The Wire

  • New tunnel, premium RV section at Talladega Superspeedway on schedule despite weather

    Excerpt:

    Construction of a new oversized vehicle tunnel and premium RV infield parking section at Talladega Superspeedway is still on schedule to be completed in time for the April NASCAR race, despite large amounts of rainfall and unusual groundwater conditions underneath the track.

    Track Chairman Grant Lynch, during a news conference Wednesday at the track, said he’s amazed the general contractor, Taylor Corporation of Oxford, has been able to keep the project on schedule.

    “The amount of water they have pumped out of that and the extra engineering they did from the original design, basically to keep that tunnel from floating up out of the earth, was remarkable,” Lynch said.

  • Alabama workers built 1.6M engines in 2018 to add auto horsepower

    Excerpt:

    Alabama’s auto workers built nearly 1.6 million engines last year, as the state industry continues to carve out a place in global markets with innovative, high-performance parts, systems and finished vehicles.

    Last year also saw major new developments in engine manufacturing among the state’s key players, and more advanced infrastructure is on the way in the coming year.

    Hyundai expects to complete a key addition to its engine operations in Montgomery during the first half of 2019, while Honda continues to reap the benefits of a cutting-edge Alabama engine line installed several years ago.

  • Groundbreaking on Alabama’s newest aerospace plant made possible through key partnerships

    Excerpt:

    Political and business leaders gathered for a groundbreaking at Alabama’s newest aerospace plant gave credit to the formation of the many key partnerships that made it possible.

    Governor Kay Ivey and several other federal, state and local officials attended the event which celebrated the construction of rocket engine builder Blue Origin’s facility in Huntsville.

2 months ago

Talladega’s Jayden Patterson, 10, starts T-shirt, mask business during COVID-19 pandemic

(Jayden Patterson/Contributed, YHN)

Jayden Patterson, a 10-year-old from Talladega, has turned his creative passion into a business supporting community safety during the COVID-19 crisis.

Jayden attends Stemley Road Elementary School, where he is the Community Service League representative. In that role, Jayden spreads and encourages kindness by leading morning PA system announcements.

Jayden has always been creative and enjoys drawing and designing, said his mother, Cecelia. “He even enjoys creating things out of Popsicle sticks.”

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When his great-aunt, Bridget Merritt, made a shirt using a drawing by Jayden, his family knew it was a great business idea. Jayden’s first T-shirt design was posted on social media May 9. Before long, he had sold more than 50 shirts locally, with some shipped to other Alabama and Georgia cities.

After realizing the need for face masks, Jayden began creating them at home with his dad.

His mother said, “He saw that he could do something positive during the time of a pandemic in the world. He wanted to bring some light into the world during the time of darkness.”

Jayden created four original designs and has big dreams for his business.

His family has been very supportive, assisting with the purchase of a heat press and continuing to buy shirts he designs. Jayden’s parents encourage him by providing materials, supervision and transportation.

Jayden’s first design of a bearded man wearing a hoodie is his favorite. His favorite part of the business is “meeting new people and talking to new people.”

When he’s not designing T-shirts, Jayden likes to watch movies, swim, make s’mores and ride bikes with his brother, Javien.

“Jayden is such a kind and caring child,” his mother said. “He is a joy to most people who encounter him; it’s hard for me to choose what we are most proud of. If I must name something, it would be him being an entrepreneur and a leader at such a young age.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

5 months ago

At Jones Valley Teaching Farm, food is the foundation for academic growth

(Jones Valley Teaching Farm/Contributed)

Jones Valley Teaching Farm (JVTF) is a Birmingham-based non-profit that builds vibrant, student-centered teaching farms that provide an environment for young people to learn, create, explore, and grow a healthy future for themselves and their community.

JVTF broke ground on its first urban teaching farm in 2007 on a 3-acre city block in downtown Birmingham. Since then, JVTF has built six teaching farms on Birmingham City School elementary, middle, and high school campuses.

