Birmingham high school students raise $5K in supplies for elementary schools

Birmingham, Alabama, Birmingham Youth Action Committee, BYAC, Barrett Elementary
Birmingham, Alabama, Birmingham Youth Action Committee, BYAC, Barrett Elementary
James Goodman and Caden Grider of BYAC give supplies to Barrett Elementary teachers Michelle Turner and LaQuanya Wynn. Photo by Bham Now

What’s out: teachers dipping into their own pockets for basic classroom supplies. (Seriously, boo.) What’s in: local high school students on the Birmingham Youth Action Committee raising $5,000 to give back to teachers. The youth-led nonprofit delivered 53 boxes of supplies to Hemphill and Barrett Elementary Schools on January 23.

What is BYAC?

Birmingham, Alabama, Birmingham Youth Action Committee, BYAC, Barrett Elementary
Goodman explains BYAC. Photo by Bham Now

BYAC stands for Birmingham Youth Action Committee. Its goal, according to James Goodman, a junior at Jefferson County International Baccalaureate in Irondale, is to unite the youth of Birmingham through community projects. Wednesday’s 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. It’s kind of like a sports team. … after they’ve sweated and cried together, they start to form a family-type bond.”

James Goodman, BYAC

High school students interested in joining the Birmingham Youth Action Committee can email byacommittee@gmail.com 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.

Why Teacher Supplies?

Birmingham, Alabama, Birmingham Youth Action Committee, BYAC, Barrett Elementary
Goodman and Grider with stage full of classroom supplies at Barrett Elementary. Photo by Bham Now

The Birmingham Youth Action Committee 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.

Birmingham, Alabama, Birmingham Youth Action Committee, BYAC, Barrett Elementary
First-grade classroom at Barrett Elementary. Photo by Bham Now

“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.”

LaQuanya Wynn, fifth-grade science and social studies teacher, Barrett Elementary
Turner, Wynn and their colleagues each received one box filled with tissues, paper towels, disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer for their classrooms. Photo by Bham Now

The Birmingham Youth Action Committee also donated broad-use supplies. Think multiplication tables, poster boards, decorations and borders. Those supplies help teachers create welcoming, ever-changing learning environments for students.

Kudos to 4 Local Businesses Who Helped

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. (PS—if you haven’t tried Diplomat Deli, a Vestavia Hills staple going on 37 years, go get a Reuben.)

Extra Credit Reading

Birmingham, Alabama, Barrett Elementary, bulletin board
Bulletin board at Barrett Elementary. Photo by Bham Now

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.