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Rep. Sewell announces $2.5 million grant for the United Way of Central Alabama

The grant will be used to expand access to services in Fairfield.

Rep. Terri Sewell
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U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell, AL-07, announced on Tuesday that the United Way of Central Alabama’s (UWCA) Bold Goals Coalition has been awarded a $2.5 million federal grant to continue providing services and support to students and families through the Community Schools strategy, which it began implementing last year in partnership with Fairfield City Schools. The grant, administered by the U.S. Department of Education, will provide $2.5 million over five years, adding to the $1.5 million that UWCA has already dedicated to the first three years of the program. 

“We have already begun to see the positive outcomes of this partnership for our students and families, which is why I was proud to advocate for this grant at the federal level,” said Rep. Sewell. “This funding will go a long way in helping UWCA expand their efforts and serve even more families here in Fairfield.” 

The federal funding will enable United Way to hire two more Community Schools Coordinators, who will work to facilitate the provision of services by United Way’s network of partners. The addition of these two employees will allow United Way to place a coordinator in each of the four locations of Fairfield City Schools (FCS). 

While still in the early stages, numerous organizations have already agreed to begin a variety of additional services in Fairfield because of the collaborative energy of the Community Schools strategy, which seeks to use school properties as physical hubs for a range of services, besides education alone, to address the needs of students and families. Such services may include healthcare, mental health counseling, nutrition and dental services, high-quality early learning, after-school and summer learning programs and technical job skills training. 

This year marked the beginning of the Modern Manufacturing Program, sponsored by Central Six Alabama Works!, which offers high school students up to eight credentials and valuable experience toward future employment. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Birmingham has also started its Beyond School Walls mentorship program in Fairfield, which allows students to shadow specific Southern Power employees in their daily work environment.

Additionally, Fairfield has strengthened its connection with the Nurse-Family Partnership of Central Alabama, administered by the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Nursing, enabling pregnant students to gain access to extra care from the time of early pregnancy to giving birth and beyond.

Drew Langloh, President and CEO of UWCA, said the organization is uniquely positioned to draw on, and coordinate resources from, its six-county service area for the benefit of the Fairfield community.

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“The scale of United Way means we can serve as connectors for communities like Fairfield,” Langloh said. “We are proud to be Community Schools leaders in our region and hope to serve as a model for others.”

Dr. Regina Thompson, FCS Superintendent, said more than 90 partners, including local businesses, residents and nonprofits, have been working to establish common goals for Fairfield.

“Originally, everyone was working on different needs,” Thompson said. “We had 90-plus partners, but… they were only bringing to the table what they could do, and then they would go back to their respective businesses. But [then we said,] ‘Okay, if we’re really going to talk about Community Schools, everyone needs to work on the same goals.’”

Fairfield Mayor Eddie Penny said schools are one of the few avenues through which a “whole family” can be reached and that the economic situations of families within communities directly impact the success of children.

“If you don’t have to worry about the financial portions of life,” Penny said, “and you’re not worried about a place to stay, you’re not worried about being warm or cold, you’re not worrying about food, all you’ve really got to concentrate on is your studies.”

Samford University will serve as the evaluation partner for the work, giving Samford an opportunity to engage with its surrounding community “in partnership, service and cultural understanding,” said Beck A. Taylor, President of Samford.

“We are excited to collaborate with United Way of Central Alabama and Fairfield City Schools to change lives for the better with these comprehensive efforts,” Taylor said.

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To read more about how Fairfield residents and leaders have responded to the early results of the Community Schools strategy, go to uwca.org/fairfield.

The Alabama Political Reporter is a daily political news site devoted to Alabama politics. We provide accurate, reliable coverage of policy, elections and government.

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