6 months ago

A Vision of Purpose: New Alabama Career Center Provides A Model of Partnership

Xavier Terry is a kid who some teachers may have written off. Thankfully, Kenny Hagen wasn’t one of them. Kenny is Xavier’s welding instructor at the brand-new Geneva, Alabama Regional Career Tech Center, also known as G-Tech. Mr. Hagen recently made Xavier “Foreman of the Week” in his welding class, and the student thrived in the leadership role. What’s more, he’s receiving college credit for his work.

As G-Tech’s Principal, Chris Duke explained, “The Foreman of the Week program is something Kenny came up with to select students capable of being in a supervisory role and getting things done. This is very powerful because it gives young men like Xavier a taste of success right now, and that’s so critical to their future because success breeds success.”

Alabama State Rep. Donnie Chesteen, who played a critical role in making G-Tech a reality, agreed:

“I don’t think anyone had ever given Xavier a chance to lead, but when Kenny Hagen did, he blossomed. Now he realizes, ‘I can do something good with my life.’ Xavier has proved to himself, to his peers, and to his instructors that he’s a capable and competent young man who takes responsibility. He bears his weight and he can lead others. Now Xavier has a vision for his future, and from all indications, a strong sense of purpose and hope.”

Codi Clemmons is another G-Tech student who, like Xavier, was recently given a big role, and she proved herself in dramatic fashion. Codi’s a student at Samson High and is enrolled in G-Tech’s aviation program. Principal Duke asked her to give a speech at G-Tech’s opening ceremony this week. “She was amazing,” Chesteen said, “she never even glanced at her notes…that’s better than most legislators I know,” he quipped. “Seriously though, that’s how smart and good she is, and now Alabama’s governor and an entire community are aware of the kind of young people we have here at G-Tech. Who’s to say Codi or Xavier won’t be Alabama’s governor one day?”

G-Tech is critically important because more than half of the students who graduate from high school in Geneva County never attend college. “That’s why it is so vital to our community,” Rep. Chesteen said. “Now all four of our county’s high schools can offer these students a real opportunity to learn a useful skill or trade that leads to a marketable degree.”

Like most great things, however, G-Tech was not built in a day. Its funding was made possible by a $50-million bond passed in 2014 that allows the Alabama National Guard to repurpose old armories built in the 1950’s through collaborative partnerships. Nevertheless, the road to the making it a reality was not an easy one.

“I was told ‘no’ so many times I lost count,” the State Represenative and former high school football coach explained. “But with each ‘no’ I would smile because I knew it meant we were one step closer to a yes. God gave me the opportunity to serve the people of this district, and with His help, I was determined not to waste that opportunity. By His grace, people begin to see our vision, and the dream started becoming a reality.”

As Chesteen explained, the Alabama National Guard played a tremendous role in making G-Tech a reality.

“Without the National Guard and their incredible support, G-Tech would have never happened, so our community owes them a huge debt of gratitude. Their architects and engineers would come to planning meetings eager to serve and help, asking things like “What do you need to make this work for your classes?” I can never express how appreciative I am for all of those folks in the Guard. They did yeoman’s work, and because of it numerous kids are benefitting today.”

The Guard’s adjutant general, Maj. Gen. Sheryl Gordon embraces the opportunity to be involved in partnerships like the one with G-Tech. As she told Yellowhammer:

“We have worked with Alabama Law Enforcement Association, The Department of Human Resources, state and local school boards, and other state agencies and municipalities.  Without fail, each partnership has saved money, built relationships, and allowed us to do something that no single partner could have done alone.  We believe we are stewards of the public’s trust and resources – we don’t take this responsibility lightly.  Moving forward, this is how business will be done.”

Rep. Chesteen also noted that Geneva County School Superintendent Becky Birdsong was the only person that started the project with him that was still in it when the dream was finally realized. “Becky deserves tons of credit,” he said. When asked about the project, Superintendent Birdsong explained why G-Tech is such a vital resource to the County:

“In rural Geneva County, industry and good jobs are hard to come by. Our county has 900 miles of roads, and 500 of those miles are dirt roads. Our students come from hard-working families who want the best for their children. Many of our students go to college, but not all. There’s a tremendous need for programs that will give our students a head-start on their careers and futures. G-tech is just that! It’s a culmination of three years of hard work and determination to offer new career tech programs for our students. It is a product of adults getting out of the way and doing what is best for students. As a superintendent, that’s when I know we have gotten it right!”

