Breakfast yields ideas

Published 11:06 pm Saturday, August 1, 2009

A small but diverse group gathered for bacon, eggs, grits, salmon cakes and discussion at the Hank Sanders Technology Center for Saturday’s unity breakfast.

“The idea is to be able to talk honestly and frankly and openly, and that’s not always easy,” said Sen. Hank Sanders. “The idea of this is if we talk and communicate, we’ll have a better understanding.”

Those in attendance suggested seven topics, but a testing center and seamless education system were the dominant topics of conversation.

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“Many of the young men and young women that I run into who have dropped out of school, one of the problems they had was with tests,” said Mae Richmond, interim director of the National Voting Rights Museum. “They don’t know how to prepare themselves for a test or how to study for a test. One of the things I was interested in developing is a center for people to be able to come back and study and prepare for tests.”

Dr. James Mitchell, president of Wallace Community College, acknowledged that the school has a testing center for its students, but expressed interest in working with Richmond to create one for Selma.

“I feel it’s a responsibility of the educational institutions to become more proactive. I’m willing to work with anybody to have one,” he said.

“I’d be willing to work with you through our adult education program to establish a program.”

With that resolved, conversation turned to the exclusivity of the Selma Early College High School program at Wallace. Students earn college credits through the program.

Twenty-seven students earned their associate’s degrees May 8, 12 days before receiving their high school diplomas.

Thus far, the program has been exclusive to the Selma City Schools program because the grant for the program was specifically for that system.

“It wasn’t to exclude other school systems,” said Mitchell, who added that will soon change. “We are starting an early college high school program with the Dallas County High School system, Lowndes County, Wilcox County and [Perry County].”

Students from the other systems entering ninth grade this school year will eligible for early college courses next summer.

The turnout was less than hoped for, but Sanders attributed that to the group missing July’s meeting, which fell on Independence Day.

He felt it lived up to its purpose nonetheless: a diverse group of people speaking their minds.

“I believe when we truly talk about things that matter to us, we can agree 90 percent of the them,” said Sanders. “But, we allow the 10 percent we can’t agree on to stop us from talking about the 90 percent we can agree on.

“This is an effort across lines of differences — of age, of race, of economic classes, or education differences — all of that.”