Category: CCBP

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.

Swim to the Top 2023 Showcase Recognizes Campers’ Success

  • July 12th, 2023
  • in CCBP

Swim to the Top 2023 Showcase Recognizes Campers’ Success

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

Campers demonstrated their skills in swimming, STEM, arts education, physical education and dance during the Swim to the Top final showcase at the Benjamin Barnes Branch YMCA on June 30. Four junior swim instructors were also recognized during the ceremony for their leadership.

“Swim to the Top has been with us for many years, and it has always added that value … children are able to swim or to be comfortable with water safely,” said LaKeda Smith, executive director of the Benjamin Barnes Branch YMCA.

The theme of safety and preparedness also carried through in the STEM enrichment portion as campers learned about severe weather. Younger campers learned how to build boats and buildings to withstand storms, while older campers learned how to code and design apps in age-appropriate STEM activities.

Children received multicultural learning in art education and dance with the theme “Around the World” and performed dance moves inspired by the different cultures they learned about. A few campers dribbled the soccer ball and scored basketball free throws, demonstrating the sports and teamwork skills they learned in the physical education component, before heading over to the Freeman Pool to show their families their new swimming skills.

“She comes home every day excited, and she talks about how she’s gotten comfortable with the water, how she can go all the way in,” said Yanna Johnson, whose daughter participated in Swim to the Top. “I don’t know how to swim personally, so it’s good for her to get comfortable with the water.”

This year, for the first time in program history, YMCA campers were invited to serve as junior swim instructors for the younger groups. They supported the lead swim instructors and helped teach the 4–8-year-olds how to swim. The junior swim instructor program developed as a collaboration among the Tuscaloosa YMCA, the Center for Community-Based Partnerships’ Emerging Community Engagement Scholars Program and Tuscaloosa County Parks and Recreation Authority.

“This is one of the longest-running programs that the Division of Community Affairs has been involved with,” said Dr. Jim McLean, associate vice president for Community Affairs and executive director of the Center for Community-Based Partnerships (CCBP). “It’s great to have a program where the kids love being involved and get to learn a lot of new skills, including skills that are lifesaving in nature.”

Held annually during June, Swim to the Top encourages children 4–14 to excel by teaching them lifesaving skills in water safety and additional skills in STEM enrichment, arts education, physical education and dance for a well-rounded experience. Swim to the Top is led by Dr. Daniela Susnara, director of planning and assessment for community engagement at CCBP.

Council hosts 17th Annual Excellence Awards

  • May 3rd, 2023
  • in CCBP

by By Dr. Elisabetta Zengaro

Communications Specialist, Division of Community Affairs

The Council on Community-Based Partnerships recognized University of Alabama students, faculty and staff, as well as community partners, for their achievements in community-engaged scholarship during the 17th Annual Excellence in Community Engagement Awards on April 20 at the UA Student Center Ballroom.

“Today we celebrate the remarkable individual efforts that embody the endeavors of the Council on Community-Based Partnerships, which are to bring resources and insights to a variety of challenges facing the public,” said Dr. Jim McLean, associate vice president for Community Affairs and executive director of UA’s Center for Community-Based Partnerships (CCBP). “We are here today to honor students, faculty, staff and community partners who are among the most efficient at The University of Alabama. I congratulate every one of you for your accomplishments.”

The day began with breakfast and an Engaged Scholarship Showcase where faculty, staff and students shared their research and experiences with community-engaged scholarship and teaching in a round-table discussion setting.

Before the luncheon, attendees had the opportunity to view research posters on display from UA faculty, staff and students. Topics ranged from the socioeconomic and ecological impacts of the proposed Interstate 14 on Selma to increasing access to doula care in Alabama.

This year’s poster award recipients are Jennifer Baggett, Hannah Corbin, Victoria Duignan, Baili Gall, Ayana Hendricks-Boyland, Dr. Holly Horan, Kefentse Kubanga, Rebecca Lewis, Emily Locke, Ella Magerl, Ozioma Omah, Jacob T. Peterson, Paige Rentfro, Jack Spalding, Dr. Daniela Susnara, Riley White and Andrea Ziegler.