Geneva City Schools Superintendent Rhonda Stringham “wholeheartedly joined the effort as soon as she was hired and also worked tirelessly with us,” Chesteen added, “seeing it through to the end.” Superintendent Stringham also shared her optimism over G-Tech, telling Yellowhammer:

“We are excited about the career opportunities that will open up for our students that haven’t been available here before. Geneva City and Geneva County students deserve to have the same options during high school that other students across Alabama have had for years. I’m very proud of our students and their parents for recognizing the jump-start in life these programs will give them. Many thanks to The Guard, Rep Chesteen, Governor Ivey, and the ACCS for making this dream possible for our kids.”

Many others also helped in tremendous ways, Chesteen said. Wiregrass Electric Cooperative’s Les Moreland and Brad Kimbro did great work in developing the G-Tech logo and branding it in a way that shows our community how it effectively it serves our kids.

G-Tech opened last month to kick off the new 2017-2018 school year, and its five programs offer juniors and seniors from Geneva County’s four high schools college credit for the work they complete. Students from Geneva High, Geneva County High, Samson High, and Slocomb High all come to G-Tech, and are able to do so without limiting their participation in extracurricular activities. In fact, Geneva High’s starting varsity quarterback, Mason Coskrey, is also a G-Tech student.

Having students from all four high schools is important, Duke said. “These young people are learning valuable lessons by stepping outside of their immediate circle of friends. They come here and learn to get along with kids from other schools and they begin to see that the world really is a small place when people work together.”

G-Tech’s five programs are education (training for future teachers), health sciences, auto repair, aviation technology, and welding. George B. Wallace Community College in Dothan provides the instructor for the welding program; Enterprise State Community College provides an instructor for the aviation program, and L. B. Wallace Community College in Andalusia provides an instructor for the automotive program. Again, all of these are dual enrollment programs that allow G-Tech students to earn college credits for their coursework.

Duke charcterized it well, stating:

“G-Tech represents the epitome of partnership. We have three community colleges, four high schools, the Alabama National Guard, and two boards of education collaborating for a greater purpose, and the kids pick up on that. As I tell them, we want you to LEARN, GROW and GO, meaning take what you’ve learned here and go make a positive contribution. I’ve been in education for eighteen years and this is, by far, the best thing I’ve ever been a part of. I’m thankful that we’re able to give them a head-start in their profession because that makes a huge difference in their lives, and in our community. They are the future of the Wiregrass.”

Geneva County residents aren’t the only ones that see G-Tech’s value. At the ribbon-cutting ceremony where Codi wooed the crowd, Governor Kay Ivey was on hand, along with Alabama Power executive Zeke Smith who’s also chairman of the Alabama Workforce Council, and Jimmy Baker, chancellor of the Alabama Community College Systems. “Their attendance speaks volumes to the power of what was at one time just a dream that’s now become a reality for students in Geneva County,” Chesteen said.

Also recognizing the compelling nature of G-Tech’s mission is the United States Army. Each year the Army gives five awards across the entire United States to communities who bring about positive change through partnerships with the Guard. Remarkably, G-Tech was one of those five recipients this year. “For a small, rural Alabama county to win this prestigious, national award is an extraordinary achievement,” Chesteen said.

“What a tremendous honor,” Chris Duke agreed. “It shows that this unified effort among community leaders like Rep. Chesteen, the Alabama National Guard, the County Board of Education, the City Board of Education, and our four community colleges are making a huge difference in the lives of the kids we serve.”

As Chesteen concluded:

“Spending many years as a high school football coach helped me realize that kids need more than sports. I’d often ask them what they wanted to do after high school and many of my players would give the standard answer: ‘Play football for Auburn or Alabama.’ When I tried to lovingly explain how that was a longshot if not an impossibility for many of them, and would press them for something more, their answers would almost always be the same: ‘I don’t know.’ This haunted me for years because many of these kids had no vision, and even worse, they believed they had nothing to offer. The G-Tech career center is changing that for our studens, and that’s incredibly encouraging. We owe it to these young people to show them that they do matter, and to help cast a vision of what their lives can be as productive members of a thriving community. G-Tech does that in a tangible way and it’s truly helping to change their lives.”

