By Terri Roberston
Local high school students on the Birmingham Youth Action Committee (BYAC) recently raised $5,000 for teachers at Hemphill and Barrett Elementary Schools.
The youth-led nonprofit delivered 53 boxes of supplies to teachers at the two Birmingham schools. BYAC’s goal is to unite the youth of Birmingham through community projects, according to James Goodman, a junior at Jefferson County International Baccalaureate in Irondale,. The distribution of supplies to Hemphill and Barrett Elementary Schools marks the group’s first completed project.
“As we start to work on projects together, we start to unite and become closer,” Goodman said. “It’s kind of like a sports team. … after they’ve sweated and cried together, they start to form a family-type bond.”
BYAC chose to start with a project for elementary school teachers “because they made us who we are,” Goodman said.
First BYAC met with teachers at Hemphill and Barrett to determine the best way to help. Those conversations led to a focus on supplies to combat the cold and flu season. Then, in fall 2018, the group began collecting and raising money for tissues, paper towels, disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer. Teachers typically pay for these essential classroom supplies out of their own pockets.
“This particular season, the disinfectant wipes are really important. With attendance being a big thing for Birmingham City Schools, we want to do what we can to keep students in school. But we also want them to remain healthy and be able to learn,” said LaQuanya Wynn, fifth-grade science and social studies teacher at Barrett Elementary.
BYAC also donated multiplication tables, poster boards, decorations and borders. Those supplies help teachers create welcoming, ever-changing learning environments for students.
Parent-Teacher Store USA, which has a location in Hoover, donated school supplies to the BYAC project. Taylor Plumbing, Seasick Records and the Diplomat Deli gave monetary donations.
The Birmingham Youth Action Committee selected schools from the Alabama State Department of Education’s 2018 list of failing schools. “Failing schools” means the bottom 6 percent of Alabama schools based on standardized test scores in reading and math. Neither Hemphill nor Barrett Elementary is on the 2019 list.
The Alabama State Department of Education also uses yearly A to F School Report Cards as an assessment tool. Letter grades reflect metrics such as academic achievement, academic growth and attendance. Barrett Elementary was one of 17 Birmingham City Schools to improve from an F in 2017 by one letter grade or more in 2018.
High school students interested in joining the Birmingham Youth Action Committee can email firstname.lastname@example.org and follow @byacommittee on all social media. So far, the group includes students from Jefferson County International Baccalaureate and Spain Park High School, and all are welcome.
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