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2024 STEM Showcase Continues STEM Engagement for Middle Schoolers

  • February 19th, 2024
  • in CCBP

2024 STEM Showcase Continues STEM Engagement for Middle Schoolers

by Dr. Elisabetta Zengaro
Communications Specialist, Division of Community Affairs

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Middle school students from the Tuscaloosa area demonstrated their creativity at the 2024 STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) Showcase on Feb. 3 at the Bryant Conference Center, during which the winning projects were also announced.

What began as a collaborative science fair for middle schoolers in Tuscaloosa has rapidly grown into one of the largest STEM opportunities in the community as this year’s STEM Showcase featured 91 students representing 10 schools: Brookwood Middle School, Eastwood Middle School, Echols Middle School, Northridge Middle School, Sipsey Valley Middle School, The Alberta School of Performing Arts, Tuscaloosa Academy, Tuscaloosa Magnet Schools – Middle, University Church Christian Academy and Westlawn Middle School.

“I think it’s a really fun thing to do,” said Ronan Stakem, a seventh grader who competed for his first time at STEM Showcase and presented a group project testing the durability of shoe grip.

This year’s Showcase was well-attended with more than 150 family and community members present to support the students.

“I liked how excited she was each day to go and check the progress of her crystal that she grew and all the insights that [she] gained from the project and also the teamwork with her friends,” said Haley Abbott, whose daughter participated in STEM Showcase. “They were excited each week to meet together and collaborate.”

To participate, sixth through eighth graders submitted a project either individually or as a team that addressed one of the following STEM fields: biology, chemistry, engineering, environmental and earth sciences, mathematics and computer science, medicine and health science, physical sciences, behavioral and social sciences, and energy and transportation. During the showcase, participating middle schoolers received mentoring from UA faculty, staff and students in STEM disciplines before presenting their final projects to judges. Volunteer judges were UA faculty, students, and STEM community members.

“I thought the kids were so talented, and they were so creative,” said Genevieve Bangert, a UA student and STEM Showcase judge. “It was so fun seeing all of their different ideas and projects.”

“A lot of the kids this year are very creative with their research methods … and they really took a lot of time to get all of this laid out and make it so that everyone is accessible to this information, which I think is very interesting,” added Elizabeth Fritz-Kenz, a UA Student and STEM Showcase judge.

Winners may participate in the Central Alabama Regional Science and Engineering Fair at The University of Alabama at Birmingham.

This year, three special awards were also given. Jason Brewer and Kaiden Tolbert, of Sipsey Valley Middle School, received the Nucor Innovation in STEM Engineering Award. Amelia Rumerio, from Tuscaloosa Magnet Schools – Middle, won the Avantor/VWR Excellence in STEM Award. The Sanders Flight Training Center Discovery Flight Award went to Henry Bearden, Neil Delaire and Aniketh Kalyan, all from Tuscaloosa Magnet Schools – Middle; Hudson Banks from Tuscaloosa Academy earned honorable mention.

Category Winners and Runners-Up

Winners in behavioral and social sciences were Josie Harvey and Emma Stephens, both of Sipsey Valley Middle School. Runners-up were Lilla Beasley, Maggie Leigh Hamner and Sophie Porter, all of Sipsey Valley Middle School.

The winner in biology was Henry Brickman-Curzon of Tuscaloosa Magnet Schools – Middle. Runners-up were Lane Hollingsworth, Houston Oswalt and William Roe, all from Tuscaloosa Academy.

The winner in chemistry was Aeesha Mulani of Tuscaloosa Magnet Schools – Middle. The runner-up was Molly Doxey of University Church Christian Academy.

Winners in energy and transportation were Max Morgan, Rachel Shu and Alex Zhu, all of Northridge Middle School. Runners-up were Zane Coppock, Maximilian Reinmuth and Adam Rodriguez, all of Tuscaloosa Academy.

