BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — The nation’s first and only workforce development high school is looking to attract young adults in Birmingham. It did so Thursday night at an open house.
Build UP Community School is a six-year private school where students can enroll past eighth grade. It prepares them with all the life-long skills they need to succeed beyond graduation.
The school opened in 2018 and is about to graduate its first student this year.
Dean of Culture Anthony Beckett said it’s about shaping future leaders to return one day and give back to their community.
“The key aspects of what we’re trying to do here is not just preparing students for a career,” Beckett said. “We’re also preparing students for sustainability when they become homeowners. It’s a great alternative not only for an educational gain for students in Birmingham, but we’re also stressing to develop that urban prosperity across the Titusville and Ensley communities.”
This is a high school alternative that sets up students for success. Math teacher Ginny Mayhew has taught across the southeast and said this is her favorite program. She sees math students from ninth grade until the end of the program.
“It’s all the stuff we wish we learned in high school about how to do your taxes and pay for college,” Mayhew said. “When you have kids for three, four, five years, you can call it like it is and expect the highest from them.”
Going to school at Build UP gives kids hands-on learning in a work-based learning lab where they sharpen up trade skills and financial literacy.
Jon’marion Lightfoot is a junior who said the hands-on approach and more one-on-one time with his teachers makes a world of difference.
“I know I have a safe place to talk, or I know that I am safe when I’m around them,” Lightfoot said.
Beyond balancing the budget of the stipend each student gets to attend the school, he or she specializes somewhere in the web of trades after the first two years.
“This is a very unique path, and it’s a very cool path that literally provides opportunity that you get to see impact our children every day,” Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin said.
Build UP creates a cycle of fixing up homes these students will one day live in. With the skills they learn at school, they are financially ready to live comfortably making $40,000 or more a year and give back to the Titusville/Ensley community.
Once students complete the six years of learning and personal investment, they are handed the keys to a zero-interest mortgage home that they renovated during their time as students in Titusville/Ensley.