What drew you back to the Magic City?
After graduating form Auburn, I moved to Mississippi. What an adventure that turned out to be! But I was struggling with homesickness and missing the excitement of Birmingham’s revitalization! This is where I grew up. My family is here along with all those It’s A Wonderful Life showings at the Alabama Theater. I wanted to experience Birmingham as it is now and be a part of what it is going to be. Alabama is a wonderful state. We have a bright future.
You just started at Alabama Possible. What excites you about this work?
Alabama Possible is a credit to its name! Making things possible! Excuse the corniness, but we are getting our hands dirty, having dialogue, and supporting communities that need as many cheerleaders as they does movers and shakers. I will be coordinating Blueprints in Birmingham’s Woodlawn, Wenonah, and Ramsay schools along with Central High School in Tuscaloosa. I am ready to be in the classroom and to see the faces of the future of Alabama!
What is you favorite place in Birmingham?
Do I have to pick just one?! If I did have to choose, it would span Morris Avenue to 2nd Ave North. There is also something wonderfully nostalgic watching the trains move along the highline.
AND, you can’t beat Pepper Place—especially Red Cat and Charlie Thigpen’s Garden Gallery.
Do you have any hobbies?
Photography! Love taking snapshots. I also collect vinyl records thanks to my dad. It’s our special dad-daughter pastime.
Are you reading any books right now? Or have a favorite?
When I was in England, the place I was staying had a quaint library. I grabbed Joanne Harris’ Chocolat and Maeve Binchy’s Circle of Friends to read on the tube. I finished Chocolat! It was wonderful. But I had to leave behind a partly read Circle of Friends. It may have taken me three years but I bought it just the other night; I’m excited to finish it!
That’s one question that first-generation college students and community leaders discussed last week during a series of conversations to jumpstart the new Cash for College campaign.
Cash for College is collaborative effort with Leadership Birmingham, Alabama Media Group, and Alabama Possible to overcome misperceptions about the availability of financial aid, boost completion of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), and build a college-going culture. The Birmingham City Schools and Birmingham Education Foundation are also Cash for College partners.
The students asked a mix of fun and serious questions, and the pairs discovered shared experiences like eating ramen noodles, pulling all nighters, and finding themselves bewildered about all the fees and charges (like housing fees and campus activity fees) on tuition bills.
Some of the leaders willing to share their educational and career paths included Highlands Bar and Grill owner Frank Stitt; Alabama Power Vice President for Marketing Tony Smoke; Lakeshore Foundation President and CEO Jeff Underwood; and UAB Vice Provost for Student and Faculty Success Dr. Suzanne Austin.
Blueprints All-Star student Micah Green-Holloway and Blueprints mentor Ariel Smith got caught on camera. The students were from a variety of colleges around the state including Alabama Possible Higher Education Alliance members Jacksonville State University, Samford University, and the University of Alabama at Birmingham; and the University of South Alabama.
One of the best parts was watching the leaders and students exchange business cards and extending their networks.
FAFSA completion amongst Birmingham high school seniors is currently less than 40 percent. Research shows that nine out of 10 students who complete a FAFSA enroll in postsecondary education.
Be sure to look for the Cash For College interviews on al.com’s site.
Want to know about how you can support a college going culture? Check out this blog entry.
What brought you back to your hometown of Birmingham?
After being gone for seven years, I am so excited to get back home. Birmingham is where my family is, and being with family is a priority for me. I also was aware of the new and exciting stage Birmingham is going through, and I could not wait to experience all that has changed in my hometown. I have a deep passion for educational equity, and I knew that my hometown was a perfect place to pursuit this passion.
What did you do before you came to Alabama Possible?
I worked as a 12th grade English teacher for two years as a part of Teach For America. I taught in a very rural area, and I absolutely loved it. I feel as if I learned as much as my students did.
You just started at Alabama Possible. What excites you about this work?
I am so excited to work at a place where I can make a difference throughout the entire state of Alabama. I love that I will get to experience and impact both rural and urban parts of the state. I also cannot wait for school to start so we can get our Blueprints Programs up and running for the year.
How did you end up at Ohio State University all the way from Birmingham?