The winners in engineering were Henry Bearden, Neil Delaire and Aniketh Kalyan, all of Tuscaloosa Magnet Schools – Middle. Runners-up were Jacob Scofield and Ashlynn Tolbert, both of Tuscaloosa Magnet Schools – Middle.

The winners in environmental and earth sciences were Ava Hendrix, Sofia Huebner and Layla Waller, all of Tuscaloosa Magnet Schools – Middle. The runner-up was Laryn Word of Tuscaloosa Magnet Schools – Middle.

The winner in mathematics and computer science was Ela Melouk of Tuscaloosa Magnet Schools – Middle.

Winners in medicine and health science were Maddie Lee and Lillie Reardon of Tuscaloosa Magnet Schools – Middle. The runner-up was Ruthie Webber of Tuscaloosa Magnet Schools – Middle.

The winner in physical sciences was Jayden Yoon of Northridge Middle School. The runner-up was Amelia Rumerio of Tuscaloosa Magnet Schools – Middle.

Winners of Best in Show were Maddie Lee and Lillie Reardon, both of Tuscaloosa Magnet Schools – Middle.

Tuscaloosa’s Many Voices Unites City’s International Community with Local Groups

  • January 31st, 2024
  • in CCBP

Tuscaloosa’s Many Voices Unites City’s International Community with Local Groups

by Dr. Elisabetta Zengaro
Communications Specialist, Division of Community Affairs

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – The inaugural Tuscaloosa’s Many Voices Summit strengthened relationships between Tuscaloosa’s international community and local organizations through a day of networking on Jan. 23 at the Bryant Conference Center.

The summit’s purpose was to bring together stakeholders and organizations that interact with international residents.

Dr. Fran Oneal, director of Global and Community Engagement, saw the need for a “hub” or network to serve as a central source of information, ideas and solutions for challenges facing members of Tuscaloosa’s international community.

“We want to capitalize on the assets that international residents bring to the community and make sure that international residents are utilizing every asset that is available to them,” Oneal said.

Dr. Samory Pruitt, vice president for Community Affairs, delivered the opening remarks and thanked Oneal and the Office of Global and Community Engagement for its efforts in organizing the event.

Many international residents call Tuscaloosa home and have helped the community flourish, Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox noted.

“We are a community that has embraced internationalism,” Maddox said. “And I think it’s very important, especially at this time and place in our country’s history, that we embrace the diversity of opinions and backgrounds and experience.”

Attendees completed an icebreaker activity at the start of the meeting designed to pinpoint cross-cultural similarities and shared life experiences.

“We have much in common in different aspects of our lives,” Oneal said. “All of these commonalities show us that the more we come to know each other, the more we can find joy in our similarities and be intrigued by our differences.”

A video presentation, produced by the Division of Community Affairs, provided data about Tuscaloosa’s international residents.

Following the video presentation, participants joined in round-table discussions to talk about the issues international residents face and discuss potential solutions. International residents Anna Mariya Basauri Ziuzina, Alex Duah and Nancy De La Torre shared their stories and backgrounds during lunch, inviting further dialogue about ways to create a more inclusive community.

Fifty-six individuals registered for the event. Invited stakeholders represented the following government offices, organizations and educational institutions: Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice, Armstrong Law LLC, Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama, Christy Hayes Counseling, City of Northport, City of Tuscaloosa, Fuerza Multicultural, Good Samaritan Clinic, Keller Williams Real Estate, Mercedes-Benz U.S. International, Shelton State Community College, Stillman College, Tuscaloosa City Schools, Tuscaloosa City Sisters International, Tuscaloosa County Schools, Tuscaloosa International Friends, Tuscaloosa Latino Coalition, Tuscaloosa’s One Place, Tuscaloosa Public Libraries, The University of Alabama and United Way of West Alabama.

