2 years ago

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

From Left to Right: G-Tech student Xavier Terry, Rep. Donnie Chesteen, G-Tech Student Codi Clemmons

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.”

Samson High and G-Tech student Codi Clemmons addresses the crowd at the G-Tech ribbon cutting ceremony (Photo by Joshua Thurston)

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!”

Left to Right: Geneva City Schools Superintendent Rhonda Stringham, Wallace Community College President, Dr. Linda Young, Geneva County School Superintendent Becky Birdsong

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.

Left to Right: Rep. Chesteen, Governor Ivey, G-Tech Principal, Chris Duke (Photo by Joshua Thurston)

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.

9 hours ago

Nick Saban: I still consider Jalen Hurts ‘one of our players’

MOBILE — Former University of Alabama Crimson Tide star quarterback Jalen Hurts is still beloved by many in Bama nation, including head coach Nick Saban.

Saban has spoken this past year about his respect and admiration for Hurts. However, speaking to members of the media on Wednesday at the second day of Senior Bowl Week practices at Ladd-Peebles Stadium, Saban made it clear he really feels that Hurts is still part of the Tide family.

To open his remarks, Saban said, “My only comment is we’re glad to be here. It’s always great to come back to Mobile for the Senior Bowl. It’s such a tradition, and I think this community really embraces this game.”

“It’s really good for the players to have the opportunity to showcase their talent, any player from any place but especially good to see our players be able to do it — and Jalen, who I still consider one of our players … always good to be here to support our players,” Saban continued.


The legendary coach then answered questions for approximately four minutes.

He discussed what NFL teams will like about both Hurts and outgoing Tide junior quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.


This came after Hurts this week has spoken highly of the University of Alabama football program, its fanbase and the state of Alabama.

Hurts will wear a two-sided helmet during Saturday’s Senior Bowl game; one side is a replica of his iconic No. 2 Bama helmet, and the other has the Oklahoma Sooners logo on it.

RELATED: Bama’s Jared Mayden glad to be reunited with ‘natural leader’ Jalen Hurts for Senior Bowl

Hurts recently said about Saban, “We always had a love for each other … our relationship will never die.”

Get tickets to Saturday’s Senior Bowl game here.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

10 hours ago

Shelby County sheriff one of 18 officials appointed to Trump law enforcement commission

Shelby County Sheriff John Samaniego on Wednesday was named by the U.S. Department of Justice as an appointee to the newly-established Presidential Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice.

U.S. Attorney General William Barr appointed Samaniego and 17 other law enforcement officials from across the nation to the commission, which was created through executive order by President Donald Trump in late October.

The commission will explore modern issues affecting law enforcement that most impact the ability of American policing to reduce crime, according to the DoJ.

“There is no more noble and important profession than law enforcement,” Barr said in a statement. “A free and safe society requires a trusted and capable police force to safeguard our rights to life and liberty.”


“But as criminal threats and social conditions have changed the responsibilities and roles of police officers, there is a need for a modern study of how law enforcement can best protect and serve American communities,” he continued. “This is why the President instructed me to establish this critical Commission, whose members truly reflect the best there is in law enforcement. Together, we will examine, discuss, and debate how justice is administered in the United States and uncover opportunities for progress, improvement, and innovation.”

Read more about the commission here.

This comes after Samaniego was recently named as the winner of the 2019 Crime Stopper of the Year Award by Crime Stoppers of Metro Alabama.

On Monday, he was one of eight Alabama sheriffs to publicly endorse former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ 2020 bid to return to the Senate.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

10 hours ago

Etowah County mega-site to receive $2.7M in improvements

The Etowah County-located Little Canoe Creek mega-site is to receive $2.7-million in improvements as part of an effort to make it a more attractive location to potential industry.

The site is composed of around 1,100 acres just off of I-59 southwest of the city of Gadsden. The funding for the improvements comes from a donation by the Norfolk Southern Corporation.

