Category: News

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

[envira-gallery id=”6350″]

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

[envira-gallery id=”6325″]

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,


10th Annual Excellence in Community Engagement Awards

Photos by Jianlong Yang and Fuyan Zhang
CCBP Student Assistants

[envira-gallery id=”6199″]

2016 Poster Session
Record Number of Research Posters Submitted for 2016 Awards Program.
[envira-gallery id=”6275″]

By Taylor Armer
CCBP Graduate Assistant

Dr. David Francko, dean of the Graduate School and associate provost, was among those honored at the University of Alabama’s Center for Community-Based Partnerships’ (CCBP) 10th annual Excellence in Community Engagement luncheon Friday, April 29.

Award recipients, UA leaders, community partners, alumni, faculty, staff and students all gathered in Sellers Auditorium of the Bryant Conference Center to attend the program’s largest awards luncheon to date.

Vice President for Community Affairs Dr. Samory Pruitt surprised Dean Francko when he called him to the stage to receive the 2016 Distinguished Special Achievement in Community Engagement award, the organization’s highest award.

“We tried to keep it a secret,” Pruitt said. “There’s no one more deserving of this award. His name is synonymous with our work at CCBP.”

The award commemorated Francko’s dedicated service as the inaugural chair of the CCBP executive committee, a group that enabled Pruitt to decentralize many of the CCBP program activities.

“Working with CCBP and serving on the executive committee has been one of the highlights of my career,” Francko said. “It has been a pleasure.”

Special guests for the occasion were more than 30 members of the newly selected Community Affairs Board of Advisors, meeting in Tuscaloosa for the first time. The group consists of high-achieving UA graduates who will advise Community Affairs on campus-wide initiatives that increase student success and retention and facilitate student involvement in entrepreneurship, innovation and development of global and community leaders by mentoring current students and assisting in the recruitment of outstanding future leaders.

Tera “Cee Cee” Johnson, a CCBP student employee, received the Zachary David Dodson Memorial Endowed Scholarship for her work with many of the CCBP programs. Johnson’s character and loyalty to the Center reflected key attributes of the late Zach Dodson, the CCBP work-study student for whom the scholarship is named.

Calia Torres, Johnson’s co-chair on the Center’s Student Involvement and Support Committee, received the student Distinguished Community-Engaged Scholar award. Her graduate fellowship with SCOPE (Students for Community Outreach, Partnership, and Engagement) and community partnership with Whatley Health Services were listed among her many contributions to the community.

Dr. Beverly Thorn, professor in the department of psychology, received the faculty Distinguished Community Scholar award, in part for her work with Federally Health Qualified Centers, including Whatley. A nominator remarked Dr. Thorn “truly cares about the people with whom she works,” making “her an effective and trustworthy researcher and leader (in forging) collaborative relationships and partnerships.”

One of Thorn’s community partnerships has been with Ms. Deborah Tucker, chief executive officer of Whatley Health Services, who received the community partner Distinguished Engaged Scholar for her outstanding health services leadership across the state.

Dr. George Daniels, chair of the Excellence in Community Engagement Awards Committee, presented awards in seven categories. They are as follows:

· Dr. Beverly Thorn, professor of psychology, Outstanding Community-Engaged Scholarship/Faculty.

· Dr. Rebecca S. Allen, professor of psychology — Outstanding Community-Engaged Scholarship/Faculty.

· Ms. Teri Henley, advertising and public relations instructor — Outstanding Community-Engaged Scholarship/Faculty.

· Dr. Teresa Wise, associate provost for International Education and Global Outreach — Outstanding Community-Engaged Scholarship/Faculty.

· Ms. Fan Yang, social work doctoral student — Outstanding Community-Engaged Scholarship/Student.

· Ms. Alberta McCrory, mayor of Hobson City, Ala. — Outstanding Community-Engaged Scholarship/Community Partner.

