Love of learning is perhaps the biggest goal for the Birmingham Summer Institute (BSI). It is easy to see that on the faces of the participants.
About 90 children participate in BSI. They come from Fairfield, Birmingham, Hoover and as far away as New Orleans. BSI is the vision of program director Taylor Eads.
“This is definitely my favorite part of the year,” Eads said. “It’s actually my favorite thing I’ve ever done. I love these young men and women, and It’s an opportunity to help so many. From kids like Darrious, who has been here for the past three years, (to) our college students that work here (who) are getting developed in their own way. I’m still developing in my own way.”
The mission and vision states: “BSI empowers students from underserved populations to explore their own identities and become agents of change in their schools, communities and beyond through academic excellence, exposure to enriching activities and social and emotional development. Our vision is to be a model learning community inspiring the love of learning, the realization of internal power, and the belief that all students can achieve greatness.”
Huge goals? Eads and his staff love the challenge, and work to instill those values in their students. One way they accomplish this is by offering innovative ways of learning.
“We practice mindfulness every day,” Eads said. “I think that adds tremendously to what we do. Whether they know it or not, they are practicing every day how to observe what they’re feeling, rather than instantly reacting to it.”
The BSI students confirm Eads’ view. They are there not only to learn, but also to love learning.
“My favorite thing about BSI is that we get to do so many different things we would have never been able to do,” said Dyimen Sylve . “STEM is science, technology, engineering and mathematics. In STEM, we get to engineer and build things using our creativity. Things like building towers out of playing cards and uncooked pasta. I also love math because I want to be an engineer.”
Another student who loves BSI and what it offers is Darrious Moore, who appreciates BSI on a deep level.
“One thing I like about BSI is that it’s very hands-on. It’s not all watching and learning like in school. We get to do things ourselves,” Moore said. “To me, BSI means a community of accountability. We are all growing and learning powerful life skills. BSI has helped me realize that I can actually become a musician one day. It just takes effort and not being afraid to fail, and being ready to overcome any obstacle.”
BSI helps students reverse summer learning loss, returning them to school ahead of where they were in the spring. The seven-week, all-day program delivers intensive math and reading classes with one teacher for every 15 students. The leadership of BSI collaborates with UAB faculty and uses research-based methods to achieve its goals.
“I think we are creating a large community of learners, and it’s the kind of thing that can have a huge impact,” Eads said. “Seeing these kids fall in love with what we expose them to is very rewarding, but that’s not the big impact. The big impact is them walking away thinking they can do anything they set their minds to, and having the skills and mindset to get out and do it.”
Alabama Bright Lights captures the stories, through words, pictures and video, of some of our state’s brightest lights who are working to make Alabama an even better place to live, work and play. Award-winning journalist Karim Shamsi-Basha tells their inspiring stories. Email him comments, as well as suggestions on people to profile, at [email protected].