By Sym Posey
The Birmingham Times
When Alabama State Treasurer Young Boozer last month denied Birmingham Southern College’s application for an almost $30 million bridge loan to keep the school open, dozens of its students made their way to Montgomery for a meeting with the treasurer. Although he did not meet with them, several of the students spoke on the steps of the capitol. Among the group was Matthew Dale, a senior studying biology with a distinction in Black Studies.
“Through my personal failures, family issues, and financial troubles, there was one thing that remain constant. The love and dedication to my growth as human being that Birmingham Southern provided,” he said during his prepared remarks. “BCS has always been in my life… This is my home. This is my community. This is my family. In all of us speaking today, you should see we have induvial stories that tie our hearts to the same place [BSC]. Our closure would displace hundreds of beautiful people, leave a vacancy in the heart of Birmingham, and stunt the growth of Birmingham as a city all together.”
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That excerpt summarized what Dale, 21, has meant to his school and his community. A native of Bush Hills, where BSC is located, Dale attended Princeton Elementary School and Phillips Academy. From there he enrolled at Indian Springs School a transition from a “predominately Black school to a predominately white school … a different experience for him,” he said, adding, “The education I got [at] Indian Springs was beyond anything I could ever ask for. They prepared me for the next level.”
Some else prepared him for the next level. Playing soccer. An active soccer player, he started his career with NorthStar Soccer Ministries, a youth ministry that focuses on inner city children, while attending Princeton.
“It gave me a chance to play soccer with children who looked like me…My first coaches were Coach Ben and Coach Andrew. Andrew was a cross country runner for Birmingham Southern and Coach Ben was a soccer player at Birmingham Southern,” Dale said.
“I’ve been playing soccer for as long as a I can remember. My older brother played soccer since I guess the age-appropriate to walk. I followed behind him … Everybody is two years apart.” Dale has an older brother and a younger sister.
While in high school, he used to sneak back into his neighborhood and onto BSC fields. “Birmingham Southern has always been my backyard. Somewhere I can come and play,” he said.
From a young age, Dale said he always had a plan to be active in Bush Hills “hold a role [in my community] where if they [the community] needed something they knew that they could depend on me.”
For example, he originally wanted to be a dentist which would allow him “to hold a concrete position in my community,” he said. “If you think about it, your dentist doesn’t go anywhere. They stay there and practice there.”
Once he graduated from Indian Springs, Dale had planned to attend a Division 1 school for soccer until her tore his ACL his junior year. “I thought everything was over. D1 schools stop talking to me. And after I recovered, I went to this soccer camp. “
It was a college exposure camp.
“After the game, BSC’S soccer coach, Corey Smith approached me and said he loved the way I played and told me I had a promising future at Birmingham Southern,“ said Dale, who went on to play soccer there.
Once he entered college, right after he [pledged Alpha Phi Alpha], Dale said he was looking for a class to take and came across Pillars of Africana Thought. “Being in that class was the most eye-opening experience I have ever had,” he said. “As a Black man in America, we see, and we understand things to a certain extent. But when you can see that formulated into words in a classroom it comes as an awakening moment. It was insane to see that my lived experiences were formulated into words on paper to be a subject that people study. It intrigued me and it change the way that I viewed everything.”
Dale is optimistic that BSC can say open. He expects to return in the near future.
In his speech at the state capitol, he said, “As I prepare to graduate, I will pursue a master’s degree in the public health and then a Ph.D. in African American studies with hopes to come back to Birmingham Southern and provide and even better experience through professorship.”
Among Dale’s awards and achievements:
–Golden Brother of the Year | Presented by Black Male Initiative 2022
–Rising Leader Award | Presented by Birmingham Southern College 2022
–Outstanding Sophomore | Presented by Birmingham Southern College 2022
–Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Award | Presented by Birmingham Southern College 2022, 2023
–Standout Junior | Presented by Birmingham Southern College Acts of Initiative Award | Presented by Birmingham Southern College 2023
–Dan K. Anderson Award | Presented by Birmingham Southern College 2023
–Black Student Union Scholarship | Presented by Birmingham Southern College 2023
— Mortar Board Birmingham Southern College 2023- Present