I had the opportunity to visit Ohio State at the beginning of my senior year in high school. I fell in love with the campus and the city of Columbus. The campus was just beautiful, and Columbus had so much to offer. I am so thankful I had the opportunity to go somewhere new and experience living in a new part of the country, but getting used to the snow was definitely an adjustment. I will always consider myself a Bama Buckeye!
What are your favorite hobbies?
I love reading anything and everything and taking walks. Birmingham has so many great places to walk. Currently, I really like walking at Homewood Park.
What are some of your favorite places in Birmingham?
I love Pepper Place, and the Homewood Library has a great used bookstore.
For Immediate Release: Contact: Kristina Scott
July 2, 2014 205-939-1408
More Than One-Third of Alabamians Live in Concentrated Poverty Areas
BIRMINGHAM —More than one-third of Alabamians live in concentrated “poverty areas”, according to research this week released by the Census Bureau. Poverty areas are census tracts which have a 20 percent poverty or higher.
Alabama is the nation’s seventh poorest state, and 19 percent, or nearly 900,000 Alabamians, live below the federal poverty line. More than 60 percent of those individuals live in poverty-dense census tracts.
“Being poor in a poor neighborhood means that residents have costs and limitations above and beyond those faced by any one individual or family,” said Alabama Possible Executive Director Kristina Scott. “Concentrated poverty is linked with reduced educational and employment opportunities, higher crime rates, poor health outcomes, and hindered asset building. In today’s interconnected society, that negatively impacts all of us.”
Alabama has become increasingly economically homogenous over the past two decades. In 2000, 25 percent of Alabamians lived in poverty areas, and the percent of poor people who live in poverty areas was 50 percent.
Whites saw the largest percentage point increase amongst racial or ethnic groups living in poverty areas regardless of income, from 11.3 percent in 2000 to 20.3 percent in 2010. African Americans continue to be most likely to live in poverty areas regardless of income, with 50 percent of all individuals living in poverty areas.
Concentrated poverty is also increasingly suburban or rural. While in 2000, 58 percent of people living in “poverty areas” lived in central city census tracts, in 2010 nearly half of the nation’s population living in “poverty areas” reside in suburban and rural areas.
“The changing nature of concentrated poverty challenges our perceptions. It also makes it more challenging to reverse. The needs of rural and urban communities are very different, and it is more difficult to build and sustain the responsive economic base necessary for recovery,” said Scott.
The full Census Bureau report, Changes in Areas with Concentrated Poverty: 2000 to 2010, is available online.
Additional data about poverty in Alabama is available at http://www.alabamapossible.org/datasheet
Alabama Possible is a statewide nonprofit organization dedicated to reducing systematic poverty and its root cause across Alabama. AP educates Alabamians about poverty, collaborates with colleges and faith-based institutions on poverty-reduction activities and advocates for fact-based policy decisions. AP was founded in 1993 and is based in Birmingham, Al. For more information visit www.alabamapossible.org.
Many service-learning students, practitioners, and host agencies understand the subtle, albeit significant tensions that arise between students and host agencies. On June 24th, Steve Mills, Associate Director of Florida State’s Center for Leadership and Social Change, spoke to over 50 higher education faculty, staff, students, and community partners at Alabama Possible’s 2014 Higher Education Summer Workshop. The workshop began with Mills’s keynote presentation, stemming from his article “The Four Furies: Primary Tensions between Service-Learners and Host Agencies.” Through his experience and research working with community partners in Tallahassee, Mills identified four tensions that interfere with mutually beneficial service-learning:
- The student’s requirement of hours for class vs. the unwavering commitment required by the agency,
- The student’s hope for learning vs. the agency’s need for efficient operations (work that might not be very glorious),
- The student’s necessity for a flexible schedule vs. the agency’s need for dependency of volunteers, and
- The idealism of service-learners to make a calculated difference vs. realism that exists within the non-profit realm.
After Dr. Mills’s talk, participants split up into small groups for facilitated discussion. Each group reflected on their specific experiences in service-learning, as well as short- and long-term responses that would acknowledge the tensions and attempt to move past them. Small group discussions ended, and attendees congregated again for reports from each small group on the themes and suggested responses from its discussion. Themes and responses included:
- Productive and prolonged communication (before, during, and after) between students, agencies, and even faculty is key.
- The role of faculty in the process, including but not limited to enhancing the matching process of students and agencies, providing the curriculum to the agencies detailing goals and expectations of the class, and communication with students and agencies concerning their experiences throughout.
