The Black Belt Community Foundation, whose mission is to transform the lives of those who reside in Alabama’s Black Belt region, began work on May 9, 2014, on a new initiative, Black Belt Believe Achieve…Transforming the Lives of the Greatest Kids in America!, to bolster educational standards in the 12 counties it serves.
A committee consisting of a group of BBCF board members, a college president, regional and statewide educators, a superintendent, a high school guidance counselor, college administrators, and a community organizer/educator gathered at Auburn University to give the new initiative initial direction. The committee discussed a multitude of ideas on how the BBCF can serve as an essential conduit that effects positive change in this critical area of the region’s future health and economic growth.
“The committee is a collection of likeminded professionals who bring an array of experiences that have touched lives all around the world,” said Felecia Jones, President of the BBCF. “There was a great spirit that emerged in our first meeting. A determined resolve emerged to create business partnerships to support educational programs and opportunities that will provide our youth new opportunities to improve their knowledge, self-confidence, and the building of their leadership skills.”
Items discussed focused on programs and partnerships that would:
- Significantly increase the percentages of children who at minimum meet and preferably exceed third grade reading levels;
- Partner with colleges and universities and companies in the state to provide elementary, and middle and high school students more educationally-related opportunities and life changing experiences;
- Seek funding from private donors and corporations and foundations to fund a region wide summer educational program;
- Strengthening the role of parents in the lives of their children;
- Provide educational seminars for faculty who teach on the elementary, and middle and high school levels in the region;
- Partner with regional industry to provide job training and other job related skills; and,
- Provide educationally-related seminars and nationally renowned guest speakers to the region.
“Education is an issue that has many, many variables,” said Jones. “Our meeting was lively and sometimes passionate in discussing the areas we must improve upon in education for the Black Belt region to grow and prosper. We began our meeting on the premise of an old African proverb, ‘It takes a village to raise a child,’ and we moved forward from that point. It also was understood by all that our committee would not be one that meets just for the sake of meeting. We set a tone of selfless work for our kids. Improved educational standards are absolutely vital to a healthier Black Belt region. Our task is monumental, but our resolve is steadfast.
“We know the kids in the Black Belt region are the greatest kids in America,” continued Jones. Our tagline is not just for attention getting; it is based in fact. “Our kids in the Black Belt region face obstacles not many in this nation face, and have done so for far too many generations. We are determined to minimize their obstacles by providing more opportunity for them along with the tools needed to succeed. Our youth are resilient and we are confident they will flourish. Our aim is to galvanize our communities in the region to help better educate our children with our work here on this initiative. We are growing hope that will transform this region, state and nation.”
During the meeting, the committee voted John Heard, Superintendent of Schools in Perry County, as Chair of the committee. Charles Petitto, a retired guidance counselor from Jefferson County and former Peace Corps volunteer, and Jerria Martin, a BBCF board member, as co-chairs of the committee.
Since 2004, the BBCF has provided more than $500,000 in educational grants throughout the Black Belt region. Headquartered in Selma, Alabama, the BBCF provides grants for nonprofits in 12 counties that stretch from Mississippi to Georgia, covering almost one-sixth the land area of the state and home to nearly a quarter of a million people. The BBCF has provided in excess of $2.1 million in grants over the past 10 years to support the arts, education, economic community development and health and wellness programs. Counties covered include: Bullock, Choctaw, Dallas, Greene, Hale, Lowndes, Macon, Marengo, Perry, Pickens, Sumter, and Wilcox.
For more information: John Deamer Phone: 334-874-1126