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ASU students present at Gandhi-King initiative

ALBANY – Three Albany State University Velma Fudge Grant Honors Program students presented research at Stanford University as a part of the Gandhi-King Global Initiative.

A historic gathering in October 2019 commemorated the 150th anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi’s birth through profound conversations between some of the foremost representatives and thinkers of nonviolence in the world. The event was hosted by Stanford’s Martin Luther King Jr., Research and Education Institute.

The ASU presentation, “How Gandhi and King Galvanized the Albany Movement,” featured research from Nia Kimbro, a sophomore nursing student; Krystal Pickett, a senior business student; and Kristin Martin, a junior chemistry student. Florence Lyons, director of the ASU Velma Fudge Grant Honors Program, oversaw the students’ research and provided feedback in preparation for the presentation.

“I am extremely proud of their accomplishments,” Lyons said. “The students received rave reviews for their performance by members of the audience.”

The students presented on various topics related to Ghandi and King.

Kimbro’s presentation, “Pritchett and Gandhi: An Odd Pairing,” examined how Gandhi’s Salt Satyagraha inspired Albany Police Chief Laurie Prichett to devise a unique plan to foil the Albany Movement.

Pickett’s presentation, “King’s Gandhian Strategy for Southwest Georgia,” explored King’s strategy and marginal success in Albany.

Martin’s presentation, “Civil Rights and the Albany Aftermath,” examined the Albany Movement’s legacy.

“To be able to share with professors, experts and Ghandi’s granddaughter how powerful the connection was between the two leaders was empowering and life-changing,” Martin said. “I am forever grateful for the experience to present at Stanford University, with a special thanks to Dr. Florence Lyons for asking me to take on the opportunity.”


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Land bank is returning blighted, tax-delinquent properties to productive use

ALBANY — Although it’s been in existence less than three years, the Albany/Dougherty Land Bank has been active throughout the city and county in its mission to improve neighborhoods.

“The primary purpose is to return tax-delinquent, unproductive properties to productive use,” Paul Forgey, director of Planning and Development Services for the city of Albany and Dougherty County, said.

In giving a report to Albany City Commission on Tuesday, Forgey, who also serves as executive director of the land bank, discussed some of the accomplishments from the previous two years. Among the accomplishments cited was the acquisition of five houses damaged by a tornado in the Radium Springs area.

Of those five, four have been demolished and the land they were on cleared, and the land bank is looking to sell the remaining residence.

The house there was deemed worthy of restoration and is not below flood level, Forgey said.

Since January 2018, the land bank has processed more than 50 applications requesting acquisition, acquired six properties in a target area for redevelopment and received one through donation.

The hope is that a law enforcement officer will rehabilitate and move into the donated 612 Lincoln Ave. residence, Forgey said.

The land bank encourages city and county employees to apply for available properties to encourage homeownership. Among recent activities are the purchase of 4705 Saville Lane by the owner of a residence next door. The owner acquired it through the side-lot program that gives property owners the opportunity to acquire an adjacent property to expand their yard or redevelop the land.

At 2506 Bridgeboro Drive, a developer was able to purchase the lot and will demolish the house there destroyed in a 2017 tornado to place a rental mobile home.

With a budget of $116,000, the land bank is funded by the city of Albany and Dougherty County, and the Dougherty County School Board also participates in the program, Forgey said.

In some cases, blighted properties on which owners are in arrears on property taxes the land bank has acquired are returned to the tax rolls, expanding the tax base.

Last year, “we returned $40,000 in property tax revenue,” Forgey said.


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Albany Tech offers new pathway to career training

ALBANY – Albany Technical College is changing the way that people without high school diplomas can achieve the goal of getting a high school equivalency, while also getting training in 39 career programs. This new initiative offers an innovative path to earn a high school education and at the same time obtain skills training in high-demand fields with better-than-average salaries.

“The Career Plus High School Equivalency program recognizes that adult learners have specific needs and life obligations that should be addressed so that they can be successful,” Albany Tech President Anthony Parker said in a news release. “This program will allow students to obtain credit for skills already mastered, get assistance with textbook costs, and gain career skills at the same time they are earning a high school credential.

“The faculty and staff at Albany Tech have worked very hard to reduce or eliminate the barriers for those who are ready to complete their high school education and enter into a career field that will provide them a living wage. We have an obligation to be the engine for that change in the lives of our students. In turn, we will be developing a skilled and employable work force for our community.”

The new Career Plus High School Equivalency (HSE) is a pilot program within the Technical College System of Georgia. Program organizers say plans are for Career Plus HSE to be expanded to all 22 colleges in the system when results from five pilot sites are evaluated and maximized. One important program innovation is that it allows students to combine previously earned credits from high school and completed portions of the GED exam to obtain their high school equivalency. This newly created path gives students the flexibility to fill gaps from previous high school or adult education classes and potentially earn a high school credential in less time.

In southwest Georgia, Albany Technical College is expanding this concept with a “Joint Enrollment” pathway. A student who does not have a GED or high school diploma can begin taking “gateway” classes at the college while they earn their GED or high school equivalency. Joint enrollment also offers students a five-step process to complete a diploma or move on to a degree of their choice in 39 programs of interest.

“With HSE and joint enrollment, ATC will be graduating more qualified students into the southwest Georgia economy with the skills that are in demand at local business and industry,” Parker said. “This is bound to be a win-win situation because more families will start to earn living wages, which translates to increased family stability and economic spending within the community.”

A student who enters the pilot Career Plus HSE initiative automatically qualifies for financial aid through the HOPE Career Grant program. However, this amount may not cover all of the costs. Once the student chooses a program of interest, they will need to maintain a “C” or higher grade-point average in two specified gateway classes to qualify for additional federal financial aid (Pell Grant). This opportunity enables the student to avoid traditional entry testing and move directly into the remainder of the program’s curriculum because they have shown an “ability to benefit” from the program with acceptable performance in the first two college career classes.

To support this new initiative, the Albany Tech Foundation has provided $25,000 to establish a lending library of textbooks/media supplies for students entering the program who need assistance in that area. The lending library will be stocked with books and other program media that can be checked out at no cost to eligible adult education students and retained for the length of the course. This new resource will be housed on campus at the Anthony O. Parker, Ph.D. Library/Media Center in the Logistics Education Center.

“Albany Tech identified that creating this new lending library would be a very positive and supportive element to the new adult education strategies,” Glenn A. Singfield Sr., president of the Albany Tech Foundation Board of Trustees, said. The foundation trustees unanimously agreed to support the adult education lending library to help students complete their studies. It eliminates the cost of textbooks as one barrier to completing an education.”

TCSG Commissioner Greg Dozier, under the direction of Gov. Brian Kemp, introduced new adult education initiatives in late January 2020 with the pilot of Career Plus HSE in five technical college sites across the state. At that time, TCSG officials stated that since 1946, passing the GED exam was the only way to earn a high school equivalency credential in Georgia. In 2014, many other states began offering alternatives such as additional standardized tests and credit-based pathways to provide more options for their students. Beginning in February, the innovative adult education programs for Georgia were launched with Career Plus HSE pilots at Albany Technical College, Athens Technical College, Central Georgia Technical College, Columbus Technical College and Savannah Technical College.

In addition to Career Plus HSE, TCSG’s Office of Adult Education also will begin offering a second standardized test — the HiSET — as another avenue to earn a high school credential. The HiSET is a nationally recognized standardized test developed by the Educational Testing Service that is aligned with the College and Career Ready Standards for Adult Education. Twenty-three states already offer the HiSET as an option to earn a high school equivalency credential. Students can prepare for both the GED and HiSET by attending free exam prep classes at one of TCSG’s adult education providers located throughout the state.

“All of these new pathways and advancements are designed to support the adult learner who has the desire to get that high school credential and make way for more opportunities and advancement in their career,” Parker said. “We are now equipped as never before to support and assist our community with obtaining career training and high school credentials.”


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HEART group distributes 200 pairs of athletic shoes

ALBANY — The civic group with a big HEART, the Hands Extended Across Reaching Together group that is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, opened its collective heart a little wider Thursday and Friday, handing out 200 pairs of new athletic shoes to kids at two elementary schools in the Dougherty County School System.

The HEART group, made up primarily of current and retired Albany Procter & Gamble employees, distributed the shoes to excited youngsters at Morningside Elementary School Thursday morning and at Northside Elementary on Friday, Valentine’s Day.

“We’ve given 5,500 students a new pair of athletic shoes over the years,” HEART President Anne Johnson said before Friday’s giveaway. “Officials at the schools and parents of the students have told us what a huge difference getting the shoes has made in these kids’ lives.”

The 200 pairs of Under Armour shoes were purchased through donations made to the nonprofit, which is dedicated to helping the area’s underprivileged. The group hosted and prepared breakfast for more than 1,500 at Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Albany on Jan. 20 as a tribute to the life and work of Martin Luther King Jr. on the national holiday held in King’s honor.