Now more than ever: Liberty Learning Foundation helping Alabama schools teach citizenship amid pandemic, unrest
Since 2013, the Liberty Learning Foundation has offered highly engaging civics education programs to school systems across Alabama. The Huntsville-based nonprofit leverages community sponsors to fund the programs so schools do not have to divert precious resources from other important educational initiatives.
While the organization’s impact has grown from 14,000 students that first year to 50,000 students annually, no one was prepared for the timeliness of their lessons in 2020 and 2021. Amidst a global pandemic, divisive politics and social unrest, the Liberty Learning Foundation programs are teaching exactly what our students may need most: history, civics, empathy, gratitude and reinforcing the mantra that we are all in this together.
Brett Johnson, vice president of Liberty Learning Foundation, says that now more than ever, Alabama’s children need to understand how engagement in their community and country matters.
“In today’s 21st century economy, we’ve seen the education community emphasize important areas such as science, technology, and math,” Johnson outlined. “With that, the mission to prepare citizens to maintain our republic has, unfortunately, slid down the priority list. Liberty Learning Foundation was formed over ten years ago to address that need. After a couple of years in research and development, our approach to empowering schools with resources that teach citizenship and personal responsibility was implemented and it has reinvigorated civic knowledge and character education in the schools we serve and their communities.”
By partnering with business sponsors, Liberty Learning Foundation operates a public-private partnership that allows the community to engage with its schools for the benefit of a well-prepared citizenry.
Johnson noted that the organization’s ultimate goal is to “help our students be prepared for that next step after high school, adulthood.”
“If we can do that, we know we’re preparing the workforce, family leaders, and businesspeople that we can entrust with our future,” he added.
In Alabama, leaders are recognizing the value Liberty Learning brings to community schools.
State Superintendent of Education Dr. Eric Mackey stated, “Liberty Learning Foundation’s approach to instilling character education, promoting leadership through service, and celebrating great citizenship is greatly appreciated. America’s future is strongly dependent upon what today’s students are taught from the lessons of the past. Liberty Learning Foundation’s programs are designed to teach each student about the benefit of working collectively with fellow citizens to continue creating a nation that lives up to its promise of equal opportunity for all. Liberty Learning, in its efforts to uplift society through its students, emphasizes the benefit of core values, love of country, respect for our nation and one another.”
Liberty Learning Foundation enjoys input and support from across the political spectrum, which strengthens its position as an apolitical organization.
“These programs are exactly what our students need now more than ever,” said House Majority Leader Nathanial Ledbetter (R-Rainsville). “By helping children learn to care for their community and classmates, they’re really teaching our state’s future workforce to take responsibility for themselves, their co-workers, and neighbors. You can’t help but see how that can impact the character of these students, who are not really all that far from adulthood.
House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels (D-Huntsville) was an advising participant in the research and development phase of the organization when he worked for Alabama A&M University before being elected to the legislature.
“It’s amazing to see how far Liberty Learning Foundation has come, and their growth couldn’t have been more timely,” Daniels advised. “We are at a point in this country where healing is not just wanted, it’s needed. In my view, these programs are making a difference because they take the long view by helping today’s students practice empathy and compassion so they can treat each other with respect and dignity as adults. That’s what I love. We need more of that.”
The organization was founded by Marshall County resident Patti Yancey, who currently serves as CEO. She retired as CFO of AlaTrade Foods to take on this important project which became her full-time passion. In the early days, she leaned on the advice of local legislators such as now-Senate Majority Leader Clay Scofield (R-Guntersville), who has been proud to watch the organization’s mission expand to positively impact so many schools and students across the state.
“Students learning the role that they as citizens play in the history and future of the United States is vitally important to our democracy,” Scofield remarked. “I’m so proud to have watched Liberty Learning grow out of the vision of Marshall County business leaders, and proud to know they’re making a real difference in so many other communities across the state of Alabama.”
Learn more about Liberty Learning Foundation here.
Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn