Category: Previews

Mathews Center to Host Forum on High School Dropouts

By Kirsten J. Barnes
Center for Community-Based Partnerships

A David Mathews Center forum entitled "Our Community, Our Future: The Role of Citizens in Solving the High School Dropout Problem" will be held March 6, at Auburn University-Montgomery's Taylor Center from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Registration is free and lunch will be served. To register click here.

During the past 10 years, Alabama's high school dropout rate has plunged from 15.58 percent to 7.08 percent, according to figures for 2008"“2009 released by the Alabama Department of Education. The national dropout rate for the same period was 8.1 percent.

Chris McCauley, executive director of the David Mathews Center for Civic Life in Montevallo, hopes the forums sponsored by the center will help uncover ways that communities can reduce the rate even further.

In recent months the center polled Alabamians and asked questions concerning public issues that citizens could come together to address, McCauley said. "We were working toward what public issue concerned Alabamians the most."

The two issues that emerged were the dropout rate and the economy."

The dropout rate seemed to be a more manageable topic, so the center conducted forums in 28 counties on the issue.

McCauley said the forums were not meant to solve the problem, but instead to help community members talk through the retention rate to develop ways to solve the issue as a community.

"The Mathews Center doesn't take a stance on the issues. It's up to the people in the community to come up with the ideas. We provide factual data and a framework to deliberate and think through what they can do. A lot of great ideas come up," McCauley said, including youth mentoring programs and additional support services for single parents.

State officials welcome this effort by the Mathews Center.

"The forums are having an absolute major impact on the dropout rate," said Kay Atchinson Warfield, an education administrator with the dropout prevention and support unit of the Alabama Department of Education. "What we have found is that the public does not understand all the variables that impact the success of a student."

She said by raising the level of awareness in the community these forums can directly affect students by informing their parents.

"These public forums have provided a level of awareness that has never been done in our state before. It's everybody's issue," said Warfield, who has actively participated in the process.  "The schools cannot do it alone. We've got to have partnerships with public services because it takes us all working together to have an impact."

Both McCauley and Warfield said they were amazed by the ideas that came out these community conversations.

"Central High School in Phenix City had some of the most innovative students thus far," McCauley said. "The students produced a documentary of the dropout rate in Phenix City and will present this at AUM."

The forums are modeled after the Kettering Foundation's National Issues Forums.

"The goal is to work with citizens across the state and get them to take action on issues that that impact them," McCauley said. "We outline some of the contributing factors and some of the outcomes. For example, there is a correlation between the dropout rate and prison population. We give citizens the opportunity to come together and work toward solving problems in unique ways. It's an action driven project."

Spring Creative Writing Club Schedule Announced

By Kirsten Barnes
Center for Community-Based Partnerships

TUSCALOOSA "” The Creative Writing Club for Tuscaloosa area high school students grades 9"“12 has announced its spring schedule. Sponsored by the University of Alabama's Master of Fine Arts, the club will meet 4:30"“6 p.m. in Room 301 Morgan Hall each Wednesday, beginning February 1 and ending April 25. The spring session will conclude with a group reading and publication of an anthology of all participants’ writing.

“The Creative Writing Club is a great way for high school kids interested in writing to meet others who share that interest," said Robin Behn, professor of English and director of the club. "The emphasis is on fun and trying new things with writing in a stimulating environment. Most kids who come the first day want to bring all their friends the next week!”

The 12-week program is free and allows young writers to work closely with published poets and prose writers from one of the country's premiere creative writing programs.

In addition to the after school program, a two-week Creative Writing Camp is held every year in June. The Creative Writing Camp meets daily, Monday through Friday afternoons, for two weeks.

To register for the weekly spring sessions, send an email with the student's name, address, phone number, email address, school name and grade level to For more information, visit Registration for the summer camp begins in April.

The program works to inspire student writers from across Tuscaloosa County and is made possible through support from the Center for Community-Based Partnerships, the University of Alabama College of Arts and Sciences, the University of Alabama Department of English, and the Master of Fine Arts Program in Creative Writing.

Homegrown Alabama Farmers Market Kicks Off at UA

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. "“ The Homegrown Alabama Farmers Market will open on Thursday, May 5, with a Cinco de Mayo celebration and will continue every Thursday from 3-6 p.m. through Oct. 27 at the Canterbury Episcopal Chapel lawn on Hackberry Lane between Bryant Drive and University Boulevard.

Homegrown Alabama is a nonprofit, student-led group at The University of Alabama. The program seeks to educate students and community members about the value of local produce, as well as to foster partnerships between local farmers, UA and the greater Tuscaloosa community.

The Cinco de Mayo celebration will feature Mexican food and music, and artisans will be on hand along with the weekly vendors who sell fruits, vegetables, baked goods, beef, cut flowers, coffee and tea, eggs, homemade herbal teas, soap, pralines, canned goods, hot foods and arts and crafts.

Homegrown Alabama recently received approval to accept Electronic Benefit Transfer, the system for distributing Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits.

A machine will be located at the market to transfer EBT-SNAP funds into $1 and $3 tokens with the Homegrown Alabama label. Tokens can be used to purchase fruits, vegetables, breads, cereals, meat, fish, poultry, dairy products, maple and honey products, and seeds and plants that produce foods.

As part of an incentive program, Homegrown will match every $10 spent using EBT with an additional $5 in tokens, while funds last. The tokens cannot be refunded but will never expire and can be used at any Homegrown Farmers Market throughout the 2011 season or any season thereafter.

In addition to accepting EBT, Homegrown Alabama will continue its participation in the Canterbury Episcopal food pantry program, Deacon's Deli, which distributes vouchers to its patrons to purchase produce at the market. Market vendors and customers will also be encouraged to donate fresh food to Deacon's Deli and Meals on Wheels.

For more information on the EBT incentive program and how to donate, call 205/210-9621, or visit

Story courtesy of The University of Alabama.

Charlie Lucas and Kathryn Tucker Windham honored at luncheon

Universty of Alabama students and professors, including several CCBP representatives, gathered with local arts advocates to honor Kathryn Tucker Windham and Charlie Lucas, “The Tin Man,” for cultural contributions in the University Club’s Sun Room on March 24. Windham was unable to attend. Pictured are Lucas (center), Chip Cooper (left), and Elliot Knight (right). To read more about Lucas’ work, pick up the upcoming issue of PARTNERS magazine.

PLA to Graduate Second Class on May 5, 2009

By Sydney Holtzclaw, Student Intern, CCBP

The Tuscaloosa Parent Leadership Academy (PLA), a partnership between the University of Alabama and city and county schools, will graduate its second class at a ceremony and dinner beginning at 5:30 p.m., May 5, 2009, in the Bryant Conference Center's Rast Room.

Featured speaker will be Dr. Tommy Bice, deputy state superintendent of education for instructional services. He is responsible for curriculum and instruction, assessment and accountability, federal programs, the Alabama Reading Initiative, the Alabama Math, Science, and Technology Initiative, and several other areas.

PLA is a two-semester program that strengthens relationships among family, schools and community. Participants meet monthly. Led by University of Alabama faculty and other educators, they develop leadership skills, improve their ability to support their child at home and at school, and establish better relations among family, school and board of education.

"Parents who graduate from PLA increase their knowledge of the entire education process, from classroom instruction and discipline to outside learning. They become contributing partners with local schools and school boards in their children's learning," said Christopher H. Spencer, associate director of the Center for Community-Based Partnerships, who was chief organizer for this year's PLA.
"Many of the graduates are already active in their schools and we expect others to join them because of their new experience," said Dr. Samory T. Pruitt, vice president for Community Affairs. "Through this academy, which approximates graduate-level instruction for lay persons, they are acquiring competencies and learning strategies that will make them better parents and a valued resource in helping their children and the schools they attend meet today's challenges."

This year's class was drawn from 10 elementary schools in the city system and 10 in the county system.

The graduation ceremony is the culmination of the 2008-09 academic year's program. Special speaker Bice, who joined the Alabama Department of Education in June 2008, is expected to stress the need for progress in math and science, as well as other school reforms.

Faculty in UA's Colleges of Education and Human Environmental Sciences, and various community organizations play key roles in the PLA. Dr. Joyce Levey is superintendent of city schools, and Dr. Frank Costanza is superintendent of county schools.

