A Project for Students and Citizens

Archive for August, 2012|Monthly archive page

“Boss” Green Grows Roots In Bayou

In Bayou La Batre on August 13, 2012 at 12:23 pm


IMG_0372Bayou La Batre: Jeremy “Boss” Green

By Laney C. Payne

Jeremy “Boss” Green is using his Auburn roots to grow some new ones at Alma Bryant High School in Bayou La Batre.

Sporting a worn navy “AU” ball cap with pride, the 27-year-old Auburn University graduate uses what he has learned through Auburn’s College of Agriculture to help Mobile Bay students learn about the world around them from the ground up. From shotgun safety, fisheries, wildlife science, and turf grass management, Green is educating his students and working to create opportunities to open their eyes to how they can turn a passion for the outdoors into a profession.

“I loved being outside, but today kids seem to be oblivious to it,” said Green. “I found a way to turn that passion into a career.”

Green also serves as the Future Farmers of America advisor for his Alma Bryant High School students. Wearing a weathered blue corduroy FFA jacket earned from his time competing in his high school days, Green works to coach teams in tractor safety, floriculture, and livestock judging to compete in the upcoming district and state competitions in Enterprise and Auburn.

“Mr. Green, he’s so laid back. He makes it easy to learn,” said Sylvester, an 11th grade student who is currently enrolled in Green’s wildlife science class.

When reflecting on his time at Auburn, Green explained how he feels he was not prepared for the real-world experiences he faced once getting out of the “college utopia.” “When you are in college, you are in a whole different world. You make your own schedules and get up and go to class. Out here in the real world, things are a bit different,” said Green.

Although Green recognizes the many opportunities that have come his way because of his education at Auburn University, he said he feels that colleges and universities need to begin to do a better job preparing their students for the experiences that arise after college.

“Universities share a responsibility in making productive citizens,” said Green.

Growing up on his family farm in Citronelle, Ala., Green explained how his time outdoors has impacted nearly every aspect of his life as he walked around the baseball fields that double as his personal turf grass management lab. “If you didn’t have land, you knew someone who did.  We weren’t alien to getting outside and doing something,” said Green. “We definitely weren’t city kids.”

When talking about the community surrounding Alma Bryant High School, Green explained the history behind the facility. Prior to Alma Bryant, students in the area attended one of two schools in Bayou la Batre or Grand Bay before the two schools merged in 1999.

“The two communities are very different,” explained Green. “Grand Bay is all about farming, and the bayou is all about shrimping. They are two different communities with very different people.”

As a coastal community, the citizens of the area have been affected by the gulf oil spill, hurricanes, and a troubled economy. Green said feels that by engaging his students, he can create an air of opportunity and guidance for kids who otherwise might never receive it.

“My students tend to be children of shrimpers who are out at months at a time or shipbuilders who work late night shifts,” said Green. “If these kids get involved, whether it be in FFA, sports, or something else, it’ll impact their life.”

Working year round as a teacher, FFA advisor, avid hunter and fisherman, Green keeps busy working to make an impact on his student’s lives. “I have contact with my kids over the summer. That’s when we pick out our hogs!” said Green. As the FFA advisor, Green works with locals to raise hogs to compete with in the annual FFA fair.

As a new employee to Alma Bryant, Green quickly made his mark, earning his nickname, “Boss.” It seems his work never ends. “Somewhere along the line, ‘Boss’ came in. Ever since then it’s been ‘Boss Green’,” the Alma Bryant agro science teacher said with a grin.

Hobson City: Week Nine

In Hobson City on August 9, 2012 at 12:28 am

Marian Royston is living democracy in Hobson City, Alabama.  Originally from Roanoke, Alabama, she is a senior majoring in history at Auburn University. Living Democracy is a yearlong collaboration between students and citizens on issues that matter to local communities.

This has been without a doubt one of the most challenging experiences of my life. Coming into the Living Democracy project, I was forewarned of the challenges that go along with working in communities, but there wasn’t much that could prepare me for the level of difficulties and frustrations that I encountered as I tried to implement my project. Many times I even thought that what I was doing was going to end up a total failure, but I kept trying my best to work through. Looking back, I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything. I’ve gained knowledge that cannot be found in a lecture hall or a dusty textbook. I do believe that I’ve been successful in Hobson City, but I didn’t achieve the conventional success that I was expecting. Instead, I achieved the kind of success that I believe can be built on.

