Written by Maggie Moore, AU Community and Civic Engagement Club President.
If you go down Opelika Road, and take a left onto Commerce Drive you’ll be taken to Sparkman Housing. Often forgotten, Sparkman is small but it is full of life with the people living there. In building 332 on a Monday afternoon at about four o’clock, you’ll find the art project titled, “Be You,” underway. The “Be You” program is a photography/art and writing project designed by Mary Afton Day; it was her capstone project this previous Fall as a product of almost two years of developing it with different housing complexes and the Lee County Youth Development Center. The idea behind “Be You” is that children from ages 5-18 can find ways to artistically express themselves and see the uniqueness of who they are over the course of seven weeks; ultimately through photography and writing the kids participating in the program will feel empowered to be themselves and dream big.
The program at Sparkman is a continuation of Day’s work. Over the past four weeks, the kids and volunteers have drawn a name plate to show who they are, their dream selves (one girl aspires to be a puppy when she grows up, and who could argue with that?), discussed community with a tree made of their handprints, and are in the process of making paper mache masks. While it is a continuation of Day’s work, there are slight differences in the activities, but the goal is still the same: empower children to recognize their potential as an individual and bring them together as a community through the arts.
Ten students–from different places and studying different things–will depart on Friday, March 7 for the Clearfork Valley of Tennessee as part of the 2014 spring Practicum in Liberal Arts course. They are Aly Bolin, Lexi Foutch, Cindy Hammonds, Kristen Hoecherl, Brandon Johnson, Shaye McCauely, Lowery McNeal, Maggie Moore, McKinnon Pearse, and Hannah Shaw.
Students will enjoy a tour of Gap Cave on Saturday at Cumberland Gap National Park, followed by lunch with organic gardener Pat Biggerstaff and tour of community garden she organizes in Middlesboro, Kentucky. We will stay at the Clearfork Community Institute in Eagan, TN, a living-learning facility staffed by volunteers who enjoy hosting college students for an immersive experience in mountain community and culture. Projects will include a cemetery clean-up (and discovering the generations and diversity of inhabitants in the former coal camps of Pruden and Fonde), live-staking a stream bank (to mitigate the negative ecological consequences of the Y-Hollow Bridge), visiting with elders and helping out on the Woodland Community Land Trust, and discovering firsthand the flora and fauna that exists in the area, despite the unfortunate circumstances of mountaintop removal for mining coal. If the internet connection holds out, we’ll post throughout the week.
Written by Blake Evans, AU Graduate Assistant
Notasulga Elementary/High School held its Black History Program on Monday, February 24. The program provided an excellent opportunity for students, faculty, parents, and guests to remember the past while appreciating the present. Notasulga’s choir, led by their principal, Ms. Sullen, sang numerous songs that promoted values such as unity and equality. Furthermore, students of all ages participated in various types of skits that reminded people of particular moments in the Civil Rights Movement. For example, the freshmen class acted out the life of Emmett Till, a young African-American boy who was murdered in Mississippi during the 1950s.
Notasulga’s guest speaker was Willie Wyatt, Jr. Mr. Wyatt was one of six African-American students to integrate Notasulga High School in the spring of 1964. He told stories of the struggles that he and his fellow classmates faced during the days of integration. One memorable story he told was of the first day the students attempted to integrate the school. The six African-American students boarded a bus to ride to the school. Upon their arrival, they were told that they were not allowed to enter because an additional six students would create a fire hazard for the school. Immediately following that announcement, state troopers boarded the bus and beat a photographer who had sneaked aboard with the six students. Mr. Wyatt admitted that the process of integration was difficult, but he believed it was the right thing to do.
Ms. Sullen concluded the night by presenting Mr. Wyatt with a Notasulga Blue Devils t-shirt and watch. She also reminded the crowd that Notasulga is a much different place now than it was in the 1960s. Everyone is welcome at Notasulga because it is a place where unity is supreme. That principle of unity was built on the foundation that people like Mr. Wyatt constructed. It is important that students continue to live by it so that the legacy of Mr. Wyatt, and the legacies of the five other students who integrated Notasulga, will continue to live and encourage upcoming generations.
Written by Blake Evans, AU Graduate Assistant.
The Auburn Housing Authority (AHA) is working in collaboration with Auburn University students to host weekly professional development workshops that focus on preparing participants for the GED, ACT, and for job market. The GED test provides people who pass it the equivalent of a high school diploma, and the ACT is a college-entrance exam for students who are applying to colleges. Furthermore, participants of the AHA’s workshops are also encouraged to create and revise their resumes to equip them with a tool that is essential to the process of job hunting.