Dr. Drew Pearl, director of community engagement research and publications for CCBP, recognized the 2022–2023 cohorts of the Emerging Community Engagement Scholars, Community Engaged Learning Fellows, and Public Engagement Learning Community.

Emily Locke, a doctoral student in anthropology and graduate research assistant to Pearl, followed, recognizing the 2022–2023 members of the Student Community Engagement Center Leadership Academy, which seeks to develop students’ leadership in engaged scholarship.

The Council also awards seed funding and graduate fellowships to support community-engaged research across campus.

Seed funding was awarded for two projects:

  • Allison Grant, assistant professor of art, for Wood and Springs
  • Dr. Stephanie McClure, assistant professor of anthropology, for The Period Study: Exploring and Addressing the Needs of Menstruating Adolescents
    Three faculty members were awarded Graduate Fellowships for 2023–2024:
  • Dr. Lisa Davis, associate professor in the Department of Geography, for Food Particles to Flood Plans: Assessing and Planning for Extreme Flood Risk in the Tennessee River Valley. Master’s student Mary Eminue will assist Davis.
  • Dr. Mercedes M. Morales-Aleman, assistant professor in the College of Community Health Sciences, for Improving Maternal Mental Health Outcomes for Black Women in the U.S. South: Examining Telehealth and In-Person Models of Care through an Academic-Community Partnership. Master’s student Kate Graziano will assist Morales-Aleman.
  • Dr. Ansley Gilpin, associate professor and director of graduate studies in the Department of Psychology, for Partnering with Schools: Teachers Deploying the Imagination Intervention to Improving Children’s Self-Regulation and School Readiness. Doctoral student Lindsey Held will assist Gilpin.
    Eleven individuals received Excellence in Community-Engaged Scholarship awards in three different areas.

Engaged Scholarship awardees included:

  • Dr. Kristine Jolivette, Paul and Mary Harmon Bryant endowed professor, College of Education, for Improving Juvenile Justice Facilities
  • Dr. Haley Townsend, assistant professor in the Capstone College of Nursing, for Project Wellness in Motion
  • Justin McCleskey, student, for his work as an intern with the Alabama Appleseed Center for Law and Justice
  • Jillian Maxcy-Brown, student, for Addressing Infrastructure Challenges in the Black Belt Region of Alabama through Evaluating Wastewater and Water Access Affordability
  • Dr. Cheryl Fondren, director of United Way of West Alabama’s Success by 6 program, and Dr. Allison Hooper, assistant professor of early childhood education, for Improving Kindergarten Readiness through the JumpStart Summer Program
  • Sally Smith, J.D., executive director for the Alabama Association of School Boards, for work to obtain funding that will make possible opportunities for individuals to become grant coaches for schools across the Black Belt
    Engaged Teaching and Learning (a new category this year) awardees included:
  • Dr. Chapman Greer, associate provost for general education and senior instructor of management, for MGT 456/556: Data Visualization
  • Dr. Yinghui Liu, assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, for STEM education
  • Dr. Chandra Clark, assistant professor in the Department of Journalism and Creative Media, for The World Games
    Civic Engagement (a new category this year) awardees included:
  • John Dodd, student, for his work in voter engagement
  • Dr. Jessy Ohl, associate professor in the Department of Communication Studies, for providing students with experiential learning opportunities through COM 341: American Political Rhetoric
    Alexa Ellis, a junior majoring in public health and psychology, received the 2023–2024 Zachary David Dodson Endowed Scholarship in recognition of her involvement with CCBP’s Language Partners, Vision Days and HomeFirst Programs, as well as its STEM Showcase.

The 2023 Distinguished Community-Engaged Scholar Award recipients are Dr. Blake Berryhill, associate professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies and director of the Marriage and Family Therapy Graduate Program in the College of Human Environmental Sciences; Dr. W. Ross Bryan, associate dean and associate professor in the Honors College; Katie Johnson, a graduate student in the Department of Religious Studies; and the Walker Area Community Foundation, led by President Paul W. Kennedy. Dr. Marcus Ashford, associate professor of mechanical engineering, was posthumously awarded as a Distinguished Community-Engaged Scholar.

