2 months ago

TAP helps inner-city school athletes reach for the stars with STEM

Chris Rogers left the heights of college football at the University of Alabama knowing he wanted to make a difference.

Ten years later, he’s seeing his dreams come to pass through his nonprofit Together Assisting People (TAP).

Rogers founded TAP with a focus on STEM – science, technology, engineering and math – to help propel young Black athletes into strong careers and a bright future. Since 2009, more than 5,000 students have gone through the TAP program. The organization has helped place more than 100 students in college with about $35 million in scholarships. About 80% of TAP’s college students are Black and are their family’s first generation to enter higher education.

Around 2009, as a young college graduate, Rogers saw a deficit in the educational system: Fewer than 2% of minority students take advantage of STEM careers. He’s “paying it forward” by helping to change that statistic – working at a grassroots level – through TAP.

“Right now, we’ve got three students in internships with tech companies,” said Rogers, who is leveraging his experiences with TAP in his Diversity and Inclusion role. “We’re trying to get students prepared and ready.

“What I like about STEM is you can unlock the key to your own destiny; these are things I wish I had known as an athlete,” said Rogers, a 2009 member of the University of Alabama’s first national football championship team under coach Nick Saban. “We’re trying to make these inner-city kids know about these opportunities and present them with the possibilities. Most of the time, they don’t know. We have professors and professionals come talk to them about those type of things, and that’s how we introduce them early to the concept of working in tech.”

Building on a five-pillar foundation – education, STEM, workforce development, servant leadership and civic engagement – TAP’s mentoring program provides opportunities for promising students who lack financial resources. The students commit to a yearlong schedule that includes after-school tutoring and professional development, university and corporate site visits, and weekend community service events. Students receive guidance on taking math and science classes to prepare them for future STEM careers. TAP’s program managers help family members understand Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) paperwork to help finance college.

Rogers and his program managers share the STEM initiative with educators, coaches and guidance counselors at high schools who locate athletes to take part in TAP. The program has worked with young men at Blount and Bryant high schools in Mobile, Central High in Tuscaloosa, Lanier High in Montgomery, and Huffman, Ramsay and Wenonah high schools in Birmingham.

Currently, Rogers and TAP program managers are helping 20 students. Upon entering the program, most students have a 2.2 to 2.3 GPA. While they’re in the program, the average GPA rises to about 3.2, Rogers said.

The goal is to give athletes aged 16-22 a head start in STEM by exposing them to computer- and cloud-based technologies.

“We bring them in and track the students for three or four years,” Rogers said. “We’re trying to stay with them and give them the tools they need to be successful, to make sure they have real degrees, real opportunity and leadership. When they come out of college and graduate, they’re getting internships with these tech companies. It’s a beautiful thing.”

During each meeting, TAP program managers reinforce that education is the key to excel. Students understand they’re in control of their future, and know that good grades are important to their future success.

“They start understanding early about what they must do to prepare to take the SAT, to transition into the situation they want,” Rogers said. “I tell my students, ‘This is the way – this is the future.’ The tech industry is virtually bulletproof: It’s the one industry that has thrived during the pandemic. Other businesses have gone under, but companies in the tech industry have doubled, tripled, even quadrupled during this time.”

The pandemic also ushered in changes to TAP. Now, TAP’s mentors meet with students during 2- to 3-hour Zoom sessions.

A recent grant from the Alabama Power Foundation helped TAP purchase laptops and other equipment and materials for students.

“This Alabama Power Foundation grant is helping us plant the seed to consider a STEM career in these athletes’ minds,” Rogers said. “With the grant, we were able to increase our STEM activities to provide access to this technology. Now we’re able to have professionals in the field talk to our students. Fortune 500 companies talk to them about job descriptions, and our high school athletes are majoring in computer science information technology. They’re starting to look into that space. We thank the foundation for helping our students to do this.”

In everything TAP does, the focus is on increasing athletes’ vision of what they can achieve. Rogers tells the young men that a bright future awaits even if athletics doesn’t lead to a career on the football field or the basketball court.

“As athletes, everybody is trying to talk to you about being a superstar, making it to the NBA or NFL, but you’ve got a better chance if you understand how to code and how to do the simple things on a computer,” Rogers said. “You can have a career for 20 or 30 years with great pay, great benefits and stock options.

“I’ve got to thank the Alabama Power Foundation for supporting us and recognizing the need to introduce kids in our community to STEM,” he said. “We’re touching kids throughout the state of Alabama.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

12 hours ago

U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers: ‘Shameful’ Pelosi blocking Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act — ‘Simply supporting infanticide’

Congressman Mike Rogers (AL-03) on Wednesday released a scathing statement regarding House Democrats blocking consideration of the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act.