On Thursday, February 20, public housing residents gathered to participate in one of the AHA’s workshops. Those who were there to prepare for the GED and ACT concentrated on subjects such as math and social science. Participants brushed up on their knowledge of long division, percentages, and their knowledge of American government. Those residents who chose to create and improve their resumes worked with Mrs. Charlotte Mattox, AHA Family Self-Sufficiency Coordinator. Mrs. Mattox guided residents through information regarding the best ways to write and format resumes, including information about what sections should be included on a resume.
The AHA and Auburn University are looking forward to continuing the professional development workshops for the next few months. The program is providing public housing residents a chance to work together to increase their human capital by equipping themselves with skills need to succeed in both college and the workforce. The next workshop will be held on Thursday, February 27.
Students in LBAR 3910: Practicum in Liberal Arts spend some time “live-staking” a section of Parkerson Mill Creek on the campus of Auburn University with Dr. Eve Brantley and colleague Kaye Christian. Live stakes are dormant woody vegetation placed into a streambank to reduce further erosion and promote stream stability. The process is natural and inexpensive, completely cost-free if you harvest your own stakes from existing native species.
When these students travel to Eagan and Clairfield, Tennessee over spring break, they will work with local residents to live stake sections of the Clearfork River, especially the sections below and above the unfortunate Y Hollow Bridge. Our friends from the Clearfork Community Institute–Marie Cirillo, Marie Webster, Sam Marlow, and Jesse Scott–visited a stream restoration project in Auburn this past November, where Eve and partners with the City of Auburn have worked to find natural solutions to repair stream banks that exist in our city. Our friends from the mountains know all too well the importance of finding natural ways to repair human impact on streams and rivers.
In a few short weeks, the live stakes will bud out, establish deep roots, and be a part of the firm foundation that keeps water flowing through Parkerson Mill Creek and further into the watershed that connects us all.
Written by Blake Evans, AU Graduate Assistant.
Notasulga High School students met this week to further develop plans for an upcoming project. Specifically, their deliberative efforts brought them to the conclusion that the best project for their school to produce is a one-day festival that includes a basketball tournament and a 5k run. Plans are still in the early stages, but the students have narrowed their efforts to reflect an event that their student body and community will be proud of and participate in. The students plan to use the event as a fundraiser that will in some way benefit their school.
The next phase is to detail the steps that must be taken to produce the tournament and 5k run. For example, project proposals must be written and presented to their principal and to the Notasulga City Council. Additionally, the students will develop an advertising plan that targets basketball players, runners, and audience members. Also, since the event will probably take up the better part of a day, strategies must be devised to recruit vendors to provide a lunch option for people in attendance.
Thus far, the students have excelled at working together to brainstorm and plan an event that should excite their community and bring Notasulga citizens together. They have increased their teamwork and communication skills through collaborating with each other to come to the best conclusions. In the near future, the students will improve their writing and presentation skills when they outline and articulate their project plans through written and oral proposals and through the development of a comprehensive advertising plan.
Dr. Joseph Aistrup, Dean of CLA, Natalie Glynn, and Dr. Giovanna Summerfield, Associate Dean for Educational Affairs.
The Community and Civic Engagement Initiative held its annual luncheon with AU alumnus Natalie Glynn. Glynn, the guest speaker, is currently working on her Masters in Development Practice at the University of Minnesota. Following her graduation from Auburn in 2010, she joined Teach for America and spent two years teaching middle school science on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota, home of the Sicangu Lakota. This past summer, as part of her graduate work, she worked in Cairo, Egypt evaluating a social enterprise incubation project for lowering the unemployment rate of educated youth.
Dr. Kelley Alley, Professor of Anthropology, and Natalie Glynn.
Glynn emphasized the importance of civic relationships between academic institutions and communities. She said, “Communities, like people, have knowledge which must be transmitted from one generation to the next for them to maintain resilience and vitality. Cycles of boom and bust can be devastating for community knowledge, and this is where effective institution-community relationships can become a major safety net for an area and its people.” She also shared stories from her own experiences, one of which included details of her efforts to fit into the Lakota culture while she was teaching in South Dakota. She talked about how she worked alongside people such as “Leland Little Dog, a medicine man who used to work for the school” where she was teaching. Leland Little Dog helped her understand citizenship in Lakota culture.
The community partners who attended the luncheon learned from and valued Glynn’s experiences. Furthermore, the luncheon provided an opportunity for roundtable discussion where ideas could be shared and community work fostered. CLA hopes that events such as the luncheon will continue to encourage collaboration and discussion, thereby increasing the health of civic relationships.