One of JVTF’s main educational offerings includes the Good School Food model, where full-time instructors collaborate with teachers and pre-K through 12th grade students to connect food, farming, and the culinary arts through standards-based, cross-curricular lessons. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Good School Food was offered in person at the teaching farms but has since transitioned to an online format.

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“Not only does the curriculum allow for students to learn through inquiry, but it allows teachers to implement teaching strategies that are outside of the norm,” said Jerone Wiggins, director of educational programs and partnerships at JVTF. “If thinking or teaching ‘outside of the box’ was a program, this would be it.”

In addition to the Good School Food online offerings, JVTF also debuted a virtual summer camp series this year titled Camp Grow. The virtual summer camp was held June 22 to July 17 and was offered free of charge to rising 6th through 9th grade students in the Woodlawn and Bush Hills communities.

For Camp Grow, JVTF partnered with the Woodlawn Foundation to build a mobile app that allowed students to access the camp from their technology devices at home. In addition, hotspots and unlimited data were provided to each of the participating students, which JVTF attributes as an integral part of the camp’s success.

During the camp, which was themed “All things food – growing it, cooking it and sharing it with others,” students discovered the art of planting, harvesting, and cooking. Twice a week during the four-week camp, students gathered online to participate in activities that ranged from virtual farming to culinary lessons with live demonstrations from local chefs and restaurant owners.

JVTF instructors of Camp Grow also led small group discussions with the students regarding each week’s selected topic and emphasized the role food plays in the local community.

Prior to the pandemic, each fall and spring JVTF and its students would sell their produce at the student-run market. Teachers, parents, and community members were invited to attend while students applied their academic skills and learned to run their own small business. Since the onset of COVID-19 and closures of schools, JVTF has worked with 11 community partners in east, west, and north Birmingham to distribute over 7,000 pounds of produce for free to the community.

Parents of enrolled students can download JVTF lesson plans to continue engagement until the program resumes in person.

For more information about JVTF’s mission, programs and ways to donate, visit jvtf.org.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

6 months ago

Magic City Blight Busters look to beautify Birmingham neighborhoods

(Magic City Blight Busters/Contributed)

Magic City Blight Busters (MCBB), a program developed by Birmingham United Neighborhoods (BUN), hosted a community cleanup July 11 in the Fountain Heights neighborhood.

Established in 2018 by representatives from eight Birmingham neighborhoods – Belview Heights, Druid Hills, Fountain Heights, North Titusville, Riley, Rising-West Princeton, South Titusville and West Goldwire – BUN seeks to improve neighborhood health through partnerships and collaborative projects.

Last year, BUN identified environmental blight as its top priority. To further its initiative, BUN partners with the UAB Center for the Study of Community Health by supplying input to the center’s core research project, Community Health through Engagement and Environmental Renewal (CHEER).

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With a goal of beautifying overgrown lots and removing debris, MCBB volunteers collected more than 20 bags of trash and mowed two large, unkempt lots.

“It was refreshing and encouraging to see the natural response of the neighbors when they saw what we were doing,” said Darlena Battle, vice president of the Fountain Heights Neighborhood Association. “One resident went home to get his lawn mower and got busy cutting. Others went in the house to change clothes and joined in to help us pick up trash. Moments like that give us hope and reassure us that we are on the right track.”

MCBB coordinates BUN residents to address abandoned and deteriorated homes, overgrown lots and litter. MCBB’s Blight Mobile moves in and volunteers begin working to restore the area. Residents are encouraged to use land bank policies and city codes to improve community health.

MCBB encourages volunteers of all ages to assist. Battle’s eldest son, Jeffery, helped in the work.

“I stood back like the proud mama that I am as some of the leaders in BUN gave my son instructions to operate the equipment,” said Battle, a lifetime resident of Fountain Heights. “Once he was done cutting grass, he partnered with me on trash pickup.”

The hard work brought satisfaction and pride in community.

“Later that evening as we were reflecting on the day, he told me that he actually enjoyed the cleanup day,” Battle said of her son. “That was a beautiful thing to hear. My goal as a parent has always been to raise productive young men who would care for their families and communities.”