According to a release sent to Yellowhammer News, the improvements “will include grading a portion of the over 1,000-acre property to create a pad-ready rail-served site sufficient to accommodate a large industry. Natural gas lines will be relocated near the edge of the property, and a new railroad crossing will be added to the industrial access road off U.S. Highway 11.”


“The mega-site has many location advantages for industrial recruitment and this project will improve upon its assets and greatly increase our overall competitiveness,” said Marilyn Lott, economic development director for Etowah County.

Etowah County began buying the land that now composes the Little Canoe Creek site in 2008. In addition to bordering the local interstate, the site is also adjacent to U.S. Highway 11 and a Norfolk Southern mainline.

Little Canoe Creek was designated an “Alabama AdvantageSite” in 2018. Being labeled an “AdvantageSite” amounts to a guarantee from the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama “that the site is ready for major industrial use.”

According to local leaders, a key factor in the improvements announced on Wednesday is the Growing Alabama Tax Credit. A credit “is equal to 100% of the donating taxpayer’s contributions to the economic development opportunity during the taxable year for which the credit is claimed and may offset up to 50% of the taxpayer’s income tax liability.”

“We truly appreciate this funding made possible by Norfolk Southern and the state,” said Jeffery Washington, president of the Etowah County Commission.

“This infrastructure improvement project at the Little Canoe Creek Mega-Site perfectly illustrates how we can use the Growing Alabama Credit as a tool to facilitate growth and expand employment,” added Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

10 hours ago

Steve Marshall travels to D.C. to urge Senate to reject Trump impeachment articles

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall on Wednesday traveled to Washington, D.C. to file a blistering 14-page “friend of the Senate” letter urging the upper chamber to reject the two articles of impeachment filed against President Donald J. Trump.

The Senate on Tuesday began the impeachment trial of Trumps, and Marshall joined 20 of his Republican attorneys general from across the nation in signing the letter.

However, Marshall was only one of six of the attorneys general invited to the U.S. Capitol to attend a press conference Wednesday commenting on their letter and the impeachment trial.

Of the letter, Marshall remarked, “It is thorough. It is a full examination of both the facts and the law that the Senate has to apply. But despite that significant analysis, fundamentally what that letter is about is the idea of fairness — or maybe better said, the lack of fairness.”


“As a prosecutor for 20 years, what I’ve seen is an unfair process brings about an unjust result,” Marshall advised. “And that is what the Senate now has an opportunity to stop.”

“I also find it remarkable, as somebody who has stood before juries and judges, whose brought charging instruments against defendants, to now hear the House say that they are not prepared. And that they are not ready. What that simply shows is not that they are not prepared but that they have no case,” he continued. “Our letter demonstrates the various reasons why the Senate should reject this effort, and we need to return the president back to the work of this country…”


In a tweet referencing the letter, Marshall called the articles of impeachment passed by House Democrats against Trump “unfounded and fundamentally flawed.”

The letter states, “If not expressly repudiated by the Senate, the theories animating both Articles will set a precedent that is entirely contrary to the Framers’ design and ruinous to the most important governmental structure protections contained in our Constitution: the separation of powers.”

Read the letter below:

State AG letter to Senate o… by Fox News on Scribd

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

11 hours ago

Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele inks three-year extension

Auburn University head football coach Gus Malzahn on Wednesday announced that defensive coordinator Kevin Steele has officially agreed to a new three-year contract that will take him through the 2022 season.

In a statement, Malzahn said, “Kevin has done a fantastic job with our defense the last four years making it one of the best in the country.”

“This will provide great stability and leadership for our defense in the future. I’m appreciative of Kevin’s hard work,” he added.


Steele has been Auburn’s defensive coordinator for the last four years. During that tenure, the Tigers’ defense has ranked in the top 20 nationally in scoring defense. Additionally, Auburn is one of only five FBS programs to hold opponents under 20 points per game in each of those seasons.

Malzahn and Steele were both spotted at Senior Bowl Week practice in Mobile on Tuesday.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn