Thank you for being my neighbor

November 26th, 2015

Thanksgiving seems like a natural time to reflect on the golden rule: to love thy neighbor as thyself.

I grew up in Pittsburgh during the 70s, and Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was my favorite show. Fred Rogers lived in Pittsburgh too, and it felt like I was visiting with a kind neighbor every afternoon.

In his simple and elegant way, Mister Rogers helped me understand what it means to truly love thy neighbor as thyself.

First, he made sure I knew that I am special. Second, he taught me that my neighbor is anyone I am with. Third, I learned that it is reciprocal. If I am special, then the people I happen to be with at any moment – my neighbors – must be special too.

Later today, as we sit around the table with our friends and family and give thanks, I will be thinking about how lucky I am to work with so many special people across the state of Alabama as we work together to break down the barriers to prosperity.

Thank you for being my neighbor.

Happy Thanksgiving,

What does it mean to be an Alabamian: A conversation with Bill Jones and Shelley Stewart

October 16th, 2015

AP Invitation

Alabamians love to tell stories.  Stories are how we understand ourselves and the world around us. They are also agents of personal and public transformation.

We want to invite you to honor two friends whose very different stories converge in their identities as Alabamians: Bill Jones and Shelley Stewart.

Bill Jones retired last year as the CEO of O’Neal Industries. However, he has remained deeply engaged in strengthening our community. Bill is the co-chair of the Bold Goals Education Coalition, which is a collective impact initiative working to prepare every student for college, career, and life. He is also quarterbacking efforts to complete the Rotary Trail and transform “the cut” into a greenway connecting Railroad Park to Sloss Furnaces.

As a young boy, Shelley Stewart watched his father kill his mother. He survived years of homelessness to become “Shelley the Playboy.” As a radio DJ, Shelley’s fan base included both white and African American youth, which turned him into a target of the KKK. He would not be intimidated and broadcast coded messages to young civil rights demonstrators telling them when and where marches would occur.  He went on to co-found the advertising firm now known as O2ideas and currently leads the Mattie C. Stewart Foundation.

Please join us on Tuesday, October 27, from 6 until 9 p.m. at The Florentine as Bill and Shelley share their stories and discuss what it means to be an Alabamian. All proceeds will benefit Alabama Possible, a statewide 501(c)(3) nonprofit which removes barriers to prosperity for the 900,000 Alabamians who live below the poverty line through research, engaged learning, poverty simulations, and promoting college access and success.

Learn about how you can support the event and Alabama Possible’s work at

Alabama Possible’s Cash for College Campaign Goes Statewide

October 7th, 2015

The National College Access Network recently awarded Alabama Possible a grant to take our Cash for College financial aid form completion work statewide.

One of the key barriers to achieving our workforce goals is the financial literacy needed to finance a college education. The FAFSA is required for any student seeking federal and state financial aid, including grants and loans at all colleges. According to the US Department of Education, 9 out of 10 students who complete a FAFSA attend college the following fall. Low-income students typically qualify for Pell Grants of up to $5,775. However, the FAFSA has more than 100 questions and is more complex than a typical tax return.

“Many students and their families have now idea that financial aid is available by completing their FAFSA. Cash for College aims to change that, said Kristina Scott, executive director of Alabama Possible.

Alabama Possible will partner with the Alabama State Department of Education, two- and four-year colleges, school systems, and community members to bring FAFSA completion to students and their families where they are: in school and at local community centers.

Watch for more – including an updated web page – at