Dr. Susan Carvalho, dean of the UA Graduate School and associate provost, received the Distinguished Special Achievement in Community Engagement award in recognition of her commitment to higher education leadership and for her unique contributions to the field of community-engaged scholarship.

For a complete list of the winning projects and more information about award recipients, please visit

Engaged Scholarship Showcase Highlights Community Engagement Projects

  • May 3rd, 2023
  • in CCBP

Engaged Scholarship Showcase Highlights Community Engagement Projects

by Sophia Xiong
CCBP Graduate Assistant

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Students and faculty got together for the Engaged Scholarship Showcase at the Student Center Ballroom on April 20. A complement to the 2023 Annual Excellence in Community Engagement Awards Luncheon, the showcase shares community-engaged work and inspires others to develop as engaged scholars.

In welcoming attendees, Dr. Drew Pearl, director of Community Engagement Research and Publications at the Center for Community-Based Partnerships, said, “Everything we do in the Division of Community Affairs is grounded in The 4 Rs: Relevance, Reciprocity, Research and Resilience. We want the research not only to contribute to scholarship, but also build sustainable and resilient partnerships with communities. I describe my work as helping to provide space and opportunity for others to do work of the imagination. We have ten teams this morning to share their imagination of possibilities and how they turn those possibilities into practice.”

Dr. Courtney Helfrecht, assistant professor of anthropology, and Dr. Jessica Wallace, assistant professor of health science and a core faculty member in the Athletic Training Program (College of Human Environmental Sciences), introduced Brain Day at UA, a program promoting brain health, which encompasses sleep, nutrition, mental health and preventing concussions. Participants included high school athletes from Dallas, Hale, Greene, Tuscaloosa, Pickens and Jefferson counties.

Helfrecht took part in the 2021–2022 Community-Engaged Learning Fellows Program. “Dr. Wallace and I began to collaborate about a year ago,” she said. Before that, she had worked with high schools and on children’s healthy development in the Department of Anthropology. These out-of-school activities and sports are demonstrably beneficial to student athletes’ well-being,” she said. “Now we’ve also got a lot of qualitative and quantitative work with an interdisciplinary team from the Department of Anthropology, the Department of Public Health, and the Department of Psychology. And our goal is to keep these student-athletes healthy and safe on the field.”

Jessica Nunes, a doctoral student in aerospace engineering and mechanics and president and founder of the Graduate Society of Women Engineers, introduced her project. “We have organized a lot of events and projects to increase women in STEM [science, technology, engineering, and mathematics] fields,” she said, adding that as part of the Public Engagement Learning Community she received a great deal of opportunities to talk with specialists in public engagement. “Also, through workshops and lessons, we saw different needs from the communities,” she said. “I also got to connect with people from different departments.”

Aswanth Sampathkumar, a doctoral student studying electrical and computer engineering, shared his thoughts on the showcase: “When we talk about science or STEM, the first thing people usually think of is a bunch of jargon, and that scares people away. But when we show them how fun it can be, they really get excited.”

Sampathkumar studies under Dr. Aijun Song, assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and recipient of a 2022–2023 graduate fellowship from UA’s Council on Community-Based Partnerships. Sampathkumar has been volunteering with MATHCOUNTS-Tuscaloosa since 2021. MATHCOUNTS is a nationwide middle school mathematics competition that promotes math education. “In addition to hosting the math competition, our goal is to reach out to middle school students who don’t have access to good math training. We also host a STEM demo event, where we present robots and electric cars to students and hope to motivate them to study STEM,” said Sampathkumar.

Middle Schoolers Demonstrate ‘Science in Action’ During 2023 STEM Showcase

  • February 1st, 2023
  • in CCBP

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

The Tuscaloosa community rallied to support middle schoolers’ scientific discoveries during the 2023 STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) Showcase on Jan. 28 at the Bryant Conference Center, during which the winning projects were also announced.