For more information contact Christopher H. Spencer at 205-348-7374 or

PLA 2008-2009 Graduates and Their Schools

Rajuan Sherman, Alberta Elementary
Marilou Baker and Aaron Kuntz, Arcadia Elementary
Audrey Wilson Cottrell and Jackie Lanier, Central Primary
Sharon Long, Martin Luther King, Jr., Elementary
Sharon Archibald and Emma Williams, Northington Elementary
Camille Page and Monique Petty, Oakdale Primary
Cindy Bramble and Jackie Kuehn, Rock Quarry Elementary
Tanika Bizzell and Tiffany Jenkins-Green, Skyland Elementary
Brenda Lewis and Sharon Smothers, University Place Elementary
Mary Hanks and Sabrina Sentell, Woodland Forrest Elementary

Rhonda Goins and Tanya Stark, Buhl Elementary
Allison Duncan and LaDonna Youngblood, Cottondale Elementary
Maribelle Magana, Crestmont Elementary
Phillip Booth and Errica Walker, Faucett-Vestavia Elementary
Betsy Williamson and Brandi Wolfe, Flatwoods Elementary
Nikki Anthony and Jamie Wright, Holt Elementary
Kelly Hayes, Lake View Elementary
Georgette Miniard and Tracie Thomas, Matthews Elementary
Shannon James and Paula Sisk, Maxwell Elementary
Angela Ashcraft and Angela Campo, Taylorville Elementary

CCBP Awards Luncheon Scheduled for May 1, 2009

CCBP Awards Luncheon Invitation


The Council on Community-Based Partnerships invites University and community partners, as well as potential partners, to its Third Annual Awards Luncheon at noon, Friday, May 1, 2009, in the Hotel Capstone on the campus. The luncheon, which will be held in the Ballroom, will recognize outstanding community engagement projects of faculty, staff, students and community partners.

Before the luncheon, award winners and seed-funding recipients will present poster displays of their work in the hallway outside the Ballroom.

A foremost engagement scholar and theorist, Dr. Hiram E. Fitzgerald, will be the keynote speaker. Fitzgerald is vice president of Outreach and Engagement at Michigan State University and president of the National Outreach Scholarship Partnership (NOSC), of which The University of Alabama is one of nine members and the only college or university in Alabama that is part of the group.

"Join us as we celebrate the best work in the dynamic area of engagement scholarship," said Dr. Samory T. Pruitt, vice president for Community Affairs. Award recipients will receive additional grant funds to continue work in the area for which they are being honored.

If you plan to attend the luncheon, e-mail Nancy Bohannon,, by noon Wednesday, April 29, to reserve a seat. There is no charge.

Chancellor Portera to Speak at CCBP Awards Luncheon on May 2, 2008

May 2, 2008

Release on Receipt
Contact: Dr. Samory T. Pruitt, 205-348-8375,

TUSCALOOOSA "” Chancellor Malcolm Portera will be the keynote speaker at the second annual awards luncheon of the Center for Community-Based Partnerships at noon at the Sheraton Four Points Hotel Ballroom on the campus on May 2, 2008.

Awards will recognize students, faculty, and community partners and distinguished special achievement in campus and community engagement. A call for nominations went out in March. Winners will be announced at the luncheon, which will also highlight major engagement
achievements over the past year.

"We are especially pleased that Dr. Portera will be our speaker as we honor excellence in engagement," said Dr. Samory T. Pruitt, UA vice president for Community Affairs. "Dr. Portera is a pioneer of campus/community collaboration in the Southeast."

Criteria for the winning projects include community need, academic objectives, documentation of actions to achieve and measure success, and evidence of sustained collaboration.

Among last year's awards, several of which were later featured at a national conference at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, were a student newspaper in West End Tuscaloosa, an after-school dance program, a program to broaden career perspectives, a community garden project, a school photo-documentation project, a children's healthcare project, and a city schools pre-K program.

Assistant Provost Janet Griffith chairs the awards committee. "Projects that extend the classroom, maximize scholarly output, and develop collaboration and capacity within communities "“ rather than just providing one-time services "“ will be recognized and receive small grants that will help achieve ongoing results," Griffith said.

Also at the luncheon, speakers will outline major benchmarks in campus/community engagement, including launching a new research journal and plans to seek Carnegie Engagement classification for the campus.

Dr. Portera is no stranger to campus/community collaboration. His involvement with community partners in industrial development helped bring $5 billion in capital investment to the Southeast. As chief executive officer of The University of Alabama System, the state's largest higher education enterprise, he oversees an enterprise of more than 49,000 students, 25,000 employees, and an economic impact surpassing $5 billion.

Dr. Portera received bachelor's and master's degrees from Mississippi State University and a Ph.D. in political science from The University of Alabama.

Prior to his current tenure as Chancellor of the UA System, Dr. Portera was the 16th president of Mississippi State University. His administrative career began in the 1970s when he worked in The University of Alabama's offices of academic affairs and research and was executive assistant to two presidents before becoming a vice president.

Dr. Portera has been instrumental in the creation of several research and instructional programs, including the Materials in Information Technology Program, which achieved National Science Foundation recognition as an engineering and materials research center.