· Mr. Buddy Kirk, Ms. Patti Presley-Fuller, and Mr. Alan Harper — Pickens County Friends of the Hospital, Outstanding Community-Engaged Scholarship/Community Partner.

Daniels also recognized seed fund recipients Dr. Natasha Dimova and Dr. Yuehan Lu, assistant professors of geological sciences. Dr. Dimova’s project, “Establishing Alabama GeoKids Initiative,” will develop a curriculum for teaching Earth Science to minorities and underrepresented student groups in the Tuscaloosa area. Dr. Lu’s project, “Determining Sources and Quality of Inorganic and Organic Nutrients Exported from Agricultural Watersheds,” will work to identify non-point sources of organic and inorganic nutrients in the state’s agricultural watersheds.

Dr. Rebecca Allen, chair of the Faculty Teaching and Research Support Committee, recognized graduate fellowship recipients for work promoting community engagement. They are Ms. Andrea Newman, psychology doctoral student; Ms. Megan Briggs, geography master’s student; and Ms. Jessica M. Bertram, social work doctoral student.

Dr. Jen Nickelson, chair of the academic conference and presentation support committee, recognized Ms. Lindsay Turner, executive director of the Druid City Garden Project as the 2015-16 travel fund award winner. Turner will present her research “Longitudinal Effects of an Elementary School Garden Program on Children’s Health, Food Choices, School Engagement, and Learning” at the National Farm to Cafeteria Conference, June 2-4, in Madison, Wisc.

Dr. Nickelson also recognized the 21 research poster presentations, the most ever accepted, that were displayed before, during and after the awards luncheon. 

            In wrapping up the awards ceremony, Dr. Pruitt underscored the success of community engagement at the University over the past 10 years. After thanking program master of ceremonies Dr. Ed Mullins, CCBP director of communication and research, for his years of service to the awards program, Dr. Pruitt congratulated all of those recognized for their accomplishments.

            “To change the world, you first have to change your part of the world,” Pruitt said. “What you’ve seen and heard in the projects and recognitions today represents our efforts at changing our part of the world.”   

CCBP/SCOPE Meeting to Feature Fulbright Panel, Global Café Success Stories, and Research Posters

The final meeting of the semester of the Council on Community-Based Partnerships (CCBP) will partially overlap with the annual SCOPE Student Showcase program on Wednesday, April 13, enabling attendees to attend both events. Here is the schedule:

• 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. — Student Engagement Scholarship Showcase. This annual event, sponsored by SCOPE (Students for Community Outreach, Partnership, and Engagement), will take place in the Heritage Room of the Ferguson Center. All UA faculty and students are invited to attend. Dr. James E. McLean, CCBP executive director, oversees SCOPE activities.

• 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. — CCBP meets for lunch and final meeting of spring semester, also in the Ferguson Center’s Heritage Room. A five-student panel presentation will take place during the last 45 minutes of the Council meeting, beginning at 12:15 p.m. The panel will report on the international successes of the CCBP Global Café program and the Fulbright Advising Initiative. 

Tera Johnson, an undergraduate student in psychology, and Sarah Saeed, a graduate student in Social Work, will represent Global Café.

Speaking about their Fulbright experiences will be: Jilisa Milton, a social work graduate now working on a combined graduate degree in law and social work, who received a Fulbright English Teaching Award to Indonesia for 2014–15; Brandon Hooks, an international studies major, who is a Fulbright Teaching Award finalist to Spain for 2016–17; and Pandora White, a doctoral student in biochemistry, who is a Fulbright Research Award finalist to Poland for 2016–17. 

Cameryn Blackmore,  a doctoral student in political science, will moderate the SCOPE poster session, which is available for viewing during the Showcase and immediately before and after the Council meeting. Presenters and their poster titles are as follows: Antonio Gardner, Georgiana Logan, Rebecca Keating, Theresa Mince and Shawn Verberten, “Engaging Students in the LIVE Program”; Calia Torres, “Predictors of Patient Engagement in a Group Intervention for Chronic Pain: An Evaluation of Common Factors”; and Emma Sophia Kay, “Expanding HIV/AIDS Outreach Services to the Latino Community.”