Battle believes the community is better defined as people, rather than buildings.

“When I think about how the physical environment impacts people, I am more inclined to get involved,” she said. “Blight plays a major role in health disparity; therefore, I believe in a holistic approach to helping in the community and MCBB puts those beliefs into action.”

Bonderia Lyons, president of the Fountain Heights Neighborhood Association, saw Battle’s passion and drive to beautify the area, and inspired her to get involved.

Describing their relationship, Battle said, “She is Batman, I am Robin.”

“I knew turning things around in our neighborhood was not going to be easy and it would not happen overnight, but the most difficult realization was that I could no longer sit on the sidelines and cheer, I needed to take an active part,” Battle said. “It is rewarding to know that I have done something that will benefit community. My hope is that others will feel inspired and empowered to join.”

BUN is funded for MCBB by the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham, the Jefferson County Public Health Advised Fund and UAB’s Community Health Scholars program.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

7 months ago

Alabama Power’s Bonnie George is an unsung hero feeding others with food and love

(Bonnie George/Contributed)

Bonnie George is a hero in her workplace, in her community and across borders.

George, a customer service representative (CSR) in Alabama Power’s Pell City Office, has worked for the company for 15 years.

“We help our customers, the people that live in the community,” George said. “I like talking to people. I like knowing that I’m helping them. You really have that personal relationship with your customers if you put that effort in to get to know who they are.”

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Bonnie George is an Alabama Power unsung hero with a heart of gold from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Pell City CSR Naji Ridley said, “Bonnie is a loving person. She is caring. The way she walks, the way she talks, the way she carries herself and addresses others just shows love.”

Helping others

Since October 2018, George, her husband, Gary, and their six children have delivered 100 meals to the homeless in Linn Park in downtown Birmingham every month.

“We sit and talk and pray with them,” she said. “We let our children talk with them. Our kids bring toys and books and play with them, and it gives them a time of normalcy that is lacking in so many of their days.”

George’s foreign missions journey started eight years ago when she began leading high school students in her church. Partnering with organizations such as King’s Castle, George and her husband organized foreign mission trips for their church youth group.

George said, “We started conversations with our pastors about how we are leading our students into foreign missions, with some of them never knowing what it meant to serve our neighbor.”

On their first mission trip, George and her husband took a group of 20 students to Nicaragua.

“I really didn’t know what to expect,” she said. “It was my first time going into a country doing missions and I didn’t know the language, but as soon as we got there, my husband said, ‘I feel like we’ve come home.’”

In 2018, George’s church partnered with Mission of Hope to bring a group of students to Haiti.

“We went and played games, we did a lot of sports, for half a day,” she said. “Then they had a message. … At the end of the program, it was lunchtime, so we got to feed them, and that was incredible.”

The night before they were scheduled to leave Haiti, rioting broke out in Port-au-Prince, 30 minutes from where they were staying. George said, “We were safe, but we couldn’t get to the airport. We ended up having to stay three extra days.

“There are so few opportunities in our life for us to step out in our faith in a way that others truly see. … When we have the chance to put our faith into action, that’s when we’re truly living it,” she said.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

7 months ago

Inspiring Alabama teacher honored by National University System in surprise Zoom call

(Arlinda Davis/Contributed, YHN)

An Alabama teacher who inspires her students to succeed will receive $10,000 from the National University System as part of its Sanford Teacher Award program.

On June 17, teachers across the country joined a surprise Zoom meeting in which Michael Cunningham, the system chancellor, announced they had been chosen as state finalists for the award.

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Arlinda Davis, a first grade teacher at Avondale Elementary School in Birmingham, has devoted her life to uplifting students and encouraging them to live without fear of failure. Davis approaches her students with what she calls “radical empathy” and shows them they don’t have to let life’s circumstances dictate the outcome of their lives.

Davis was nominated by a former student whose life was transformed by her constant encouragement. The student said, “My culture, background, home life and interests were important to her. … I remember coming to school one day with the same clothes on, my hair had not been combed and I was in distress. She took one look at me and never allowed anyone including myself to know she was going to help me. She told me how beautiful I was and then told me she had a special bow only for a princess to wear. She fixed my hair and took care of me. She worked with my stepdad and counselor to help find my mom and get her off drugs. I worked hard every day I was in her class because I knew she cared for me.”

