton, Melissa Holt, Malaya Johnson, Stephanie Mixon, Melissa Mott, Lisa Robertson, DeAngle Scott, Megan Steen, Felicia Taylor, Leslie Thomas, Brenda Wells, and Judith Zambrano.

Tuscaloosa city cchools: Johnna Arabi, Yuridia Arizmendi, Rose Bryant, Gladys Fabian, David Gay, Maria Orozco Hernandez, Molly Ingram, Jessica Jenkins, Sharon Jenkins, Anallely Lopez, Patricia Lopez, Alma Saenz, and Sharon Thomas.

Alabaster city schools: Deanna Bess, Shannon Carden, Regan Hasenbein, Candi Nichols, Jamila Shaw, Juanita Sims, and Jamia Alexander-Williams.

In closing remarks, Dr. Samory Pruitt, vice president of the Division of Community Affairs, announced the possibility of adding a new parent/teacher program in the future. “Some of the Alabaster teachers suggested that we create an academy that focuses on middle schools. We’re possibly piloting something very soon,” he said.

PTLA is a joint initiative of Tuscaloosa city and county school systems, CCBP, and the faculty in the University of Alabama’s College of Education and Human Environmental Sciences. The organization utilizes research–based practices to provide professional development to parent and teacher leaders who use their knowledge to support student achievement through strong family-school partnerships.

Week-long UA STEM Entrepreneurship Academy Gives High School Students a Head Start in Science and Related Areas


From July 18–22, some 40 high school students from schools throughout West Alabama got a jumpstart on some of the most important areas in society in general  and higher education in particular — math, science, engineering and technology — in the weeklong STEM Entrepreneurship Academy at the University of Alabama. The camp demonstrated in meaningful, memorable and enjoyable ways some of the most important tools and concepts in modern society.

On Wednesday, the students learned more about engineering at a lab in the Science and Engineering Complex at the university. Surrounded by state-of-the-art equipment, they observed the process of combustion and other areas of science and technology that might one day become their life’s interest.


Several students echoed the words of Xavier Turner, who’ll be a junior this fall at Sumter Central High School. Turner told a Tuscaloosa News reporter, “I wish this was longer. I could be here a while.”

The big sell of the program, according to program director Dr. Rosianna Gray of the Center for Community-Based Partnership (CCBP), is that it gives science exposure to students who otherwise may not get it. This was the third year of the program.

Campers also got to see and use many campus facilities, including Morgan Hall, the Bashinsky Computer Lab, Farrah Hall, the Biology Building, and the EDGE Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.


Schools represented were Amelia L. Johnson High School in Thomaston; Aliceville High School; Greene County High School in Eutaw; Hale County High School in Moundville; Holt High School; Oakman High School; Pickens County High School in Reform; and Sumter Central High School in York.

 “This camp is one of the premier activities of the Center for Community-Based Partnerships,” said Dr. Jim McLean, CCBP executive director. “The message it conveys with respect to potential careers and skills learned are critical to the future of our state.”

 The four colleges responsible for organizing camp activities are The College of Arts and Sciences, Culverhouse College of Commerce and Business Administration, College of Education and the College of Engineering. Camp faculty included Dr. Jim Gleason, associate professor of mathematics; Dr. Marcus Ashford, associate professor of mechanical engineering; Dr. Ryan L. Earley, associate professor of biological sciences; Jonathan Corley, computer science doctoral student; Adriane Sheffield, educational psychology doctoral student; and Douglas Craddock, higher education doctoral student.

Barnes YMCA Campers Celebrate New Skills, Achievements at Swim to the Top Luncheon

Photos by Fuyan Zhang
CCBP Student Assistant

Special to CCBP
By Lucinda Coulter

Bright blue beach balls and T-shirts emblazoned with sea-turtle logos greeted 120 summer campers Thursday, June 30 as they filed into the Barnes YMCA gymnasium. A lunch of hot, boxed pizzas and praise for their hard work awaited them.

Children ages 4–14 and their instructors were gathered to celebrate the end of a four-week enrichment program, Swim to the Top, sponsored by the University of Alabama’s Division of Community Affairs.

