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Meet the Ensley Students Who Are Ahead of The Class

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Build UP students participate in a full-time program that takes the place of high school and college. (Photo Credit: bhamnow)
By Jacqueline Gray Miller

At all levels, learning looks drastically different than it was at the beginning of 2020. However, in Ensley, there are several students ahead of the class. Build UP students participate in a full-time program that takes the place of high school and college.

Once students complete the Build UP program and either secure a high-wage job, launch their own enterprise, or continue their education at a university, graduates take over the deeds to the properties they renovated as part of their training. In one fell swoop, they become both homeowners and landlords. Through zero-interest mortgages, graduates build wealth because 100% of each payment contributes to principal and equity. They also earn a passive income through their rental properties, according to the organization’s website www.buildup.work

“The National Wildlife Federation wishes all the students, teachers, and mentors at Build UP a great school year. Thank you for being dedicated partners during the Green Summer Work Experience too,” said Simone Lightfoot, national director of urban initiatives and environmental justice for the National Wildlife Federation. “Career-ready skills through paid apprenticeships aligns with our priorities in Birmingham. Creating green jobs, internship opportunities, and green professional development skills for youth, young adults, and returning citizens.”

Birmingham City Councilor John Hilliard, District 9, made the connection to America’s largest conservation organization to create direct opportunities for Birmingham residents.

As a result, the NWF urban initiatives and environmental justice program investment in Birmingham so far is $50,000. Partners include Build UP, the East Thomas Neighborhood Association, Ensley Reimagined, Pneuma Gallery, Slade Land Use, Environmental and Transportation Planning, LLC, and the Village Creek Human & Environmental Justice Society, Inc.

Many of the nation’s greatest environmental challenges and opportunities are found in urban centers. From increasing air and water quality, to updating housing and transportation infrastructure, the opportunities are endless to improve the environments where people live. The National Wildlife Federation is committed to addressing the priorities of urban communities. To learn more, visit www.nwf.org

Simone Lightfoot serves as the national director of urban initiatives and environmental justice for the National Wildlife Federation. She oversees the organization’s Birmingham grant efforts and can be reached at (313) 585-1052 or lightfoots@nwf.org

Photos: Student headshots, their names, ages, and future occupations