Rogers announced that he has signed onto a discharge petition that would force Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to bring this legislation — H.R. 619 — up for a vote in the House.

“As a father of three children and a Christian, this legislation is so important to me,” stated Rogers, the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee.

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All six Alabama Republicans in the U.S. House are cosponsors of H.R. 619, which was was introduced by Reps. Ann Wagner (R-MO) and Steve Scalise (R-LA) in January. The bill would ensure any baby born that survives an abortion would receive the same standard of medical care as a baby born under normal circumstances.

“I will never understand how any human would not support caring for a tiny, living baby that survives an attempted abortion,” he continued. “Anyone who is okay with not helping these babies is simply supporting infanticide. I will always stand up for the rights of the most innocent among us, and it’s shameful that Nancy Pelosi will not even bring this critical legislation up for a vote.”

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

13 hours ago

Alabama Senate passes bill banning biological males from competing in female sports

MONTGOMERY — The Alabama Senate on Thursday passed HB 391, which would would prohibit biological males from competing in public school female sports — and vice versa.

The legislation, which only applies to public K-12 schools, would prohibit competition by one gender against another, unless the event specifically is intended to include both genders.

HB 391 was carried in the Senate by Sen. Garlan Gudger (R-Cullman) and is sponsored by Rep. Scott Stadthagen (R-Hartselle).

“A public K-12 school may not allow a biological female to participate on a male team if there is a female team in a sport. A public K-12 school may never allow a biological male to participate on a female team,” says the amended version of the bill passed by the Senate.

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In sports where there are not separate competitions for females and males, such as football, both genders would still be able to participate together.

“This bill is significantly important to protecting the integrity of women’s sports,” stated Gudger. “Our sisters, daughters and granddaughters deserve to compete in fairly organized sports without being put at a disadvantage. I appreciate Representative Stadthagen for having me carry this bill in the Senate, and I commend him for his diligent work on this critical issue.”

More than a dozen states are considering similar restrictions on high school athletes to prevent what they view as an unfair advantage in competition.

The Senate’s vote on HB 391 was on party lines, 25-5. This comes after two Democrats supported and one Democrat abstained in a committee vote on the bill just two weeks ago. View a tweet thread from Thursday’s Senate debate here.

HB 391 now heads back to the House for concurrence or nonconcurrence. It originally passed the lower chamber in a bipartisan 74-19 vote.

“It is unreasonable for biological males to compete against females in high school sports,” Stadthagen commented. “Allowing this to happen does not put female athletes on a fair and level playing field with their biological male counterparts, and that is what this bill aims to resolve. I was pleased to hear that my colleagues in the upper chamber value the integrity and justness of female sports, and I thank Senator Gudger for handling this bill in the Senate.”

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

14 hours ago

Senate passes Alabama Second Amendment Preservation Act

MONTGOMERY — The Alabama Senate on Thursday passed SB 358, which would create the Alabama Second Amendment Preservation Act.

Sponsored by Sen. Gerald Allen (R-Tuscaloosa), the bill would outlaw state and local governments — including law enforcement agencies thereof — from enforcing any federal firearms act, law, order, rule or regulation that becomes effective after January 1, 2021.

The party-line vote by the Senate was 22-5.

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“I took an oath of office when sworn into this body to defend the Constitution of this country and this state,” stated Allen. “As an elected official, I will do everything in my power to preserve the rights of Alabamians, especially those granted by the Second Amendment, and I will always push back on any proposals that seek to limit the freedoms bestowed upon us.”

“The Alabama Second Amendment Preservation Act ensures the people of Alabama are protected from any unnecessary overreach by the federal government and is meant to be a check on proposals that infringe on our right to self-defense coming from the Biden Administration or the Democratic controlled Congress,” he continued. “SB358 is about safeguarding our God-given rights to protect our families and homes. The Second Amendment says the right to bear arms shall not be infringed upon, and with this piece of legislation, Alabamians can feel confident that their rights are being protected.”

Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton (D-Greensboro) and Sen. Rodger Smitherman (D-Birmingham) argued that SB 358 would violate the Supremacy Clause. The Democrats said the act, as a result, would ultimately be ruled unconstitutional by the judicial system after costing the State of Alabama significant money to defend it in court.

“We don’t need a ‘Second Amendment Preservation Act’ in the state of Alabama,” said Singleton. “The constitution does that already.”

He noted “the bill really does no harm,” before adding that he does not like the message it sends.