- The role of mid-term evaluations in which agencies can gauge the students’ experience so far, as well as provide the student and faculty with graded evaluation of each student’s performance.
A final large group discussion facilitated by Alabama Possible Executive Director Kristina Scott allowed participants of the workshop to reflect on what they learned throughout the discussion and offer concepts and approaches that they would take back to implement into their respective institution. Mills concluded his talk by observing that this tension can be used “as a midwife for adaptation.” He explains, “even if 20% of our students have the kind of experience that we are hoping they will have, [and they] catch fire on a social issue, it’s worth it to us.”
- “The Four Furies: Primary Tensions between Service-Learners and Host Agencies,” Steven D. Mills
- Service Learners and Their Sites: Exploring Four Primary Tensions
- The Bonner Network Organizational Capacity Building Opportunities Form
- “Access to Education, Opportunity to Serve” Graduating Leaders of Change for Communities—The Bonner Network
- Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help, And How to Reverse It by Robert D. Lupton
- When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor…and Yourself by Steve Corbett, Brian Fikkert, John Perkins, David Platt
- The Unheard Voices: Community Organizations and Service Learning by Randy Stoecker and Elizabeth A. Tryon
Summer feeding sites are open all over Alabama to serve free meals to children under 18, without proof of need. Alabama Possible published a map and sortable database with feeding locations, meals served, dates open, and phone numbers on its webpage at www.alabamapossible.org/summerfeeding. Summer is a particularly vulnerable time for the 436,279 Alabama students who participated in free or reduced lunch during the 2013-2014 school year. Many kids run the risk of missing meals without the guarantee of in-school breakfast and lunch. To address this need, there are more than 700 summer feeding sites across the state this year.
Alabama served kids 385,547 more meals at more than 100 new summer feeding sites during 2013. Summer feeding expansion is a initiative of the End Child Hunger in Alabama campaign. Over the past year, Alabama Possible has collaborated with the Alabama State Department of Education, regional food banks, and the USDA through the task force. The resulting 30 percent boost in meals served was the biggest in the Southeast, and it moves Alabama closer to the national goal of 40 percent participation.
Alabama served a total of 1,650,652 meals during the summer of 2013. This compares to 1,265,105 in 2012. This moved Alabama up in the national participation rankings to 43rd, compared to 47th in 2012, according to the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) report “Hunger Doesn’t Take a Vacation.” Children under 18 are eligible to eat for free at these summer feeding sites. Most of the sites serve lunch, but some also serve breakfast and dinner. Different locations have different meal times. Additionally, some feeding sites make meals available for purchase by parents and accompanying adults at a low price. To locate the summer feeding site nearest you, check out our map or text ‘FOOD’ to 877-877.
The final installment of our ‘Meet the Interns’ series features Ashley Batiste. Ashley comes to us as a Law & Policy intern from Alabama Possible Cornerstone Member The University of Alabama School of Law. Ashley is a native of Los Angeles and a graduate of Oakwood University in Huntsville, where she majored in communication concentrating in public relations.
You are from L.A. What brought you to Alabama?
I originally came to the state of Alabama because I wanted to attend Oakwood University, a Seventh-day Adventist Historically Black University which is located in Huntsville, AL. After graduating I decided to continue my education in the state and now currently attend the University of Alabama School of Law.
What are the most striking differences between where you grew up and your environment in Birmingham?
Given I’m from one of the biggest cities in the country, Birmingham which is a big city for the state of Alabama is really small town living for me. There are no palm trees, the weather is completely different, and of course, the beach is not right around the corner.
What kind of law do you want to pursue?
Currently I am interested in Intellectual Property and Entertainment law; specifically issues dealing with copyright and trademark.
How did you get involved with Alabama Possible?
I have an innate need to make a difference in the lives of others with any work that I do. Alabama Possible disrupts misperceptions, raises public awareness and collaborates with residents to reduce poverty and its negative impacts on Alabama’s families. I wanted to be a part of this mission.
What will you be working on this summer at Alabama Possible?
I am doing research for the Ending Childhood Hunger in Alabama (ECHA) Task Force.
(note: check out some of Ashley’s work mapping all of the summer feeding sites in the state.)