Indeed, it is, and hopefully, G-Tech will be a model of what can be done across Alabama when communities unite to improve education. The result is that it inspires kids like Xavier, Codi, and Mason, who just might change the world.


array(1) {

2 hours ago

The Hollywood Conservative shares her views on the celebrities moving because of Trump

The Hollywood Conservative, Amanda Head, tunes in for “The Final 30” to talk about how she’s been lately and updating The Ford Faction on the places she’s been to.  Amanda sheds light on the list of celebrities moving away from America due to President Trump winning the 2016 Election.  Amanda talks about social media titans Snapchat and Instagram dumping the GIF site Giphy because of one user being offended by her search results.

Subscribe to the Yellowhammer Radio Presents The Ford Faction podcast on iTunes or Stitcher.

3 hours ago

Nancy Collat Goedecke is a 2018 Yellowhammer Woman of Impact

Nancy Collat Goedecke is a powerhouse not just in the business world, but the philanthropic sphere, as well.

She also is a 2018 Yellowhammer Woman of Impact.


Goedecke, who serves as CEO of Mayer Electric Supply in Birmingham, became the first-ever woman to chair the United Way of Central Alabama fundraising campaign in 2015. Under her leadership, the charity raised $38.8 million, about $600,000 more than the previous year.

Business and philanthropy both run in the family. Her grandfather, Ben Weil, founded Mayer Electric Supply in 1930, and her parents took over the business in 1979. Their philanthropy includes $25 million in contributions to the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Business, which took on the name Collat School of Business in 2013.

“I grew up watching my mom and dad give back to the community — first with their time, and then with their money and their time,” Goedecke told AL.com in 2015.

Goedecke told the website that she recalled her parents going door to door soliciting donations for the United Way. Community service, she said, is “just in my DNA.”

Goedecke worked her way up the company, starting with summer jobs in high school. After college, she worked as a sales associate in Tampa, Florida, before returning to Birmingham. She became vice chairwoman of the board in 2005 and chairwoman and CEO three years later.

The UAB Commission on the Status of Women honored Goedecke as one of seven Outstanding Women for 2015.

The list of Goedecke’s charitable activities is long. In addition to the United Way, she has supported the Collat School of Business and has contributed to the school’s Women and Infants Center. She has volunteered with the Girl Scouts of North-Central Alabama and Pathways of Birmingham. She has led more than a dozen fundraising campaigns, including the YWCA, the American Red Cross and Collat Jewish Family Services.

“You know how they say, you give a busy person something to do and they find a way to do it?” she told AL.com. “I don’t waste a lot of time.”

Brendan Kirby is senior political reporter at LifeZette.com and a Yellowhammer contributor. He also is the author of “Wicked Mobile.” Follow him on Twitter.

4 hours ago

Sexton, Petty lead Alabama by Virginia Tech 86-83

Avery Johnson has spent plenty of time trying to convince Alabama freshman star Collin Sexton to take ownership of his play and the Crimson Tide, a message the coach has repeated frequently during his team’s uneven season.

It finally seems to be getting through. The fact it took until March hardly matters.

“(Sexton’s) giving more speeches to our team, which is showing leadership,” Johnson said.

Make no mistake, however. It’s the point guard’s play — and not his talk — that sent the Crimson Tide into the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Sexton shook off a shaky and foul-marred first half to score 21 of his team-high 24 points after the break as Alabama took control late in an 86-83 victory over Virginia Tech on Thursday night.


“The coaches prepare us for stuff like this,” Sexton said. “They do so many hours of film, and they tell us all the answers to the test.”

The proof came during the second half.

Sexton made six of 10 field goals and 10 of 14 free throws over the final 20 minutes, including a jumper that got a friendly bounce off the back of the rim and a turnaround that gave the Crimson Tide a bit of breathing room in a game that featured 10 lead changes and never saw either club go in front by more than seven points.

No. 9 seed Alabama will face top-seeded Villanova in the East Region’s second round on Saturday. The Wildcats had little trouble dispatching Radford earlier Thursday.

