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Josephine Prado, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the UAB School of Education and Human Sciences, has received a National Professional Development Program grant from the Office of English Language Acquisition within the U.S. Department of Education.

The grant aims to strengthen teachers in targeted K-12 Birmingham, Alabama, school districts by providing resources, education, and community-building opportunities for the growing multilingual population in the area.

The $2.9 million grant, entitled EMPOWER, will operate for the next five years to recruit and develop culturally responsive skills in teachers and those interested in pursuing a career in teaching English as a Second Language. The grant will partner with seven partner school districts within a 30-mile radius of UAB to recruit eligible employees who wish to earn their Master's of Arts in Education in English as a Second Language (ESL) and eligibility for Alabama teaching certification in ESL.


Equity for Multilingual learners by Providing Opportunities for family engagement through Web access and Educational Resources. The name is symbolic of the multitude of facets that fall into the multilingual community, whether English or any other language.

The grant aims to recruit and obtain 20 practicing teachers in three cohorts over the next five years. The first cohort will start in January 2023. In addition, the program will recruit a small number of school employees with a 4-year non-education degree to earn their master's degree through the Alternative Master's in Education Program (AMP) with a focus on ESL. Making them eligible to seek their initial teaching certification in ESL.

EMPOWER will provide tuition support covering 80% of the coursework for all three cohorts of students seeking a traditional master's degree and pay 100% of tuition for cohort members in the AMP. 

Additionally, Prado and her colleagues will introduce professional development in partnering schools and lead an initiative with Birmingham Public Library. The partnership with Birmingham Public Library will expand its bilingual book collection and technological resources for multilingual and multicultural families. The library will provide a local meeting space for UAB students and multilingual families to meet and learn from one another with the goal of multilingual families strengthening their sense of community belonging. 

"I am excited to bring EMPOWER to the Birmingham area and the quickly expanding multilingual community here in the state," said Prado. "Through our work, we hope to help young children and their families feel ready for the U.S. school system, which may be culturally different from theirs, while also preparing teachers for the diverse needs of multilingual learners. By sharing new and different perspectives, we intend to empower both teachers and families to bridge cultural and linguistic gaps so everyone's voice is heard and understood." 

To participate in the grant program, you must be a full-time employee at one of the partnering school districts listed below. To inquire and learn more about EMPOWER, please get in touch with This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


List of schools participating in EMPOWER:

Alabaster City Schools

Birmingham City Schools

Jefferson County Schools

Hoover City Schools

Pelham City Schools

Shelby County Schools

Tarrant City Schools