Earlier that morning, the campers finished swim lessons, math and reading, and golf and other fitness activities. The initiative is offered to children of families enrolled at the Benjamin Barnes Branch YMCA in west Tuscaloosa. Now in its third year, Swim to the Top is a partnership created by the University, Tuscaloosa city and county schools, Tuscaloosa County Parks and Recreation Authority, and the Barnes Y.

At the closing ceremony, instructors praised the young audience seated at large cloth-covered tables and reviewed skills the children had learned in the program.

“I’ve seen you guys blossom like flowers,” Swim to the Top director Dr. Rosianna Gray of UA’s Center for Community-Based Partnerships told the campers. She thanked partners for their contributions and enthusiasm. “We’ve learned right along with the children,” she said.

UA swim team member and Swim to the Top instructor Abigail Greenwalt discusses swim safety with her group.


Dr. Samory T. Pruitt, Community Affairs vice president, described Swim to the Top as “an excellent example” of campus-community cooperation. “It shows what we can do when we pool — no pun intended — our human and physical resources.”

Instructors emphasized fun, cooperation and orderly conduct as they taught water safety, good health practices and other activities. For swim lessons, camp counselors accompanied children to the A.L. Freeman pool and park across the street from Benjamin Barnes.

Kaleum Robinson, 6, said that he hopes to repeat swim lessons next summer. He was proud of his accomplishments. “I floated on my stomach and my back,” he said, standing up straight near the pool after swim lessons as his buddies gathered closely round him.

At the luncheon, lead swim instructor Jenna Starck lauded 4–6 year-old campers for listening to instruction, 7–9 year-olds for emerging leadership skills and 10–14 year-olds for their willingness to learn.

“We saw such great improvement in you,” said Starck, a doctoral student in sports pedagogy at UA. “We hope to see you all next year.”

She said that she and the team of nine swim instructors — all UA students majoring in kinesiology or sports pedagogy — were happy to see children’s attitudes change from one of fear to excitement.

“Kids have gone from crying and being afraid to climb in the pool on the first day to, now, showing you their tricks and going under water,” Starck said. Campers were taught water safety tips such as extending flotation devices to swimmers who are struggling, and entering the water only if lifeguards are present.

Mark Harrison, PARA aquatic director, supervises the lifeguards for swim lessons. He attributed the program’s success to partner collaboration: “It’s been very rewarding,” he said.

Douglas Craddock agreed with Starck and Harrison. A UA doctoral candidate in higher education administration, Craddock has worked in the program since its start three years ago. This year he assisted with academic enrichment and led the fitness team. He was especially pleased to see that a number of kids in last year’s program returned for another year.

“The work we’re doing is making a difference,” said Craddock, seated on gym bleachers and supervising campers running an obstacle course. “They are maturing and their cooperation has improved.”

The best part of the closing luncheon for this group was the pizza.

As he spoke, kids in the 7–9 year-old group played volleyball and dodge ball and hula-hooped in sync in various parts of the gym. “We try to incorporate sports they’re not accustomed to,” Craddock said. “Exposure to small things can lead to exposure to bigger things in the future.”

Teaching the children the importance of exercise for cardiovascular health and good nutrition are key parts of the fitness segment, according to the instructors.

Campers played golf on Thursdays 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. Thursday morning before the program’s close, about 50 children played snag baseball (a form of baseball using golf clubs to develop proper swings) on the Barnes field behind the gym. PARA golf coach Andy Smelley and 11 instructors organized the game while Barnes youth counselors supervised players. “Golf is one of the many ways to broaden their horizons,” Smelley said.

Scholastic endeavors helped kids stay cool indoors. Two days before the program’s end, Mishon Flanigan coordinated a team of children to build bridges and towers with foam cups. Flanigan, a second-grade teacher at Crestmont Elementary School, and Julia Sanders, who teaches at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School, introduced the children to math and science activities that also strengthened their skills in collaboration and planning.

As some children stood on chairs to place, delicately, the pinnacle cup on top, other team members held their breath in anticipation. The Children’s Resource Center was filled with delighted shrieks or disappointed moans as foam towers stood or came crashing down.

“These kids came in every day eager to learn,” Flanigan said. “Their eagerness was inspiring, and that gives us a way to bring academics to the table. Hands-on projects work.”