Things weren’t nearly as easy for the Crimson Tide, who needed Sexton and freshman backcourt mate John Petty — and a serious uptick in defensive intensity in the late going — to reach the round 32 for the first time since 2006.

Sexton and Petty were in elementary school back then. Now they’re the centerpiece of Johnson’s dynamic attack with the Crimson Tide (20-15). Alabama shot 60 percent (30 of 50) from the floor. Petty, mired in a serious slump near the end of the regular season, finished with 20 points while making six of eight 3-pointers, including three in the first half to help the Crimson Tide hang around until Sexton got going.

“When I get in that type of mode, I feel like no one can stop me from shooting the ball,” Petty said. “I always have my eyes locked on my target and I’m going to hit it.”


Point guard Justin Robinson led the eighth-seeded Hokies (21-12) with 19 points but fouled out after being whistled for a charge with 48 seconds remaining and Virginia Tech down 78-74. Hokies coach Buzz Williams got a technical foul after erupting in frustration. Sexton made one of two free throws and then added two more on Alabama’s ensuing possession to give the Crimson Tide just enough of a cushion.

“I shouldn’t have had a towel in my hand,” Williams said. “That made it look worse.”

The bigger issue for Virginia Tech was an inability to keep Alabama in check. The Hokies forced 17 turnovers but couldn’t slow down Petty and had trouble whenever Sexton got into the lane. Alabama made 20 of 30 2-point shots, including 11 of 14 in the second half.


Johnson paid tribute to New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson, who died on Thursday at age 90. Benson gave Johnson, a New Orleans native, a Super Bowl ring after the Saints won their only title in February 2010 after Johnson served as a consultant and honorary ambassador for the club.

“He meant so much to the city of New Orleans and the state of Louisiana and so many people,” Johnson said.


Alabama: Sexton might be the thinking man’s version of Oklahoma star point guard Trae Young. Sexton lacks Young’s shooting touch, but his quickness makes it nearly impossible to keep him out of the lane. And rather than force shots late, Sexton tried to get to the rim.

Virginia Tech: The Hokies are on the rise in the Atlantic Coast Conference, but success in March remains elusive. Virginia Tech has just one NCAA Tournament win in the last 21 years.


Alabama will try to reach the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2004 when it takes on Villanova.

(Image: Collin Sexton, Alabama Men’s Basketball/Twitter)

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

4 hours ago

Alabama sheriff pocketing $750,000 in jail-food money draws new attention to old law

A recent report about the more than $750,000 that Etowah County Sheriff Todd Entrekin has pocketed over the last three years in extra “Food Provisions” money has reinvigorated attention into a state law that allows sheriffs to keep leftover money not used to feed inmates.

The report, authored by Birmingham News reporter Connor Sheets, details how Entrekin used the money to purchase a $740,000 home in Orange Beach last September, raising questions of whether the sheriff is doing right by inmates and taxpayers by keeping the money.

Entrekin has defended himself against insinuations of illegality or misconduct, saying he has followed the law.


“The Food Bill is a controversial issue that’s used every election cycle to attack the Sheriff’s Office,” Entrekin told NPR News. “Alabama Law is clear regarding my personal financial responsibilities of feeding inmates. Until the legislature acts otherwise, the Sheriff must follow the current law.”

The chief argument against the law used to justify such behavior was summarized by Aaron Littman, a staff attorney at the Southern Center for Human Rights who in conjunction with the Alabama Appleseed Center has sued 49 Alabama sheriffs for access to records dealing with inmate feeding funds.

“This archaic system is based on a dubious interpretation of state law that has been rejected by two different Attorneys General of Alabama, who concluded that the law merely allows sheriffs to manage the money and use it for official purposes–not to line their own pockets,” Littman said in a statement in January. “It also raises grave ethical concerns, invites public corruption, and creates a perverse incentive to spend as little as possible on feeding people who are in jail.”

Critics cite the case of former Morgan County Sheriff Greg Bartlett, who was ordered by a federal judge to stop personally taking money from the inmate-food account when prisoners testified to receiving inadequate meals.

Some sheriffs have told a different story about their responsibilities to feed inmates.

Colbert County Sheriff Frank Williamson, one of the sheriffs on the lawsuit, told WAAY 31 in January that he had to take out a $10,000 loan to help pay for meals because the $1.75 per diem per inmate wasn’t covering the bill.