Group of people posing in front of a stage and screen

Prize-winning Journalist Delivers Realizing the Dream Legacy Banquet Address; Award Recipients Recognized

Pulitzer Prize-winning Journalist Delivers Realizing the Dream Legacy Banquet Address; Award Recipients Recognized

Group of people posing in front of a stage and screen

by Dr. Elisabetta Zengaro
Communications Specialist, Division of Community Affairs

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Clarence Page reminded his audience of the power of semantics and linked ethics in journalism to qualities of leadership in his address at the 2024 Realizing the Dream Legacy Banquet on Jan. 12 in the Bryant Conference Center.

The event has been held for 15 years in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Adebola Aderibigbe, a Stillman College sophomore majoring in journalism, received the Horizon Award; former U.S. senator G. Douglas Jones received the Call to Conscience Award; and former Birmingham mayor Richard Arrington, Jr. received the Mountaintop Award. Each recipient was recognized in a short video produced by Gray Lloyd of the Center for Public Television and Radio.

Aderibigbe was recognized for using her journalistic prowess to amplify seldom-heard voices that inspire change. Jones, who served as senator from Alabama from 2018–2021, received the Call to Conscience Award for successfully prosecuting two former Klan members for the murder of four young girls in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing, one of the deadliest crimes of the civil rights era.

Arrington was elected as Birmingham’s first Black mayor in 1979, a position he held for 20 years. When he left office in 1999, the city had a record number of jobs and the lowest unemployment rate in its history. Arrington’s leadership enabled Birmingham to expand city limits by 60 square miles, increase its tax base, and reduce crime to its lowest rate in 25 years. During his tenure, Arrington increased minority employment in city government, number of Black department heads, and hiring and promotion of women.

Page is a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, a columnist syndicated nationally by Tribune Media Services and a member of the Chicago Tribune editorial board. His many honors include membership in the Chicago Journalism Hall of Fame and lifetime achievement awards from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists, the Chicago Headline Club and the National Association of Black Journalists. He is also the author of the best-seller “Showing My Color: Impolite Essays on Race and Identity.”

Throughout his address, Page not only connected ethics in journalism with qualities of leadership, but also discussed Dr. Martin Luther King’s impact on the civil rights movement and on his own decision to become a journalist. “I wanted to get out there and cover the movement,” Page said. “I wanted to cover the news and what was really changing every day in America and needed to be covered in a way that people would want to read about it.”

Expanding on this year’s theme of “Realizing the Dream Through Vision and Leadership,” Page referenced Dr. King’s famous 1967 speech, “Where Do We Go from Here?” in which King urged Americans to strive for a better future based on justice and equality.

Page said he agreed with King in his dissatisfaction with the status quo. “We all need to be divinely dissatisfied with the status quo, until we can improve it,” he said. “We can bring about the change that we need.”

Page concluded his speech by calling on audience members to maintain “a sense of divine dissatisfaction [with the present] to build a better future” and apply the qualities of leadership that King embodied: compassion, love and justice.

Prior to the start of the banquet, Page met with students from the host institutions — Stillman College, Shelton State Community College, and The University of Alabama — during which he discussed ethics in journalism.

UA Exceeds Its 2023 United Way Campaign Goal

UA Exceeds Its 2023 United Way Campaign Goal

by Dr. Elisabetta Zengaro
Communications Specialist, Division of Community Affairs

As the campus community prepares for the season of giving, the UA United Way Campaign leadership announced success in the 2023 campus campaign, sharing that the campus community exceeded its $400,000 goal by raising $401,643.09* to support families and individuals in need.

With Big Al leading the drum roll, Dr. Sebrena Jackson, Dr. Lewis Lee, and Carrie Turner, campaign co-chairs, along with Brie Campbell, loaned executive, revealed the total during the campaign celebration at Little Hall lawn on Thursday, Dec. 7.

“This year’s theme, ‘Supporting a Stronger World: United for Impact,’ captures the essence of the School of Social Work and our campus, as well as the importance of working together to support those in need throughout our community and the West Alabama area,” said Turner. “Thank you again for making this campaign such a success.”

