On Tuesday, October 24, 2016, 120 Alabamians gathered at Birmingham’s historic Florentine building for “Sweet Home Alabama,” Alabama Possible’s annual dinner and conversation about breaking down barriers to prosperity.

Northwest-Shoals Community College Sophomore Yaneliz Fernandez began the conversation with testimony about her work as a Blueprints College Success Initiative mentor at her alma mater, Phil Campbell High School. Yaneliz and a group of fellow Phi Theta Kappa honor society members work with Phil Campbell High School juniors and seniors as they complete college-going milestones, including college admissions, financial aid, and scholarship applications.

Yaneliz talked about how mentoring high school students has given her an opportunity to learn more about success in college.

“Even though I am in college, there are still some things that are fuzzy to me,” she said.  “If they ask me a question, if I don’t know the answer, then I’ll be able to look it up. Through being a mentor, I have been able to learn so much.”

Yaneliz plans to graduate with her associates degree in May and transfer to Samford University to study pharmacy.

Birmingham Times Executive Editor Barnett Wright facilitated a conversation with retired Birmingham-Southern College President General Charles Krulak and The University of Alabama and NFL Football Star Bobby Humphrey about why they decided to make Alabama their home. Their answer?  Its people.

General Krulak shared the story of why he and his wife Zandra, who moved more than 30 times during the course of his military career, decided to settle in Alabama.

“We wanted to go somewhere with a proud history and a bright future,” he said.

General Krulak and his wife admired Birmingham’s role as “the birthplace of human rights,” and he pointed to the region’s people and rail and highway infrastructure as the basis for a robust future.

Bobby Humphrey had a very different journey.  Bobby Humphrey grew up across the street from Legion Field in Birmingham’s Elyton Projects. While his first jobs were parking cars and selling concessions to fans at Alabama football games, his talent on the football field led to a scholarship to play for The University of Alabama and a career in the NFL.

When his playing days ended, Bobby said that he came home “because of all the people here who have aided my family along the way and helped in my development. I wanted to come back and reciprocate that. There are people right here in this room who have the gift and vision of giving, which is something dear to my heart.”

He also pointed to the strong relationship with his family, especially his mother, Marlene. After staying home to raise her children, Marlene decided to get her GED while Bobby was studying at Alabama. She earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree and found that her passion was family counseling, so she decided to go back and get her doctorate in counseling.

The power of education emerged as a common thread throughout the conversation, and General Krulak pointed to the importance of work like Alabama Possible’s Cash for College Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) completion campaign.

“The FAFSA is so important, because it is the instrument that allows those who are experiencing a lack of funds to be educated and not restrained,” he said.

Many thanks to General Charles Krulak, Bobby Humphrey, Barnett Wright, and Yaneliz Fernandez for participating in this conversation, and to Keystone Sponsors Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama, Bradley, Tacala LLC, Vowell & Associates, Vulcan Materials, and Ed & Amanda Wilson; Cornerstone Sponsors Alagasco/Spire Energy, Renee Blalock, Burr Forman, Cole Financial Planning, Brooke & Daniel Coleman, Gillian & Mike Goodrich, Melanie & Jay Grinney, Leaf and Petal, Virginia Patterson, Regions Bank, and Lydia & Taylor Pursell; and Sustaining Sponsors B.A.S.S., Wendi & Richard Boyen, Jr., Bradley, Marissa & Mitchell Cohen, Lisa & Alan Engel, EW Motion Therapy, Lesley & Ralph Foster, Catharine & Edward Friend, Ed Hardin, Margaret & Holman Head, Ronne & Donald Hess, Camilia & Robert Holmes, Honda Manufacturing of Alabama, Pauline Ireland, Jothany & Frank James, Walker & Bill Jones, Lynn & Benny LaRussa, Jr., LIV Apartment Partners, Markstein, Judy & Gerson May, Cheryl Morgan, National Bank of Commerce, Kate & Claude Nielsen, Claire & Sam Parker, Joey Pierson, Harold Ripps, Royal Cup Coffee, Kim & Bruce Rogers, Diane & Scott Selman, Joyce T. Spielberger & Maury Shevin, Susan & David Silverstein, Dora Eugenia & Sanjay Singh, Donna & Jim Sisson, The Thompson Foundation, Libba & Brooks Vaughan, Becky & Bill Smith, and Sherry & Lloyd Wilson.