Those wishing to attend lunch should email to make a reservation.

UA Recognized as a Top Producing Institution for Student Fulbright Awards

  • March 31st, 2016
  • in News

UA Recognized as a Top Producing Institution for Student Fulbright Awards

TopProducer_FulbrightLogoTUSCALOOSA, Feb 29, 2016 – The University of Alabama has been recognized as a top producing institution for student Fulbright awards, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education. Eleven of 30 UA applicants received the award during 2015–2016, one of the highest success ratios in the nation.

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program offers grants for independent study and research projects and for English teaching assistantships overseas. The highly competitive program makes approximately 1,500 awards each year.

“Our success in placing students in the Fulbright U.S. Student Program demonstrates the far-reaching international scope of our excellent academic programs and the high value of a University of Alabama education,” said Dr. Kevin Whitaker, UA interim provost. “We continue to take pride in the many excellent and promising young people who choose UA for their academic studies.”

Ten UA graduates won awards as teaching assistants and one UA graduate received a Fulbright research award for the 2015–2016 academic year.

“It is an honor for UA to be listed as a top producer in the U.S. Student Fulbright competition,” said Dr. Teresa Wise, associate provost for international education and global outreach. “The Fulbright Program provides life-changing opportunities and experiences for our students.”

University of Alabama graduates serving abroad on Fulbright Awards are Brianna Adams (Czech Republic), Lisa Bochey (Peru), Nichole Camille Corbett (Turkey), Kathryn Crenshaw (Brazil), Scott Leary (Spain), Conner Nix (Spain), Charles Henry Pratt (Brazil), Jenna Reynolds (Spain), Hailah Saeed (Malaysia), Erin Smith (Turkey) and Russell Willoughby (France).

The Capstone International Center and the Global Café Program in the Center for Community-Based Partnerships, an initiative of the Division of Community Affairs, are partners in the UA Fulbright advising initiative, and their work together has resulted in the increased number of UA students who have won Fulbrights, said Dr. Beverly Hawk, UA Fulbright program adviser.

Students interested in applying for next year’s Fulbright program can learn more at and, or by sending an email to

Other top producers this year include Harvard (31), Michigan (29), Northwestern and Yale (26), UNC-Chapel Hill (15), Texas-Austin and UVA (14), Duke and Ohio State (12), Florida State, Tufts, Maryland and Alabama (11). For the full list of top student Fulbright program producers, see

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: Richard LeComte, media relations,, 205/348-3782
  • SOURCE: Dr. Beverly Hawk, Director of Global and Community Engagement,, 205/348-7392

Representatives of the national Fulbright office will be visiting The University of Alabama on Tuesday, April 19, 2016, to meet with Faculty, Students, and Administrators who are considering application for Fulbright Awards. You are invited to come and meet them, hear their presentations on what’s new this year, and ask your questions directly to the managers of the program. The schedule of the day’s activities is available at

Vice President Pruitt Announces Leadership Changes in Council on Community-Based Partnerships

  • February 29th, 2016
  • in News


By Taylor Armer, CCBP Graduate Assistant
Photos by Peter Mullins, CCBP Student Assistant

Dr. Samory T. Pruitt, vice president for the Division of Community Affairs, announced changes in the Executive Committee of the Council on Community-Based Partnerships at the February 11, 2016 meeting in Capital Hall.

Dr. Peter S. Hlebowitsh, dean of the College of Education, will replace Dr. David Francko, dean of the Graduate School, as chair of CCBP Executive Committee effective June 1. Dean Francko is stepping down as associate vice president for Academic Affairs and dean of the Graduate School, but will continue representing the University in Ohio doing recruiting and other assignments.