The 2023 theme reflects the mission within the School of Social Work (SSW), host unit for the 2023 UA United Way campaign. Campaign leadership thanked the campus community for “supporting a stronger world” through their giving to United Way.

“United Way [of West Alabama] touches all of our lives, and fundamentally the social work profession is intrinsically aligned with these goals, mission and vision to impact lives in the community,” said Dr. Schnavia Hatcher, dean of SSW. “Individuals, both children and adults, as well as families, will be in a better position to experience enhanced living conditions because of your commitment to this campaign.”

UA President Dr. Stuart R. Bell thanked Social Work for its role in this year’s campaign and the Division of Community Affairs for its support of the campaign, also acknowledging the generosity of faculty, staff and retirees. He also thanked campaign coordinators for their leadership.

The following 11 units reached or exceeded their unit goal and were also recognized: Advancement; Community Affairs; Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; Graduate School; Honors College; Law School; Office of the President; School of Social Work; OTIDE; TUARA (Retirees); and University Libraries.

Jackie Wuska, CEO of United Way of West Alabama (UWWA), and Chris Gunter, 2023 UWWA campaign chair, also expressed their gratitude for the University community uniting to support individuals and families in need throughout West Alabama.

“You are the heart and soul of this campaign, and it’s such a wonderful reflection on the University and the Capstone we love so much,” Wuska said.

The campaign will continue through the end of the semester. Donations can be made through the secure online giving portal through Monday, Dec. 18. Those who prefer to give via pledge card may do so through Friday, Dec. 15. Donations of at least $60 will qualify for a donor rewards card containing offers from a variety of West Alabama businesses.

The Division of Community Affairs leads the annual UA United Way Campaign with a structure that provides opportunities for UA colleges and administrative units to host the campaign each year. The United Way of West Alabama has 30 partner agencies and plays a vital role in improving the quality of people’s lives. Partner agencies from Bibb, Fayette, Greene, Hale, Lamar, Marengo, Pickens, Sumter and Tuscaloosa counties provide a variety of education, income-related, health and emergency-response programs to citizens throughout West Alabama

*Author’s note: At the conclusion of the 2023 calendar year, the final giving total was $406,422.09.  

Shelton State and UA’s HomeFirst Team Up for Personal Finance 101

Shelton State and UA’s HomeFirst Team Up for Personal Finance 101

by Sophia Xiong
CCBP Graduate Assistant

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – On September 14, students at Shelton State Community College benefited from a basic financial planning class dubbed “Financial Planning 101,” courtesy of the University of Alabama’s (UA) HomeFirst team. This collaborative effort between UA’s HomeFirst and Shelton State’s Collegiate 100 yielded valuable financial education for the students.

James Renshaw, program coordinator for programs and partnerships for community engagement, delivered the Financial Planning 101 lecture to the students. Renshaw covered topics such as budgeting, banking accounts, credit score, and homeownership.

“I coordinate HomeFirst and work with several Shelton State Collegiate 100 members as they volunteer with our program,” Renshaw said. “Shelton State and Collegiate 100® created this idea of a Personal Finance 101 event and approached me to represent HomeFirst. The planning started earlier this year, and this marked the first time Shelton and Collegiate 100® jointly hosted this event.”

Collegiate 100® is a student organization with a primary mission to facilitate one-on-one and group mentoring by 100 Black Men of America, Inc.® Chapters to students transitioning from high school to college. Their initiatives encompass economic empowerment, leadership development, health/wellness and mentoring.

Toya Carter, media specialist and Collegiate 100® advisor at Shelton State, emphasized, “Economic empowerment is one of Collegiate 100’s initiatives, and we are partner with UA’s HomeFirst. So, we believed this event would be a valuable opportunity for students to learn different personal financial topics that are important to them.”

To promote the event, Carter and her team put information on social media, reached out to faculty and sent information to their student ambassador.