Working on the community needs assessment proved to be a bigger and more arduous task than I had originally anticipated. Despite all of the plans and research, there was still one variable in the equation that was unaccounted for.  I quickly learned that people are unpredictable and that the success of my project was not entirely in my own hands. I was at the mercy of the citizens of Hobson City. Therefore, I realized, when working in a community, establishing relationships and building trust is very necessary.  Building trust isn’t always easy in an economically marginalized community. It’s even more difficult when the broken promises of the past and political division are added to the mix.

I had my work cut out for me, and at times I felt overwhelmed. Getting one person to complete an assessment proved to be a challenge. Every time I successfully administered one, however, I realized that I was providing something important to the community. I was able to give a voice to people who had probably never been asked for an opinion before. Once I started asking questions, people were happy to chat with me about their thoughts on the community. The citizens of Hobson City were yearning for a way to express themselves, but didn’t know how. Although I was only able to reach a sampling of the community, I feel that I helped pave the way to future conversations about the community.

I think the project did give citizens the opportunity to explore their hopes and dreams. If not the project, then I hope my presence afforded that chance. I always tried to appear friendly and trustworthy and ask the questions that I felt needed to be asked. Hopefully, by spreading awareness about my project and implementing it, I was able to communicate what democratic citizenship meant to me. Overall, I think that I was able to be an example of the changes that are coming to Hobson City.  Few have ever come from the outside seeking to immerse themselves in the community as I have. The fact that someone cares enough to do so is different. Many of the citizens around here are used to being passed by and looked over. Now, the spotlight is moving onto Hobson City, and citizens are starting to realize that they can take control of the future. Did I radically change anything? No, I don’t believe so, but I do believe that my time here will have a strong impact.

Valley: Week Four

In Valley on August 8, 2012 at 11:58 pm

Audrey Ross is living democracy in Valley, Alabama.  Originally from Siloam Springs, Ark., she is an honors students majoring in mathematics at Auburn University.  Living Democracy is a yearlong collaboration between students and citizens on issues that matter to local communities.

There are many different civic spaces in which the work of the city takes place. Naturally, the center of the city’s civic work is Valley City Hall. Most of the official business of the city is conducted here, and citizens can attend city council meetings in order to stay up to date with what is happening in their community. City Hall isn’t just a place for business; it’s also the place to start if change needs to occur. What makes City Hall a great civic space are the knowledgeable and caring staff who listen to the citizens’ needs and point them in the right direction to solve their problems. By having access to the many contacts of City Hall, one or a few citizens can get the answers and support needed to make positive strides and changes for the community as a whole.

In addition, Valley City Hall, the police department, the post office, Alabama Power, and EMS are all located in the same complex of buildings. This allows for better connectivity within these entities and brings a variety of people to the same location. Another important civic space is the Valley Community Center. The unique thing about this location is that the community center and sportsplex are combined into one building. This can allow for many different types of events to be held at the Community Center, and it also draws different demographics to the same area. Various community programs and events take place at the Community Center, but there are also the members who come to use the walking track, weight room, and indoor pool.

Another great civic space is the Langdale Mill, which holds offices and hosts a farmers’ market throughout the summer as well as other community events.  But the real potential of the space is to come, with revitalization plans in place to turn the area into a city center. Though the traditional areas of civic commerce in Valley are great, citizens’ work does not stop when we leave city hall. Places such as the beauty shop down the street, the local coffee shop, and the many churches throughout the area are also key locations. Like many communities, much of the civic activity that goes on in Valley happens in these “third places”. Citizens can gather, discuss city issues and politics, and most importantly become a more cohesive group. The majority of these types of places start with a small group of people who understand the value of unity and community. They are able to quickly grow by word of mouth and citizens can accomplish goals by the group’s shared connections and resources. For this reason, oftentimes a city’s third places can be more effective than traditional civic spaces.

One of the things that is lacking in Valley is a city center. Many cities have a downtown area where much of the work and commerce of the city takes place. Shops are located back-to-back and citizens can go there just to browse, walk around, and spend time with their community. Because Valley doesn’t have an area such as this and the community is too spread out to allow for most people to walk from place to place, there are fewer opportunities for everyday interaction between citizens. The plans to revitalize the Langdale Mill recognize this problem and strive to create that “city center”. The addition of the Langdale Mill complex has the potential to greatly improve the overall civic health of Valley by giving citizens a central location to gather, exchange information, and become more connected with their community.