The Walker County Center of Technology and Walker High School are both taking part in the Alabama Access for Higher Education, administered by the Appalachian Regional Commission and Bevill State Community College.
In June, the ARC awarded a grant of almost $120,000 to Bevill State to establish an AAHE center. The program is in six counties locally, including Walker and parts of Winston.
Saderia D. Morman is AAHE director for Bevill State at the Sumiton campus. She spoke to the Kiwanas Club of Jasper on Monday at Bevill State in Jasper.
Morman said a big part of her job is to give a “reality check” to teenagers and to help them consider careers that are realistic for them. For example, she said one student wanted to be a brain surgeon but always fainted at the sight of blood. Others have a goal of making $100,000 a year, but do not think they need to finish high school.
“Sometimes you have to take a step back and look at things,” she said. “You have to steer (students) away from certain areas and into an area where their strengths lie.”
She said students face a variety of barriers to obtaining a post-secondary education, including lack of information, lack of role models, fear of the unknown, inability to set long-term goals, thinking they are not smart enough, and other reasons.
AAHE works to combat those barriers by informing parents and students about financial aid options and other factors, building confidence in students, setting up campus visits, mentoring relationships between college students, high school students and community leaders, and more.
Morman works with individuals, but also with groups of students through AAHE.
The program started here in July 2011, and has already reached out to more than 2,000 students across six counties.
In Walker County, the program has reached 550 students at Walker County Center of Technology and 792 students at Walker High School.
Through the grant, each school receives $8,000 for the AAHE program.
Besides working with students, Morman helps schools decide the best way to use the grant funds.
The center of technology used the grant to fund a “groundhog job shadow day,” and Walker High School used its money for a Making College Count presentation for freshmen and to take juniors and seniors on a tour of Mercedes-Benz and the University of Alabama campuses.