Josie Cox, student retention coordinator and Collegiate 100® advisor at Shelton State, discussed the common concerns students have about finance. “Our Collegiate 100® students took note of these concerns by collaborating with organizations such as UA’s HomeFirst.”

Carter said stronger knowledge of personal finance was one of the biggest things she wanted the students to get out of the event so they could take what they learned and apply it to their personal lives, for example by creating a budget.

“While this is the first event we host, we also conduct success seminars and provide a career resource department to support student achievement,” she said. She went on to share that Renshaw and Dr. Nicole Prewitt, director of programs and partnerships for community engagement, have helped tailor the program to fit into Shelton’s student dynamics and have provided suggestions on how to make the event better.

Rachel Cobia, accounting and personal finance instructor at Shelton State Community College, emphasized, “Personal finance matters to everyone, both in the present and for their future. I hope my students can get ahead by planning their future before their big life decisions are made. I sat with many of my students and I can tell they all enjoyed it. I hope it will continue.”

BOA Talks Power of Connectivity During Fall 2023 Meeting

BOA Talks Power of Connectivity During Fall 2023 Meeting

by Dr. Elisabetta Zengaro
Communications Specialist, Division of Community Affairs

The Community Affairs Board of Advisors concluded its fall 2023 meeting with a dinner and gala in the Diamonds Direct Ballroom at Regions Field in Birmingham, where members discussed new initiatives and learned the importance of connectivity from keynote speaker, Birmingham City Attorney Nicole King.       

King, a UA alumna, shared how the connections she made and skills she developed at The University of Alabama impacted her career.

“The power of connectivity is just like the sturdy oak trees on The University of Alabama campus,” King said. “Standing tall in the storms and able to face the fiercest of winds, the branches may bend a little, but they would never break. And just as the branches of the tree remain unbroken, genuine connections grow stronger.”

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin also delivered remarks to the BOA via video, emphasizing the power of collaboration.

Earlier in the day, BOA members heard from panelists whose work corresponded to committee interests in areas of public health, academic success, entrepreneurship, global and community leadership, and veterans’ support. In keeping with the meeting’s theme, “Making Magic in the Magic City,” the BOA committee leadership presented their upcoming initiatives during the gala, sharing thoughts on how they can “make magic” through connectivity and reciprocity.

“Throughout all of our presentations we’ve learned about the value of connectivity,” said Jon Macklem, chair of the Entrepreneurship and Innovative Initiatives Committee. “In the space of entrepreneurship and innovation, we’ve been blessed by great speakers that talked about all the exciting things, all the magic that’s been created here in Birmingham through innovation, through supporting people who want to create new businesses and who want to explore new ideas.”

BOA members also highlighted how connectivity provides opportunities to utilize their individual strengths to improve quality-of-life initiatives. 

“I want to challenge us to all reflect on our strength and privileges, understand our role in power dynamics and embrace the power that comes through the community,” said Ibukun Afon, chair of the Public Health Committee. “Let us continue to come back and give back.”

Reflecting on the 60th anniversary of the desegregation of UA, BOA President Samarria Munnerlyn Dunson acknowledged the legacy of Vivian Malone Jones and Dr. James Hood, along with others, and encouraged her fellow Board members to continue to make a difference in the lives of others.

“I stand here grateful for their sacrifices and the sacrifices of countless others,” said Dunson. “I am immensely proud of all the progress that our alma mater has made in the decades that followed and for the genuine and valuable relationships that we forged along the way. There is no doubt that The University of Alabama is where legends are made. The work that we do in the Division of Community Affairs, that is where a difference is made in the life of our students, the Tuscaloosa community and beyond.”

Joined by fellow BOA member Jessica Sanders Walker, Dunson presented Dr. Samory Pruitt, vice president for Community Affairs, with a gift to thank him for his leadership and vision of the BOA at the conclusion of the gala.