“It is quite inspiring to see such imagination and such learning that happened today,” said Andrea Ziegler, director of Community Education in the Division of Community Affairs’ Center for Community-Based Partnerships. “We are going to continue to grow the program and want to be there to support students in their learning process.”

Now in its third year, STEM Showcase originated as a collaborative science fair for middle schoolers in the Tuscaloosa area to become more involved with STEM.

“We’re so excited about students actually doing science. That’s the whole thrust of AMSTI [The Alabama Math, Science and Technology Initiative],” said Anna Daly, AMSTI-UA education specialist, who also serves on the planning committee for STEM Showcase. “And so, this is that application of all the learning that they’re doing, and they get to have a choice in what they research and go deep on into. It’s just so exciting for us to see science in action and the students being excited about science.”

This year, 67 middle schoolers representing the following schools participated in STEM Showcase: Eastwood Middle School, Northridge Middle School, Sipsey Valley Middle School, The Capitol School, Tuscaloosa Academy and Tuscaloosa Magnet School – Middle.

To participate, 6th–8th graders submitted a project either individually or as a team that addressed 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 really liked coming up with an idea on my own and then being able to execute it and then show it off to everyone,” said Rosie Zhang, winner of the medicine and health sciences category.

Parents enjoyed seeing their child learn the scientific process firsthand. “What I liked most about this was that they did it on their own,” Jade Gibson said. “My daughter did not ask me for any help with anything except for getting her supplies. For them to come up with something that was practical to our everyday lives, I thought that that was an awesome task for them.”

Winners may go on to participate in the Central Alabama Regional Science and Engineering Fair at The University of Alabama at Birmingham. Additionally, two special awards were given. Max Morgan, Rachel Shu and Alex Zhu received the Microchip Award in the area of engineering or applied science. Aniketh Kalyan received the Microchip Award in the area of computer or software engineering.

Category Winners and Runners-Up

Winners in behavioral and social sciences were Silvia Hancock and Ariq Isyraqi, both of Northridge Middle School. The runner-up was Fanuel Tsheyae of Tuscaloosa Magnet School – Middle.

The winner in biology was Markiian Shylenko of Northridge Middle School. 

Winners in chemistry were Henry Bearden and Maddie Lee, both  of Tuscaloosa Magnet School – Middle. The runner-up was Kielei Whitfield of Tuscaloosa Magnet School – Middle.

Winners in energy and transportation were Max Morgan, Rachel Shu and Alex Zhu, all of Northridge Middle School. Runners-up were Marichase Hamner, Caraleigh Hope and Victoria Walker, all of Sipsey Valley Middle School.

The winner in engineering was Lubaina Ahmed of Tuscaloosa Magnet School – Middle. The runner-up was Jacob Scofield of Tuscaloosa Magnet School – Middle.

The winner in environmental and earth sciences was Jacob Shankman of Northridge Middle School. The runner-up was Ela Melouk of Tuscaloosa Magnet School – Middle.

The winner in mathematics and computer science was Aeesha Mulani of Tuscaloosa Magnet School – Middle.

The winner in medicine and health science was Rosie Zhang of Northridge Middle School. The runner-up was Laryn Word of Tuscaloosa Magnet School – Middle.

The winners in physical sciences were Jayden Yoon and Jackson York, both of Northridge Middle School. The runners-up were Jireh Gibson, Shaniyah Holifield and Ty’Leah Parks, all of Eastwood Middle School.

Vision Days Legacy Supports Students’ Success

  • December 12th, 2022
  • in CCBP
Vision Days Legacy Logo

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

College is a time of transition for high school students, and the Vision Days Legacy program aids that transition by connecting students with resources and programs to support their success once they arrive at The University of Alabama.

Established in October 2020, the Legacy program is a branch of Vision Days that supports and helps develop opportunities at UA for students who completed the Vision Days four-year program in high school and chose to attend UA. Student ambassadors within the Legacy program provide academic and social support for underrepresented undergraduate students and Alabama high school students.

Malika Freeman, a senior majoring in biology and a Legacy ambassador, described the experience of working with the Vision Days program as seeing a “light switch [on] in their eyes” when interacting with the high schoolers who participate in Vision Days.