Former UA kinesiology graduate student Zachary Wahl-Alexander started Swim to the Top. The program has specific implications for African-American children. Swimming pool drowning rates among blacks aged 5–19 years are 5.5 times higher than those among whites in the same age group, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Nearly 70 percent of African-American children are unable to swim, according to a 2012 survey by the USA Swimming Foundation.

Benjamin Barnes Executive Director LaKeda Smith thanked the more than 35 instructors, volunteers and partners who helped in the four-week outreach. “I’m glad to know you are comfortable swimming now,” Smith told the youth. “We are so thankful for the program’s growth and look forward to it continuing next year.”

Before a din of excited voices rose as volunteers doled out beach balls and T-shirts at the June 30 closing program, Smith ended her remarks with “Have a blessed day,” which seemed to be every day for kids in Swim to the Top.

Lucinda Coulter serves on the Benjamin Barnes YMCA Branch Advisory Council as recording secretary and on the YMCA of Tuscaloosa County Board of Directors. She is a former UA and Stillman College journalism faculty member.

Swim to the Top Participants to Be Recognized at Closing Program

Photos by Fuyan Zhang
CCBP Student Assistant

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Participants ages 4 to 14 and University of Alabama and local officials will celebrate Swim to the Top, a four-week program designed to save lives and improve the health of at-risk children and youth, at a luncheon Thursday, June 30, at 11:30 a.m. at the Benjamin Barnes Branch YMCA.

Each UA student swim instructor works with only four or five participants at a time to ensure personal attention and quality instruction. In addition to swimming, participants also engage in fitness exercises, receive diet information, and play games to improve agility, cardiorespiratory endurance, balance, muscular strength and endurance, coordination and flexibility. Beginning last year, the students were also exposed to the game of golf through the participation of the First Tee of Tuscaloosa.

In its third year, the program is a collaborative effort of the Benjamin Barnes Branch of the YMCA, Tuscaloosa Park and Recreation Authority (PARA), UA’s department of kinesiology and UA’s Center for Community-Based Partnerships (CCBP). “We do believe our collective efforts will lead to youth who are more comfortable in the water and are more aware and knowledgeable of the importance of nutrition and physical activity in their lives,” said LaKeda Smith, Barnes Branch YMCA executive director.

“Projects such as Swim to the Top offer UA graduate and undergraduate students an opportunity to gain valuable practical teaching, research and service experience,” said Dr. Matthew Curtner-Smith, department head and professor in the department of kinesiology and faculty advisor to the project.

The World Health Organization lists drowning as the second leading cause of unintentional injury death in children aged 1–14 years worldwide. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that these children have the highest drowning rates in the nation and the fatal unintentional drowning rate for African Americans is 5.5 times higher than whites across all ages Taking part in formal swimming lessons can reduce the risk of drowning by 88 percent.

Dr. Rosianna Gray, CCBP community education director, praised the results of the program and said plans are under way to host the program again next year. At the luncheon, session leaders from the various components of Swim to the Top will recognize the participating students, their families and program team members.

Members of the swim team assisting with the program this year are Stephen Casale, Mallory Durbin, Caitlyn Freeman, Abigail Greenwalt, Joshua Harper, Jennifer Jensen, Jessica Lambert, Alexandra McNatt, Carrington Rye and Jenna Starck.

Other instructors and facilitators include Lakeda Smith, Laura Payton, Mark Harrison and Brandon McAway (administrative team); Mishon Flanigan, Julia Sanders, Antonio Gardner and Savannah Millsaps (enrichment and nutrition team); Dr. Jermaine Mitchell, Rebecca Lundgren, and Douglas Craddock (fitness team).

Zachary Wahl-Alexander, a former graduate student in kinesiology and campus leader in community engagement, is credited with the initial planning that resulted in the program.

The University of Alabama, a student-centered research university, is experiencing significant growth in both enrollment and academic quality. This growth, which is positively impacting the campus and the state’s economy, is in keeping with UA’s vision to be the university of choice for the best and brightest students. UA, the state’s flagship university, is an academic community united in its commitment to enhancing the quality of life for all Alabamians.

CONTACT: David Miller, UA University Relations, 205/348-0825, SOURCE: Carol Agomo, director community and administrative affairs, UA Division of Community Affairs,