The BOA meeting officially began on Sunday, Oct. 22, with a lunch and overview of Community Affairs programs and announcements for the BOA, followed by a reception at Graham & Co. The fall 2023 agenda concluded with a breakfast on Tuesday, Oct. 24, at the Elyton Hotel in Birmingham.

BOA Member Partners with SEA for Aviation Day

BOA Member Partners with SEA for Aviation Day

by Dr. Elisabetta Zengaro
Communications Specialist, Division of Community Affairs

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – It looked like a scene out of “Top Gun” with Kenny Loggins’ “Danger Zone” playing in the background as STEM Entrepreneurship Academy (SEA) students donned their aviator sunglasses and posed for pictures outside the hangar of Sanders Aviation and Sanders Flight Training Center in Jasper, Alabama, during a special aviation day of camp on Wednesday, July 12.

Held annually during July, SEA is a one-week residential camp that provides rising high school juniors and seniors from across Alabama with opportunities to improve their knowledge and application of STEM while developing their entrepreneurship skills during hands-on workshops and hearing from experts in the field at The University of Alabama.

New this year was an aviation day partnership made possible in part by UA alumna Jessica Sanders Walker. Walker is the vice president of Sanders Aviation and Sanders Flight Training Center, and founder of the nonprofit, Operation Aviation Foundation (OAF), which encourages youth to seek education and career pathways in aviation.  

While visiting campus this past spring, Walker reconnected with Dr. Samory Pruitt, vice president for Community Affairs, who invited her to join the Community Affairs Board of Advisors (BOA). As a BOA member, she participated in the 2023 New Faculty Community Engagement Tour that resulted in a partnership with Andrea Ziegler, director of Community Education, and Jake Peterson, assistant director of Community Education. As part of the partnership, 2023 SEA students were invited to participate in an aviation day during OAF’s first summer camp.

During the camp, SEA students heard from industry professionals, including Tim Crumbly, NASA technical fellow for software assurance, and Kathy Byars, Center Executive Officer at Marshall Space Flight Center. Campers were also debriefed on the science of flying and participated in a flight simulator. As a woman in STEM, Walker is passionate about making STEM careers accessible to youth in underrepresented areas.

“As soon as Kathy Byars from NASA stopped talking, I saw all these young girls from [STEM Entrepreneurship] Academy run up to her, and they were just elated speaking to her,” said Walker. “That really warmed my heart because I remember what it felt like to be a young woman on campus at The University of Alabama, and there weren’t that many women doing things in a lot of STEM positions and aviation positions as there are now, so it is always so exciting to get to see someone like Kathy Byars in the role that she’s in and all the women who presented today.”

The motto of the BOA is coming back, giving back, which inspires Walker to expand aviation outreach within her community.

“The Division of Community Affairs has just been incredible,” Walker said. “I would like to thank the staff from Community Affairs and Dr. Kathleen Cramer, who has constantly steered me back to the University. I am forever grateful to Dr. [Samory] Pruitt, and The University of Alabama because it is about coming back, giving back.”  

BLAST Academy Helps K–8 Students Build Confidence and Knowledge

  • September 5th, 2023
  • in CCBP

BLAST Academy Helps K–8 Students Build Confidence and Knowledge

by Dr. Elisabetta Zengaro
Communications Specialist, Division of Community Affairs

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – BLAST Academy concluded its second year with a final showcase on July 28 at the English Building on the University of Alabama campus. Participating K–8 students demonstrated new confidence and skills learned during the four-week program. BLAST stands for Building Leaders Through the Arts STEAM and Teamwork.

“Both of my kids have been in multiple different summer camps over the years, and last year during the first year of BLAST it was their favorite experience and after the last day, they asked immediately ‘when can we go to BLAST again’,” said Dr. Adam Sterritt, assistant vice president for strategic initiatives for The University of Alabama’s Division of Student Life. “I think what they liked so much was the combination of all the different things they did. They both said that it was even better this year, and they can’t wait to do it again.”

