Friday, August 06, 2010

Help Kohl's Help Alabama Schools

My son discovered that Kohl's is giving away $500,000 each to the top 20 schools with the most votes garnered on Facebook. He just graduated from The Alabama School of Mathematics and Science in Mobile and has developed a passion for trying to help them raise the money to keep their doors open. He wrote the following plea for Alabamians to please vote for that school on Facebook. After you read his article please click the link at the bottom on the page or the gadget located at the top right of this blog to vote for ASMS to receive $500,000. Right now they are creeping up on the 20th spot on the list. With your help we can put them over the top. Please pass this along to everyone you know and help us reach this goal.

A landmark school in the education of Alabama's youth is in danger of closing down. In the face of the current economic crisis, many schools have had to make budget cuts, with schools in the Mobile region facing even more economic danger from the oil spill in the Gulf. The Alabama School of Mathematics and Science is no exception. Teachers have been laid off, staff have experienced drastic salary cuts, and an entire hall of the school has been closed down to save money for the upcoming school year. Now that may not seem so different from other schools, but as Alabama's only fully public residential high school, ASMS is in a special position. They provide the only place in the state where an excelling student, no matter their background, can go if they wish to further their education in many aspects. This year many teachers and staff have been laid off, limiting the studies that these youths can expand into. An entire hall has been closed down, restricting 1/8 of the population that would have arrived this year from getting this chance. Now, 1/8 of a population may not sound like much, but like coins in a jar, it adds up exponentially over time. This year, upwards of 50 students may not get the education they want and deserve. Next year, the school may not even be around at all.

The numbers speak for themselves. ASMS has a 100% graduation rate, since 2000 has earned $130 million in scholarships and in the last year alone generated around $9.2 million, in a class of a mere 92 students. In the past two years it has produced four winners of the prestigous Gates Millenium Scholarship. Every student to have ever graduated from ASMS has gone on to college, and it has produced doctors, engineers, and many people of great notoriety. The school's website outlines its mission best: "Located in Mobile's Old Dauphin Way Historic District, ASMS was established in 1989 by the Alabama State Legislature to identify, challenge, and train Alabama's future leaders. " Newsweek has even listed this school as one of the top ten high schools in Alabama, and has also listed it as a top high school in the nation. It has been accredited by several sources, many universities and college boards included. They have even been on the forefront of medical reasearch in the past - one of ASMS's students in 2008 was a semifinalist in the Intel Science Talent Search - the first one ever from Alabama, rewarded for his research on cancer cells. Yet even with all this prestige, there is still more behind this school than meets the eye.

As someone who attended this school, I can say safely that nowhere else I have ever been could compare to that institution. While I was there, I discovered a place that was more than just a school - more than a coach barking textbook definitions at me in history, where more focus was placed on jocks and football than on actual education, more than lazily copying down notes that I had learned constantly for the past eight years. There I found a home-away-from-home, a place where the staff and teachers were actually interested in the subjects they were teaching - and were ecstatic to have the chance to pass it on to the next generation. There I found people ready and willing to help without any provocation, who knew that sometimes you just didn't get it the first time, and would sit down with you for hours on end until they were absolutely sure that you knew it. Teachers that weren't concerned about making sure they met their quota for passing students, and were more concerned that their students didn't leave their room without actually knowing and understanding what was being taught. I found a community of students so diverse, and willing to accept others that I was taken aback simply by the family atmosphere that this school exudes from every pore. I built a foundation of friendships and relationships that I am confident will be maintained up until I lay on my deathbed - and so did every other student to pass through those walls. Friends and family alike have been affected by this school, a place that provided education and scholarship opportunities to those who would normally have none.

And yet it is this school that is in danger of shutting down permanently. I could only help out in little ways, fixing up things around campus, helping staff, donating what I could, and hoping, praying that this place would be available to future generations. Until a few days ago, when I discovered a solution. Kohl's Cares, in honor of their tenth anniversary, is giving away $500,000 to twenty schools apiece who demonstrate great care and success in education. All that is required is that the school submit an idea on how they would spend the money, and that they get people to vote for their establishment. Facebook is hosting this contest, and everybody who has a facebook account is eligible to vote. The dedication students, parents, staff, and teachers alike is already apparent - the school is ranked 30th out of hundreds, possibly thousands of schools, and only requires a few more votes to make it into the top 20. The future of this fine school and the thousands of students it could teach in the future, could depend on this money.

1 comment:

Don said...

Loretta, my hat is off to your son. I know you are rightfully proud of him.

He might also try submitting his plea as a letter to editors of Alabama newspapers if there's enough time to go that route.

I would have already voted for The Alabama School of Mathematics and Science if there were some way to vote other than through Facebook. I had a terrible experience on Facebook and de-activated my Facebook account last December. I will never go back there again.

BTW, my muscadines are beginning to ripen. Do know how to make muscadine wine, or know anyone who does?