“I had to borrow money to do this on my own personal social security number and I still owe money on that,” Williamson told WAAY 31.

5 hours ago

Licensing away economic prosperity in Alabama

Do you want to alleviate poverty in Alabama? Do you want to curb the power of special interest groups over government agencies? Do you want more affordable goods and services in basic industries?  Do you want to help disadvantaged groups find good jobs and become productive citizens? Do you want to reduce the population of our overcrowded prisons?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you should read a new report published by the Alabama Policy Institute titled “The Costs of Occupational Licensing in Alabama.”


Coauthored by Daniel Smith (Troy University), Courtney Michaluk (Troy University), David Hall (Troy University), and Alex Kanode (George Mason University), the report details the effects of occupational licensure on our state.

What is occupational licensure? In short, it’s governmental regulation requiring people to obtain a license before entering into certain trades or fields.

Sounds harmless, right? Aren’t these regulations in place to protect consumers from exploitation and inexpert practices? Such reasoning led to the rise in occupational licensure, which today extends to several zones of economic activity.

However well-meaning, occupational licensure has had unintended consequences on the people it’s designed to protect. Instead of helping average consumers, it lines the pockets of industries that have lobbied to regulate away entrepreneurial forces that drive down costs.

If you’re poor and trying to find low-skilled work as a barber, manicurist, eyebrow threader, hair stylist, school bus driver, or shampoo assistant, you must obtain a license first. This license may be prohibitively expensive because of renewal fees, coursework, continuing education, and so forth.

“Alabama licenses a total of 151 occupations,” according to the report, “covering over 432,000 Alabama workers, which represents over 21 percent of the labor force.” Think about that: more than two of every 10 people working in Alabama need a license to do what they do for a living. Licensing boards governing admission standards and prerequisites can mandate expensive training and dues that don’t affect the quality of industry services.

Economists refer to occupational licensure as a barrier to entry. Barriers to entry ensure that those already within a profession or trade can raise prices to artificially high levels, in effect squeezing out competition by using the mechanisms of government to control the market.

Inflated prices harm low-income families who cannot afford to buy what they could have bought if the market had set prices based on natural supply and demand. Spouses of military service members often suffer from occupational licensure because, when they move from state to state, they must jump through hoops to enter the licensed profession in which they practiced in other jurisdictions.

Occupational licensure is, in short, a net burden on the economy, escalating prices, limiting consumer choice, and restricting economic mobility.  The API report estimates that the overall costs of occupational licensure in Alabama exceed $122 million. That’s a lot of money. What can be done to keep some of it in the hands of the ordinary people who need it most?

The report proposes five reforms for Alabama policymakers:

1. “[T]hey can reform current procedures for extending occupational licensing to new occupations and mandate thorough review processes to ensure that licensing is not extended to new occupations without a demonstrable and severe threat to consumer safety that cannot be overcome with the market mechanisms, such as consumer or expert reviews, reputation, guarantees, or private certification, or the already existing government laws, such as those dealing with liability, fraud, misrepresentation, and false advertising.”

2. “[T]hey can establish procedures to systematically review all licensure requirements for currently licensed occupations to ensure that they do not require unnecessary or excessive requirements or costs for licensure.

3. “[T]hey can systematically review all currently licensed occupations to determine, individually, whether a demonstrable severe threat to consumer safety exists. If not, they can remove occupation licensing entirely for those occupations.”

4. “[They] can explore licensure reforms that specifically target ex-offenders” to reduce the prison population and criminal recidivism.

5. “[They] can … explore occupational licensing reform with military members and their families in mind.”
A short article cannot capture the nuance and particulars of the entire report; readers should view the report for themselves to make up their own minds.

During this time of partisan divide and political rancor, people of good faith on both the left and the right can agree that something needs to be done about occupational licensure. The problem cannot continue to grow. It presents a unique opportunity for Republican and Democratic lawmakers to come together to ease economic burdens on the people of Alabama. Let’s hope they seize it.

(Image: Pixabay)

Allen Mendenhall is associate dean at Faulkner University Thomas Goode Jones School of Law and executive director of the Blackstone & Burke Center for Law & Liberty.