Held on the UA campus from July 3–28, BLAST Academy encourages summer learning in a creative environment for students 5–14 years old with a focus on arts education and literacy, physical education, STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) and social and emotional learning. The program was expanded this year to include 7th– and 8th– grade students.  

During the STEAM sessions, students conducted science experiments and learned how mathematics is applied to the “real world” through use of numbers and shapes. Severe weather preparation is an important part of summertime in the South, and campers also learned how meteorologists use technology and tools created by engineers to report the weather. Outside the classroom, campers furthered their teamwork skills by playing soccer, volleyball and other team sports.

“She’s at the age where she loves school,” said Monique Prude, whose daughter participated in BLAST for the first time this year. “One of her elementary teachers sent me the information for it, so we tried it, and so far, she loved it. Coming home and hearing her talk about what they’ve done, that has been just the best part of it.”

During the final showcase, each age group performed a musical routine emphasizing the storytelling abilities they learned during the art and music education sessions. Prior to the performance, campers’ artwork and science journals were on display outside the auditorium for family and community members to view.

At the start of the showcase, camp instructors shared their reflections of working with the students over the summer.

“I worked BLAST last year, and I loved it,” said Zoe Griffin, a BLAST music education instructor. “I got such great experience practicing being a good leader and an effective instructor, and I loved working with the students.”

BLAST Academy is led by Dr. Daniela Susnara, director of planning and assessment for community engagement in the Center for Community-Based Partnerships.

BOA Talks Power of Connectivity During Fall 2023 Meeting

STEM Entrepreneurship Academy Showcases Students’ Creativity

  • August 1st, 2023
  • in CCBP

STEM Entrepreneurship Academy Showcases Students’ Creativity

by Dr. Elisabetta Zengaro
Communications Specialist, Division of Community Affairs

Winning projects from the 2023 STEM Entrepreneurship Academy (SEA) were announced at the final showcase in North Lawn Hall on July 14.  

Zamiyah Kilpatrick, Tavion Shaw and Maria Mitchell from Amelia Love Johnson High School (Marengo County) were named winners for their project, “Thomaston Community Cleanup.” BreAsia Pullum, Marquaveon Tabb, Christen Clark and Jakory Hudson from R.C. Hatch High School (Perry County) had the second winning project, “Community Wealth Starts with Great Mental Health — School Wellness Room.”

Each team received $500 in the form of grant funding for their schools to implement these programs.

“I have been blown away by the students’ willingness to share about themselves — their successes, their challenges, their dreams — and the effort they’ve put in to come up with an idea that will benefit their schools and communities,” said Quoc Hoang, director of experiential learning for the Culverhouse College of Business and SEA facilitator. “Throughout my life, people have invested in me and provided access to resources that fueled my ability to reach life and career aspirations. Serving as a facilitator in this year’s SEA has allowed me to share my story and talents with future community leaders and maybe even University of Alabama students.”  

Held July 10–14, SEA was a one-week residential camp that provided high school juniors and seniors from across Alabama with opportunities to improve their knowledge and application of STEM while developing their entrepreneurship skills during hands-on workshops and hearing from experts in the field at The University of Alabama.

“I’ve made a lot of good friendships,” said Savannah Dockery, a student at Sipsey Valley High School. “ … I learned a lot about electrical engineering, and that was fun … just getting to know people has been really fun.”

“It has been fun getting to meet new people and meeting engineers and scientists and people like that to tell you about how things are at UA,” added Hillcrest High School student Levy Russell.

UA STEM faculty volunteered to host workshops teaching practical aspects of STEM with activities to encourage students’ critical thinking. 

“Engineering at its core is about helping people,” Dr. Todd Freeborn, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, told students. “It’s about solving problems that make people’s lives better, so that’s really important to me. I love teaching students like all of you … helping you develop the skills, so you can solve the problems that are important to you.”

