BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — For Dr. Samantha Elliott Briggs, fighting for the education of children in underserved communities was instilled in her at an early age. Her father was a Civil Rights attorney for the NCAAP in St. Louis, Missouri, working to desegregate public schools. Her mother worked alongside him in the community, helping to organize demonstrations and protests.
“It dawned on me that where my father fought for civil rights in the courtroom, I fight for them in the classroom,” Dr. Elliott Briggs said. “And I think that’s kind of the pivotal moment where I started identifying myself as a social justice educator and really started connecting the dots that everything I was doing in life was to make sure that children had a better opportunity and a fair and fighting chance in life.”
Dr. Elliott Briggs is currently the Project Director for Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs, also called GEAR UP Alabama. It’s a program that advocates for students in underrepresented minority groups, helping them prepare for a college career. After Dr. Elliott Briggs graduated from Clark Atlanta University with a degree in early childhood education, she earned a master’s and then a doctorate in instructional leadership.
In addition to being a teacher, Dr. Elliott Briggs authored the teachers’ curriculum at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. The Birmingham educator wears many hats as a wife, mother, grandmother, daughter, and community servant.
“I’ve had the wisdom shared with me to make sure my cup is full to the point of overflow and to serve from the saucer so that I don’t deplete myself,” said Dr. Elliott Briggs. “That’s something that I’ve learned the hard way, making sure I can always be present for everyone and making sure everyone feels super important.”
GEAR UP Alabama serves 42 high schools in 17 counties, mostly in the state’s Black Belt region. These offer comprehensive mentoring, counseling, advising, as well as career counseling, tutoring, and test prep. She describes her role as “having 10,000 babies to look after,” often going beyond the call of duty to help students who need support.
“I’ll find something that allows me to pick up another group of babies to serve in some kind of way that can have impact,” Dr. Elliott Briggs continued. “We don’t want anything to die with us. We want everything to be a legacy, and so I want my students to have that same impact.”
Check in with CBS 42 every Tuesday in March, as we unveil a new Remarkable Women finalist. The winner will be named “Central Alabama’s Woman of the Year” in a special ceremony on April 5 at 6:30 p.m., only on CBS 42.