Rethink Alabama Benefit Dinner

November 14th, 2014

On Tuesday, October 28th, Alabama Possible hosted its 4th annual benefit dinner at Regions Field.

Around 140 business, higher education, and civic leaders from around Alabama gathered for dinner, fellowship, and a conversation between Don Logan and Cheryl Morgan.

Don and Cheryl focused their discussion on fostering economic, cultural, and community growth in downtown Birmingham.

Cheryl, the former director of Auburn University’s Urban Studio, conceded home field advantage to Don, former CEO of Time Inc. and current owner of the Birmingham Barons.

Speaking to the slow and steady process of downtown revitalization, Don emphasized that he and his team had to be deliberative in determining the viability of a baseball team in the Southside of Birmingham. Although people from Birmingham appealed to him for the good of the community, he said, “It’s not great for the community if the business fails.”

Don said he and his sons, who co-own the team, “wanted to make and have a home we could feel comfortable in for 25 to 30 years,” and moving a baseball team, “wasn’t like moving a business where you’re in an office, where if you decide things aren’t going well…well we’ll just wait until the lease runs out and we’ll go to another office. You can’t do that.”

Don said that along with economic viability, the location had to feel safe and engage the whole community. Instrumental in the decision to move was the opening of neighboring Railroad Park.

On the basis that “great cities have great parks,” Cheryl and Urban Studio pushed the city for 20 years to make Railroad Park a reality. She said, “We looked out at this area of disinvestment and asked ‘What would happen if we brought citizens together there?’”

Seeing that the vacant space—nearly destined to serve a used car lot—“didn’t have any baggage,” Cheryl knew that Birmingham “could invent its story.”

Cheryl said, “Every place is broken if you want to start with what doesn’t work,” and challenged guests to identify what’s good and what works and rethink what’s possible for their own communities and Alabama.

After 30 minutes of conversation, guests asked the evening’s two honorees questions around replicating the successes of Regions Field and Railroad Park across the city. After each answer it became clearer that lasting success takes considerable patience, commitment, and persistence. But it works, and it’s worth it.

Thanks to the generosity of our sponsors and donors, the benefit dinner raised nearly $53,000 to support Alabama Possible’s work to partner with higher-education and faith-based organizations to strengthen awareness about poverty and its causes while advocating for fact-based policy decisions statewide.

Thank you again to our sponsors:

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Choices.

October 10th, 2014

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Choices. The work we do at Blueprints is all about creating opportunities and the ability for students to have choices: the choice in post-secondary education, the choice in career, and the choice in lifestyle.

At our second Blueprints session, The Value of Education, 25 freshmen at Wenonah High School, along with their UAB mentors, discussed the monetary value of college. In this session, participants fill out a hypothetical budget based on educational attainment, from high school diploma or lack thereof, to professional degree.

The mentors guide the students as they plan their hypothetical monthly expenses and intertwine mathematics, critical thinking, and problem solving. The student who is assigned the high school diploma is challenged to balance a monthly budget on just $1,191; meanwhile, the student with the bachelor’s degree is allocated $4,430 for their monthly budget.

I overheard one student, Arius, who had been assigned the budget of a high school dropout say, “I have no choice but to take the bus.”

That comment hit home for her and her classmates. Suddenly the student who envisioned their future home and life a certain way made the crucial connection that with education comes choices; the choice of what type of car to drive, the choice of what type of house to live in, and the choice of what the future looks like.

Blueprints has tips to make the most of your college fair experience

September 11th, 2014

College Fair Tips by Alabama Possible

Meet Our New Blueprints Program Coordinator Mary Afton Day

August 7th, 2014

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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!

Meet Our New Blueprints Program Manager Liora Chessin

July 24th, 2014

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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.

Press Release: More Than One-Third of Alabamians Live in Concentrated Poverty Areas

July 3rd, 2014

 

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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. 

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Do you know a hungry child?

June 18th, 2014

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.   2014 Summer Feeding Map To locate the summer feeding site nearest you, check out our map or text ‘FOOD’ to 877-877.