In 2003 he was inducted into the Alabama Academy of Honor, comprised of 100 living Alabamians elected on the basis of service to the state.

Chancellor Portera and his wife Olivia are natives of West Point, Miss. They have two sons and two grandsons.

Community Affairs will send out invitations to the event this week. Members of the public who would like to attend should send an e-mail to or call 205-348-8376.

The Office of Community Affairs established the Center for Community-Based Partnerships in 2006 to coordinate and energize campus and community programs that integrate teaching, research and outreach.

"Black Belt 100 Lenses" Reception Scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 17

January 17th, 2008

TUSCALOOSA "” Highway signs and vintage buildings, crop rows and fishing holes are some of the images Sumter County students have captured as part of a Black Belt documentary project.

On Thursday from 4-6 p.m., the fruits of "Black Belt 100 Lenses," a joint project of the Black Belt Community Foundation and The University of Alabama will be on display during a reception at the University of West Alabama's Webb Hall Gallery in Livingston. The public is invited.

The project brings together 7th through 11th grade students to document their communities in still photographs. The Sumter County pilot will be carried to other Black Belt counties, including Bullock, Choctaw, Dallas, Greene, Hale, Lowndes, Macon, Marengo, Perry, Pickens and Wilcox.

"To celebrate the conclusion of the Sumter County pilot project, an exhibition will be on display at Webb Hall Galley at the University of West Alabama Jan. 17 until March 1," said Christopher H. Spencer, UA adviser for the project.

"Anyone from Alabama "” especially from small towns or who just want to see how photography can have an impact on people and communities "” will want to visit the exhibition", said Whitney Greene, Black Belt Arts Initiative coordinator and co-director of the project. "It's amazing how well these young people have captured the culture and challenges of the Black Belt through their photography."

In addition to the students' work, local artist Linda Munoz will have several works on exhibit. Munoz was commissioned to create artwork using the students' photographs as inspiration. Pieces on display include a quilt and a glass mosaic that represents many of the students' themes.

Elliot Knight, a graduate student in American Studies from Opelika, who is also an intern at the Center for Community-Based Partnerships, has been one of the principal instructors for the project that uses photovoice, a research technique that blends grassroots photography with social science to record and reflect community strengths and problems.

"I have enjoyed working with the students," Knight said. "Their dialogue surrounding the photographs has been as powerful as the photographs themselves."

Contact:   Christopher H Spencer, Associate Director, Community Development at 205-348-7374 or

UA’s CCBP Awards Program to Honor Campus and Community Partners

April 23, 2007

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. "“ The University of Alabama Center for Community-Based Partnerships will hold its first honors luncheon Friday, April 27, at the Sheraton Four Points Hotel in Tuscaloosa, beginning at noon.

The keynote speaker will be Dr. Arthur N. Dunning, vice president for public service and outreach and associate provost at the University of Georgia. Dunning oversees one of the nation's most comprehensive outreach operations. The former UA faculty member has been a key adviser to Dr. Samory T. Pruitt, UA's vice president for community affairs and executive director of the Center for Community-Based Partnerships, known as CCBP.

In his remarks, Dunning will trace the development of UGA's outreach efforts and explain how they have changed both campus culture and the state. In his seven years at the University of Georgia, Dunning has mobilized human and fiscal resources to address the challenges of connecting his university to needs of citizens and communities.

Awards will be made in four categories: distinguished service, outstanding student-initiated project, outstanding faculty/staff-initiated project and outstanding community-partner initiated project.

"These outstanding projects and individuals connect the outreach mission of the University to its teaching and research functions while serving the needs of our local community, the state of Alabama, the region, the nation and the world," Pruitt said. "They operationalize our motto: Engaging Communities and Changing Lives."

Winning projects will receive funds to be used in future projects or to extend current ones, Pruitt said. All of the nominated projects involve faculty, staff, students, curriculum and formal research, Pruitt said.

Following the luncheon, attendees are invited to attend an open house at the Cannon House, 824 4th Avenue, the home of CCBP, next door to the Sheraton. Special guests of the open house will be students participating in P.A.S.S. (Preparing Alabama Students for Success), a School of Social Work project.

CCBP began in 2006 as an initiative of the Office of Community Affairs. It mobilizes the resources of the University to address problems identified jointly by community and academic partners. Its purpose is to engage communities, expand the classroom and laboratory, and promote better education, health, economic and cultural opportunities for all Alabamians.

The University of Alabama, a student-centered research university, is in the midst of a planned, steady enrollment growth with a goal of reaching 28,000 students by 2010. 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.