The Rural Schools Collaborative is committed to synergistic approaches that strengthen the bonds between rural schools and communities. We can think of no better example of this work than Brittany Williams' Growing Together Grants in Place project.
Williams, a kindergarten teacher at the new University Charter School in Livingston, Alabama, is the embodiment of the RSC mission and its collaborative work. She checks all the boxes: Brittany is an inaugural member of The University of West Alabama's Black Belt Teacher Corps. The University Charter School, where she teaches, is a member of Teton Science Schools' Place Network Schools, and her Grants in Place project connects young students to their community.
In other words, we couldn't have written a better script if we tried.
The Rural Schools Collaborative is committed to place-based engagement, rural philanthropy, and developing teacher-leaders. The work of Brittany and her students is exactly the kind of outcome we hoped for when we launched this effort in 2015.
Brittany Williams’ “Growing Together” received a $1,100 Grants in Place award to fund a project at the new University Charter School in Livingston, Alabama, that focused on beautifying rural Livingston's downtown through gardening and by partnering with local small businesses. The beautification project is a student-driven plan that will broaden each learner’s creativity and aid them in receiving and becoming owners of authentic learning experiences.
We are pleased to provide this final report on "Growing Together" from Ms. Williams:
“If you were driving past or shopping in downtown Livingston on the morning of opening day, you could see University Charter School kindergarteners trailing along the sidewalk making their way to the Livingston Board Well with bright smiles and bright blue shirts that say, “A Community Growing Together.” As we approached our meeting spot, the students were ready and anxious to deliver their flowers to the local businesses.
After prepping and watering the flowers, students were able to walk through downtown with their volunteer team members to deliver their flowers. In their own words, my kindergarteners were able to express their love and support for each business based on what we had learned about each business prior to “opening day.” As business doors opened, students proudly said things like, “Thank you for your business.” or “Your business is important to Livingston.”
Students had been preparing for this day for some time now and were ready to stop by the next business despite the warm Alabama weather. I believe my favorite business we stopped by was our local post office. The students knew that this particular business received and sent letters and gifts to and from places around the entire world. To them, it was an honor to present them with a sweet-smelling gift. Other businesses our class visited included a locally owned real estate company, hair salon, art studio, and a clothing/boutique store.
The most memorable moment of opening day was trailing back to our school, cooling down on our classroom rug, and sharing with one another our favorite part of the day. Students were confident that the business owners felt “happy” and “grateful” for our small tokens of love. Students shared how “the flowers would invite people to come inside their business.”
As a class, we always considered each other as “family” using the American Sign Language sign, and as we grew as a class and school, their flowers and town would be doing the same. With our grant money, we were able to purchase tons of flowers, potting soil, flower pots, watering cans, and other planting tools. We were even able to purchase t-shirts for our students and volunteers to wear on opening day and even a banner to place in downtown Livingston.”
"UCS students were out in Livingston thanking local businesses May 21st. Brittany Williams, shown here, a UWA Black Belt Teacher Corps and Rural Schools Collaborative teacher at University Charter School, teachers and students created "A Community Growing Together" with grant money to thank local supporters with plants so that the community can "grow" together. Here she explains how and why of "A community growing together." Video by Community News Editor Kasey DeCastra."
Our Alabama Grants in Place program is offered in conjunction with our Alabama Hub at the University of West Alabama. Support funding for RSC's Alabama Grants in Place program is provided by Parker Griffith Family Foundation, University of West Alabama, Larry Lee, and the Alabama Friends of Rural Schools. Grant recipients attended the Digging Into Rural Traditions (DIRT) Conference at UWA on September 18, 2018.
The University of West Alabama has been recognized as national leader in race and equity: Read the full report here. We also encourage you to learn more about the Black Belt Teacher Corps (BBTC), and Brittany Williams’ reflection on her first-year teaching.
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