What was the last movie you watched?
The classic Titanic.
Are you reading any books right now?
Yes. I enjoy reading about the lives of successful and influential people and am currently reading Long Walk to Freedom, the autobiography of Nelson Mandela.
Next up in our ‘Meet the Interns’ series is Reeve Jacobus. Reeve is a senior philosophy major at AP Cornerstone Member Birmingham-Southern College. He is a native of Ridgeland, Mississippi and comes to us this summer as a Hess Fellow after serving as a Blueprints student liaison to the Bunting Center at BSC.
You grew up in a suburb of Jackson, Mississippi. Are there any striking differences between where you grew up and your environment in Birmingham?
There really aren’t many differences between Jackson and Birmingham. I always tell people that Birmingham is just a bigger Jackson. Because of that, it’s really been a smooth transition overall; it still feels like home to me. I think Jackson is trying to learn from Birmingham and the renaissance that has taken place here; I hope it can be just as successful in reinventing and modernizing as Birmingham has.
Do you have a favorite book?
All the Names by Jose Saramago.
You have lived in Birmingham for three years now. What are some of your favorite places to eat?
I’m a pizza snob, so my two favorite places are Slice and Davenport’s.
Favorite TV shows?
In order, my favorite shows are House of Cards, Colbert Report, and Modern Family. My guilty pleasure is C-SPAN.
Why did you choose philosophy as your major and how do you hope to use it?
I chose to major in philosophy for three reasons. First, I really enjoy thinking about questions that have been at the center of philosophy for thousands of years. I get tickled thinking about questions of existence and free will. But preference is not enough to devote your college career to a discipline, so I also chose philosophy because of its interdisciplinary scope. It can comment on many other disciplines that interest me, including but not limited to global justice, ethics, poverty, and dignity. So I am able to investigate the issues behind these in my philosophy degree. Lastly, philosophy seemed like a good call because of its practical applications. Yes, most people think the question a philosophy major needs to learn is “WHY you want fries with that,” but there actually are practical applications in a philosophy major. Those who participate learn how to write well, how to think critically about problems, and how to conceptualize complex material. Those are three skills that are highly sought after in today’s job market.
How did you get involved with Alabama Possible?
I attended a QEP (Quality Enhancement Plan) event at BSC, which led me to the wonderful Bunting Center. Emily Thornton helped me find an organization that fit with my interests, and soon after, I became a student liaison for the spring semester.
What do you plan to do after graduating from college?
I plan to go into international development. It’s very similar to nonprofit work such as Alabama Possible, except on a global scale and with a lot more economics and politics.
Our 2014 summer interns are settled in and hard at work. We got them to slow down long enough for a brief interview.
First up in the series is Daniel Yarbrough. He graduated in May from Alabama Possible Cornerstone Member Samford University with a Bachelor of Arts in political science. Daniel, originally from Ashville, Alabama, comes to us from the Southern Education Leadership Initiative of the Southern Education Foundation.
You grew up on a small farm about an hour outside of Birmingham. What lessons did you learn growing up that have helped you in life outside of rural Alabama?
Growing up I did not fully appreciate the opportunities I was given to work. Looking back, my parents really instilled in me both a strong work ethic and need to get jobs done the right way. Those characteristics are good to have within any environment, and I really appreciate the way I was raised.
Why did you choose to major in political science?
Entering into college I had a strong interest in politics and political systems, and throughout college political science allowed me to engage questions of how and why socioeconomic or political systems are broken and possibly could be fixed.
How do you hope to use your degree now that you graduated?
I think there are a lot of problems such as poverty and systemic inopportunity around the globe, United States, and Alabama. Over the course of my career, I hope to play a role in changing these systems through practically assisting and enabling the disenfranchised.
Do you have any favorite books?
So many! I love anything that challenges my worldview or introduces me to new ideas.
How did you get involved with Alabama Possible?
I was placed with Alabama Possible through a fellowship with the Southern Education Foundation. My past experience working around Birmingham supplied me with a small knowledge of the organization and its mission, and I am extremely excited to be working here this summer!
What is your vision for Alabama 10 years from now?
Unfortunately, Alabama is currently ranked rather poorly in a lot of categories when compared to the other states. I would like to see Alabama shake this reputation by addressing some of the prevailing issues related to poverty.