You can view a tweet thread on Senate debate regarding SB 358 here.

The Alabama Senate’s vote came after President Joe Biden last week began rolling out executive orders on gun control.

RELATED: Speaker Mac McCutcheon: As Biden attempts to roll back Second Amendment freedoms, Alabama House Republicans stand in the breach to protect them

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

16 hours ago

Tim Vines confirmed as newest Auburn University trustee

MONTGOMERY — The Alabama Senate on Thursday unanimously confirmed Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama CEO Tim Vines as an at-large member of the Auburn University board of trustees.

He will complete the final three years of the unexpired term of Gen. Lloyd Austin, who resigned from Auburn’s board in January after he was confirmed as the nation’s secretary of defense.

Vines has worked at BCBS of Alabama since 1994. He rose through the management ranks at Blue Cross until he was elected to his present position in 2018. The LaFayette native graduated from Auburn’s Harbert College of Business in 1988 with a degree in finance. He was also a member of the Auburn baseball team.

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“In addition to his business and management credentials, the Trustee Selection Committee nominated Tim Vines for the position because of his dedication to Auburn University and its students,” stated Wayne Smith, who serves as board president pro tem.

This dedication includes Vines giving an annual scholarship to the Harbert College of Business. He is an Auburn Alumni Association lifetime member, a member of the James E. Foy Loyalty Society and a member of the 1856 Society. The Birmingham Auburn Club awarded Vines its 2019 Distinguished Auburn Alumnus Award.

He also served as the 2018 Auburn University summer commencement speaker, where he encouraged graduates, “Serve well by serving others. In life or in your chosen profession, ask what you can do to help others. … Whatever you do, make sure you do it with excellence.”

Vines’ term will expire on February 8, 2024.

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

17 hours ago

Alabama State Parks launching historic corporate giving, improvement campaign

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey on Thursday joined the Alabama State Parks Foundation, local corporate leaders and other stakeholders at Oak Mountain State Park to announce unprecedented efforts aimed at investing millions of dollars into park improvements.

The governor spoke about an $80 million bond issue for park improvements that must be approved by voters through a constitutional amendment in the 2022 general election if the state legislature approves it this session. House Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter (R-Rainsville) and Rep. Wes Kitchens (R-Arab) are sponsoring this legislation, which passed the House on Tuesday and now heads to the Senate for consideration.

“Alabamians love and cherish the State Parks, and we must make sure they are maintained and available for generations to come,” Ivey remarked. “I support the use of state bonds to make the needed enhancements throughout the state parks system.”

Additionally, the non-profit Alabama State Parks Foundation (ASPF) on Thursday announced the launch of its corporate giving campaign with a goal of raising an additional $14 million in the next five years for needed park improvements.

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ASPF kicked off this campaign with pledges of $250,000 by Buffalo Rock Company and $100,000 from the Alabama Power Foundation.

“Since the creation of the Alabama State Parks Foundation in 2018, we have worked to improve and enhance our State Parks, and our corporate giving campaign is another significant and important step for our organization,” ASPF president Dr. Dan Hendricks stated. “I also applaud and thank Governor Ivey for her visionary leadership and support of the State Parks system.

“We believe this innovative public-private partnership will maximize our efforts to help the Alabama State Parks system maintain its place as one of the state’s true treasures,” he added.

The prospective bond issue and ASPF’s fundraising would fast-track projects to expand campgrounds, add cabins and improve internet connectivity, among other priorities.

A majority of funding for Alabama State Parks – 80-90% annually – is generated through user fees for rental, lodging, golf and other amenities in the parks. The system’s finances can also be impacted unexpectedly, such as the tornado that damaged Oak Mountain last month, Hurricane Sally damaging Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores last fall, and another tornado wreaking havoc on the campground and day-use areas at Joe Wheeler State Park in December 2019.

State parks attracted a record 6.27 million visitors in fiscal year 2020, and enhancing facilities or building additional ones should help that number continue to grow.

“Our state parks system is run as efficiently as ever, but there are plenty of needs in every one of the 21 parks — both the small and larger parks,” said Chris Blankenship, commissioner of the Alabama Department of Conservation. “What Governor Ivey and the Alabama State Parks Foundation have done is create a funding framework for how we can modernize and enhance an already dynamic State Parks system and make it better than ever.

“We plan to be good stewards of the taxpayers’ money, as well as funds so generously donated by the corporate community,” he concluded. “Our state parks offer so many amazing outdoors adventures for all Alabamians, and we appreciate so many people working so hard to help us continue that legacy.”

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