“It makes me want to help more, bring more people to campus with backgrounds like me,” said Freeman.

Ambassadors, like senior biology major LeAnna Roberts, are typically chosen from former Vision Days participants.

“I went to Central High School [in Tuscaloosa], so I remember going on tours with Vision Days,” she said. “I started volunteering [with Vision Days] once I got to UA and enjoyed it and then applied to be an ambassador.”

The Vision Days Legacy program is led by undergraduate Legacy ambassadors like Freeman and Roberts. Ambassadors are responsible for developing and coordinating the Legacy program, its mentorship initiative, and the student groups’ short- and long-term goals.

“What I have learned most is how to get a program started, the logistics of it, how much time it takes [and] having to be more detail oriented,” Freeman said.

As Freeman explained, ambassadors work behind the scenes with the Legacy program to support Vision Days. Specifically, Freeman designs presentations for meetings or program activities, such as for Vision Days’ most recent event, its first FAFSA (Federal Student Aid) night on Oct. 27.

Ambassadors assist high school students with the admissions process, scholarship applications and keeping up with important deadlines. FAFSA night was just one example of how ambassadors support the needs of high school students that are part of Vision Days.

Amelia Poolos, a sophomore majoring in psychology and biology, also a Legacy ambassador, said these activities also support recruitment initiatives, such as leading campus tours for the 9th–12th grade students who visit UA for Vision Days.

“We get to lead the groups and talk to the high schoolers and see if they’re interested in coming here and what they want to do here, and just talk to them about future plans,” said Poolos.

Getting to share insight into college life is something that Vision Days Legacy ambassadors say is most rewarding.

“I would say I’ve enjoyed the appreciativeness,” Roberts said. “Every high school, especially when you have a small group of eight or seven and [are] able to talk to each of them, they’re very interested and curious to know your experience and what you’re doing.”

“I just like giving back to people because somebody did it for me, and I just think it’s really cool,” Poolos added.

High School Seniors Experience College Life During Vision Days

  • November 29th, 2022
  • in CCBP

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

High School seniors from across Alabama visited The University of Alabama for a firsthand experience of college life and the application process during fall Vision Days from September–October.

“It’s a good experience,” said Samya Jones, senior from Hamilton High School. “I’m learning new things, and I get to learn more information about the campus.”

Sponsored by the Division of Community Affairs, Vision Days is a campus-wide effort focusing on the college readiness of high school students from rural and underrepresented areas in Alabama.

Led by Dr. Daniela Susnara, director of planning and assessment for community engagement, the four-year program is designed to prepare high schoolers for the college experience through curated tours and information sessions that vary according to grade level.

Students began the day with a scavenger hunt, a walking tour across campus that introduced students to UA resources through visiting campus sites, such as the Gorgas Library and Honors College.

“Honestly, I’m probably leaning towards just coming here … because I was thinking about going to Bevill State … but it looks like I’m probably going to just go here for my first college years and just go for my full four years,” said David Madison, senior at Hubbertville High School. “It’s just the people, the community, the food, everything, just everything just looks nice.”

After the walking tour, students heard presentations from University admissions and financial aid staff, which many high school participants said was their most important takeaway from Vision Days.

“They’re all fun and nice, and then it honestly does just really help because the college application process is super complicated and getting to know the school and seeing if I really want to go here and then learning more about how to apply and all the different aspects of it is really helpful,” said Zoe Shore, senior from Central High School.

Vision Days’ campus visits for seniors are also designed to prepare high schoolers for life beyond college. Therefore, students ended the day with discussion panels that addressed opportunities within the Honors College, graduate and law school, and scholarships.

“I think it’s amazing,” said Seigfried Williams, choir director for Greene County High School and one of the advisors present. “It just gives them exposure. It kind of gives them an idea about what they want to do after high school.”

“A lot of them haven’t seen like an actual college campus … so I think it’s good for them to see overall the experience of it,” added Ashley Holman, school counselor at Sulligent High School.

For fall 2022, 579 seniors from 19 high schools across Alabama participated in Vision Days.