New this year was an aviation day partnership made possible in part by UA alumna Jessica Sanders Walker in which students traveled to Sanders Aviation and Sanders Flight Training Center in Jasper to learn about aviation from industry professionals. Walker is the vice president of Sanders Aviation and Sanders Flight Training Center and founder of the nonprofit, Operation Aviation Foundation, which encourages youth to seek education and career pathways in aviation. 

“I got to meet Jake [Peterson] and Andrea [Ziegler] on the New Faculty Community Engagement Tour, so this was kind of our first partnership, and we really want to grow it,” said Walker, who is also a member of the Community Affairs Board of Advisors.

The 28 students that participated in SEA were nominated by their respective schools and were from Amelia L. Johnson High School, Francis Marion High School, G.W. Carver High School, Hillcrest High School, Northside High School, Paul W. Bryant High School, R.C. Hatch High School, South Lamar High School, Sipsey Valley High School and Valiant Cross Academy.

Parent Teacher Leadership Academy Celebrates 2023 Graduation

  • July 25th, 2023
  • in CCBP

Parent Teacher Leadership Academy Celebrates 2023 Graduation

by Sophia Xiong

Graduate Assistant, Center for Community-Based Partnerships

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – The Parent Teacher Leadership Academy (PTLA) celebrated the graduation of its 2022–2023 class April 6 at the Tuscaloosa River Market. Parents and teachers from 35 schools joined the celebration.

PTLA is a fun and informative program for school teams of teachers and parents to come together to support learning opportunities for students. PTLA school teams meet for six sessions from September through March each academic year. School teams collaborate on a partnership project based on a school improvement goal. Teams also have opportunities to collaborate with other schools and districts during the sessions.

Andrea Ziegler, director for Community Education in the Center for Community-Based Partnerships, welcomed participants. “Throughout this year, parents and teachers have collaborated in school teams to create partnership projects aligned with one of their [respective] school’s improvement goals,” said Ziegler. “As you walked through here tonight, you saw evidence of these teams’ hard work throughout the year as you saw their project proposal posters. Our mission at PTLA is building community by supporting children and families. And that’s not only the stated purpose, but also echoes the values that are mirrored by our university’s strategic plan as a community-engaged institution.”

The graduation ceremony began with opening remarks by Dr. Samory Pruitt, vice president for Community Affairs. “Years ago, we thought about this program as an idea. I’m a math person, so when they said the broader the involvement, the higher the student achievement, my first thought was how many meetings do we have? Later I reached out to a friend in the College of Education, and we finally came up with a model. Now it’s been 16 years. The current leadership of Dr. Jim McLean and Andrea Ziegler reinvented it. This group is a little different, but it feels good to see that this program is still beneficial to the participants, and ultimately beneficial to children and families, which is what we set out to accomplish.”

Four school teams shared their projects. Thompson High School presented “Project Readiness” preparing students for success in high school; Southview Elementary School presented “Curriculum Ed Camp” to encourage parent support for academics; Cottondale Elementary School presented “Family Traditions Night” to showcase family diversity; and Bankhead Middle School presented “Cookie Decorating Contest” to support student social and emotional growth through the support of adult mentors.

“With the Curriculum Ed Camp for our parents, they are able to find different strategies to help their children on activities they can do at home,” said Cyrinthia Burrell, 4th-grade teacher at Southview Elementary. “We noticed that, this year, we see a grade increase in our classroom report card. By making the connection with parents, we hope next year we can get students better report cards again.”

Lindsey Williams, a Cottondale Elementary parent, also shared the importance of their group project. “We had a family traditions night at the end of March,” said Williams. “We asked everyone if they wanted to bring out a table and show what their family does. We also invited the Latino coalition, the United Way and the Alabama Multicultural Alliance as community partners to the event.”

In the last session, Ziegler announced the grant winners this year. Five school teams received grants from PTLA. They are Arcadia Elementary, Cottondale Elementary, Creek View Elementary, Taylorville Primary and Tuscaloosa Magnet School – Middle.