Fall 2011: Rebuilding Tuscaloosa Today and Tomorrow

As part of a unique service-learning course, UA Honors College students vied for up to $5,000 to implement student-designed projects to aid in Tuscaloosa’s recovery from the April 27, 2011 tornadoes.  The course culminated with five groups presenting their projects to a grant-awarding committee on Monday, Nov. 7, at 7 p.m. in Lloyd Hall.

This fall, 81 UH 101 Moral Forum students dedicated more than 1,280 service hours to helping local relief agencies, schools and the community recover from the April 27, 2011 tornado. 

Students attended an engaging, seven-week, multidisciplinary lecture series on Tuscaloosa’s response to the April 27 tornado, natural disaster preparedness, the challenges of disaster recovery in low-income areas and the resources and planning needed to successfully rebuild a community. Guest speakers included tornado survivors, Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox, members of the Tuscaloosa Forward planning commission, representatives from local relief agencies and FEMA, social service experts and Bob Berkbile, an architect and 2009 recipient of the Heinz Award from Theresa Heinz and the Heinz Family Foundation for his leadership in sustainable building and his commitment to the environment. View the Moral Forum 2011 syllabus for more course details, a reading list, and additional information.

After volunteering in the community, these students developed 21 creative project proposals to address ongoing, long-term needs they witnessed and heard about from school children, parents and community leaders. Eight student-created initiatives were awarded a total of $15,170 in grant money to enact their ideas.

•  Project Bright Side. Students Marissa Ellin, Kyle Leopard, Carrie Morris, and Jason Arterbum won $3,650 dollars to implement an initiative to engage children at the Boys & Girls Club in local volunteer efforts, sponsor the children in the creation of their own volunteer projects and introduce them to philanthropy in distributing $1,000 to local nonprofits.

•  Art for Alberta. Eight students developed a collaborative, therapeutic art project with the UA art and psychology departments and the children of Alberta Elementary School. Moral Forum students working with Art for Alberta were Madelyn King, Rocky Stone, James Burch, Savannah Bernal, Nolan Bush, Cameron Napps, Maya Posey, Morgan Shaw, Caitlin Koranda, Annie Newton, Sara Frese, and Gifford Usher. The team was awarded $3,250 to carry out their project.

•  Plan First. Students Allison Biddle, Crawford Hodgson, Madelyn Vaughn, and Wesley Vaughn developed an annual service-learning course, designed in collaboration with the City of Tuscaloosa, to provide student volunteers who would meet city-identified needs. The students received a $1,000 grant.

•  Alternative Spring Break Toolkit. Blake Senn, Matt Smith, Shannon Walker, and Kayla Head created a tool kit to help facilitate affordable housing and project supervision for universities organizing Spring Break service opportunities in Tuscaloosa. The group received $500 to carry out their project.