At the beginning of June, students from some of the poorest counties in Alabama’s Black Belt traveled to Birmingham for a month of mind-blowing, character-building adventures with the Higher Achievement Summer School (HASS). Their experiences wouldn’t be possible without community support that allows these students to gain exposure to careers, colleges and cultures that they possibly might have never otherwise encountered.
HASS is proud of its longstanding partnership with Christian & Small and Indian Springs School – two organizations that have supported us since our inception. Indian Springs generously provides housing and meeting space for our students, and each week our teams meet with Christian & Small attorneys to practice for a mock trial – tried in 10th Judicial Circuit Court Judge Teresa Pulliam’s courtroom – that takes place at the end of the summer school session.
This face-to-face interaction with the attorneys allows our students to gain confidence, learn about professionalism, and develop their communication skills. In fact, one of our new members, Jaleel, has aspirations to become a district attorney in the future, and one of the Christian & Small attorneys was helpful and set up a meeting with the Birmingham District Attorney so that Jaleel could network and ask questions.
Christian & Small attorneys are also very involved in the mock trial itself, which will occur this Thursday, June 26, at the Jefferson County Courthouse. This is the pinnacle event of our program each year, where HASS students are divided into two teams and take on a rigorous bi-weekly practice schedule leading up to the mock trial. In these prep sessions, attorneys counsel students on how to be good advocates for their clients and the importance of getting the truth. Students familiarize themselves with all of the basics of running a trial, such as opening statements, cross-examination and the rules of court.
The Christian & Small attorneys have truly made an impact on our students that will last a lifetime, serving as mentors and helping students reach their personal and professional goals. The mock trial helps them practice vital skills that will be useful in their chosen careers, such as dressing professionally, understanding court jargon, and working diligently and cooperatively under pressure.
This year we were also excited to foster relationships with more nearby companies, colleges and colleagues. These new partnerships include:
- The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB): Students had the opportunity to tour the UAB campus and visit Dr. Stephen Watts, a biology professor at a UAB research lab. He shared his research with Zebrafish and their connection to the human body.
- University of Alabama: HASS students toured the university campus and meet Dr. Utz McKnight, an incredible professor of race and gender studies.
- Bridgeworth Financial: Working with Bridgeworth Financial, we developed and implemented a financial literacy class, where students were mentored by advisors including Founding Partner Larry Goldberg (CFP), Henry Ware (CFP), Marc Curles (CFP) and Jeff McCormack.
- Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum: HASS was able to tour this Guinness World Record holding museum that boasts more than 1,300 displays, including some of the oldest motorcycles in the world.
- Birmingham Barons: We were able to root for the home team at Regions Field and enjoy a baseball game, the great American pastime.
- Other connections that we made this summer include: McWane Science Center, the BBVA Compass-sponsored Symphony in the Summer with the Alabama Symphony Orchestra, the Natural Hair Academy, Temple Beth-El, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, Auburn University, Habitat for Humanity, First Baptist Church Graymont, Florida State University, Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (Florida A&M), and Samford University.
It has been a life-changing opportunity for HASS students to work with Christian & Small’s attorneys and other Birmingham professionals. The individuals and their sincere personal mentorship enables students to see themselves as college graduates and positive contributors to society. To put it plainly, the people and companies that have chosen to offer HASS financial and volunteer support have directly impacted the future of Alabama. HASS students are being groomed to become leaders, and thanks to these valuable community partnerships, they will maintain the habits of mind to beat the odds and be successful instead of being statistics.
Thank you to Christian & Small, Indian Springs School and all of our new partners for your support of HASS!