“Dean Francko has been a tremendous asset to the leadership in the field of engagement scholarship on our campus,” said Pruitt in announcing the changes. “As dean of the Graduate School and as inaugural chair of the Executive Committee of the CCBP Council, Dean Francko has solidified engagement scholarship as a legitimate field in which scholars can map out their tenure and promotion plans with assurance their work will be recognized. We are a more balanced institution because of Dean Francko’s leadership.”

“And now we are pleased to welcome his successor, Dean Peter Hlebowitsh of the College of Education, beginning June 1,” Pruitt said.

Hlebowitsh has been education dean since 2013, succeeding Dr. James E. McLean, who in retirement is executive director of the Center for Community-Based Partnerships. “We expect the same progress in this exciting field under Dean Hlebowitsch as we experienced under Dean Francko,” Pruitt said.

In succeeding Francko as chair of the CCBP Executive Committee, Hlebowitsch acknowledged he had a tough act to follow, but expressed optimism about the future of the engagement scholarship movement on our campus, saying that “the Community-Based Partnership group offers the prospect of merging good research with public engagement and of bringing important resources and insights to the task of helping communities and families. It is a socially empowered group with an exciting agenda and I very much look forward to working with them.”

In other changes:

  • Dr. Rebecca S. Allen, professor of psychology and director, Alabama Research Institute on Aging, becomes head of the Faculty Teaching Committee, succeeding Dr. Pauline Johnson, professor of Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering.
  • Amanda Waller, executive director of Tuscaloosa One Place, succeeds Rev. Tyshawn Gardner as the chair of the Community Partner Support Committee.
  • Calia Torres, graduate student in psychology, and Tera Johnson, a junior majoring in biology, become co-chairs of the Student Involvement Committee, replacing Adam Bonertz, a senior in the School of Nursing.

Remaining on the Executive Committee are Dr. Laurie Bonnici, associate professor in the School of Library and Information Studies, chair of the Proposal and Seed Funding Support Committee; Dr. George Daniels, associate professor of journalism and assistant dean in the College of Communication and Information Sciences, chair of the Excellence in Community Engagement Recognition Committee; and Dr. Jen Nickelson, associate professor in the College of Human Environmental Sciences, chair of the Academic Conference and Presentation Committee.

The purpose of the Council on Community-Based Partnerships is to provide faculty, student, and community leadership and direction for all engagement scholarship activities under the auspices of the Division of Community Affairs.

Click on the photos below to view ID.

[envira-gallery id="6670"]

An Evening at Global Café: Fulbright Overseas Scholarship Opportunities

  • February 26th, 2016
  • in News


Date: Tuesday, March 01, 2016
Time: 05:00 PM – 07:00 PM
Location: Tuscaloosa, AL
Cost: free

Local Fulbright Award Winners will recount their experiences, answer questions, and encourage those who are interested in this program.  The Fulbright Program is the flagship academic exchange program of the United States of America.  Students and faculty who have served on Fulbright grants, or wish to apply, are encouraged to attend this panel and meet campus Fulbright Program Advisors.  We invite everyone with an interest in international travel, research, study, and service to gather and share their experiences.  This event is free and open to the public.

The reception begins at 5pm, and the program begins at 5:30 pm.  We will have time for questions and conversation 6-7 pm.  Free parking 5-7 pm.

Directions to Capital Hall on the UA campus.  Drive down Campus Drive East (near the Rec Center).  When you get to the four-way stop, that is Bryce Lawn Drive (that goes into the Bryce property which used to be the state mental health facility but now belongs to The University of Alabama).  Turn into the Bryce Property.  (Ignore the detour signs and the road closed ahead sign.)  Drive up the main road toward the historic all-white building, and make a right at the stop sign.  We are in the modern building to the right of the historic building.

Contact Info: Beverly Hawk,, 205-348-7392, Website

Global Cafe