Davis is eligible to become the national winner of the Sanford Teacher Award later this year, which comes with a $50,000 prize.

The National University System was established in 2001 to meet the rising challenges and demands in education nationwide.

The National University System-Sanford Teacher Award was created to honor T. Denny Sanford, a philanthropist committed to supporting teaching programs focused on the development of students’ social and emotional skills.

Sanford spent his life giving away most of his wealth to the Sanford Programs at the National University System and other education-related initiatives.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

7 months ago

Mobile community medical program helps develop successful careers

(Dennis Washington/Alabama NewsCenter)

For Suporior Campbell, success is not about recognition or awards but rather walking in the path God has chosen for her and her husband, Leo.

That path took a big turn five years ago when Campbell started Victory Professional Development Center, which offers short-term certificate programs for people interested in a medical career. Campbell realized her community needed more medical-training options and told her husband, a now-retired Alabama Power foreman, that she needed to step out on faith to start Victory.

“He never questioned my calling,” Campbell said. “He simply said, ‘How much do you need to get it started?’ We’ve worked together every step of the way.”

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When Campbell opened Victory in 2015, the only program she could offer to four students was an evening nursing assistant (CNA) class. Since then, Victory has grown to offer eight programs, day and evening, at six locations, with two more classes coming later this year.

“There are not a lot of agencies offering as many programs as we do,” Campbell said. “Just the name itself tells us that we are going to be victorious.”

Victory Professional Development Center connects people with their communities from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Victory partners with agencies throughout the community to ensure students have adequate places to train in easily accessible locations. Campbell relies on agencies, such as the Franklin Primary Health CenterBishop State Community College and the Mobile Infirmary, to keep Victory in a position to reach students. At Bishop State Community College, there is a dedicated location on campus where Victory teaches its Allied Health Program.

“Community partnership is primary to the success of our programs,” said Campbell.

Victory has two locations in Jackson and one in Mt. Vernon to accommodate students who live in those areas and cannot afford to drive to Mobile. Students train at small nursing homes in their communities, gaining experience while providing much-needed healthcare.

“For some students, because of life challenges, transportation issues or financial issues, they would not be able to afford a traditional college experience,” Campbell said. “These programs allow students to get the training that they need in a short period of time.”

Agencies such as the YMCA and DHR often pay tuition to Victory for students that meet criteria set by the agencies. Campbell said this provides students with the opportunity to get into the workforce after completing entry-level courses.

“We have had just some awesome success stories,” said Campbell. “For a lot of individuals, it’s just the empowerment of being able to secure a job that has great financial reward and to know they have avenues to go and continue to do bigger and better things.”

Victory offers programs for nursing assistant, phlebotomy, EKG technician, medical assistant, CPR, billing and coding and pharmacy technician. Campbell said surgical technician and truck driving programs will be added later this year.

“Many students that have already completed a program at Victory return to get another certification,” Campbell said. “They want to come back because we try to hire instructors that are knowledgeable in those areas, but that also have compassion for people.”

In January, Campbell launched Victory Home Care to provide for individuals that are homebound through services such as daily activity assistance, meal preparation and transportation support. Campbell wants Victory Home Care to hire graduates of Victory Professional Development Center to help them become productive citizens while encouraging further education.

“I’m proud of everything that Victory does, but I am most proud of the students that return and tell us that if it had not been for this program, they may have ended up on the streets,” Campbell said.

In 2019, Victory was voted Small Business of the Year and received the Grind Award and the Eagle Award from the Mobile Chamber of Commerce. For Campbell, Victory’s success is found on the faces of her students.

“When we are walking down the corridors at Mobile Infirmary or Providence Hospital and we see a former student that recognizes us and is able to say, ‘I went to Victory and look where I am now,’ we’re just really grateful for the path that God has put us on with Victory.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)