Parker High School teacher, Huffman High student win NextGen competition

By Barnett Wright
The Birmingham Times
FILE: Jarvis Prewitt…NextGen Birmingham teams and group shots at Vulcan Park in Birmingham Alabama Wednesday, April 18, 2018. (The Birmingham Times / Frank Couch  )
FILE: Kaleena Watts…NextGen Birmingham teams and group shots at Vulcan Park in Birmingham Alabama Wednesday, April 18, 2018. (The Birmingham Times / Frank Couch )

Kaleena Watts, who teaches American literature in A.H. Parker High School’s English Department and Jarvis Prewitt, a 16-year-old Huffman High School junior, won the teacher and student categories, respectively, last week in the NextGen Pitch Competition at the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama building downtown Birmingham.

Watts and Prewitt each won a $5,000 first prize.

Other winners in the competition were teachers Shauntae Lockett-Lewis, Minor Elementary, second place, $1,500 and Christina Sellers, Huffman Academy, third place, $1,000. In the student category, Kamil Goodman, Parker High, won a second place prize of $1,500.
The winners were among dozens of students and teachers who earlier this year submitted application essays that incorporated the following statement: “Birmingham’s bright future depends on ….” A panel of judges narrowed the submissions to finalists who were then paired with mentors from partner companies to help perfect the ideas and possibly make them realities.

Watts, partnered with Valeria Walton Cornner of the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama, proposed a district wide student news outlet created for students by students.

The outlet is needed in today’s current political, socioeconomic, and educational climate, Watts said. In her proposal, she writes: “With less than 20 percent of the students in our district reading at or above proficiency level, the student news will serve as a new resource to engage young readers, building better reading skills and habits. The platform … will allow students across the seven high schools … to collaborate in a way that models global business practices.”

Prewitt, partnered with Forté of the Ed Foundation, proposed a Makerspace collaborative learning environment “where students and its users utilize technology to invent, experiment, and explore, while being challenged to be creative and think outside of the box while using STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). [It] … would serve as a virtual classroom where educators take the curriculum or a teacher-led project and utilize it in these labs. To further make the schools more inviting to parents, schools would partner with businesses that specialize in STEM to provide training in the parent-resource center.”

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