Change Starts in the Streets

Students lend a hand to Birmingham
By Haley Herfurth • Photos by UAB Digital Media
Photo of UAB student volunteering at Red Mountain Park; headline: Change Starts in the Streets
Students lend a hand to Birmingham
By Haley Herfurth • Photos by UAB Digital Media
“So often we see issues in the world surrounding us, but we don’t see those same issues in our backyard. By starting here in the community, you can choose your influence and play a role in alleviating problems.”
Photo of student working with hoe or rake at Red Mountain ParkOn a Saturday in spring 2017, more than 250 UAB students went Into the Streets. At Red Mountain Park (above and at top), students removed invasive plants clogging trails, opening new avenues for recreation and wildlife.
Martevia Bledsoe can prove what she says. Each spring and fall for the past several years, she and hundreds of students have fanned out across Birmingham for Into the Streets, a student-led day of service that has become a UAB tradition.
The event gives students a hand in Birmingham’s revitalization, pairing them with local organizations to improve the city’s economic prosperity and quality of life, says Bledsoe, who graduated in April with a bachelor’s degree in public health. She also served as executive director of UAB’s Leadership and Service Council, which oversees the Signature Service Committee that organizes Into the Streets. That group, consisting of 16 students, selects volunteer sites and coordinates student representation at each one.
Photo of students cleaning medians in Glen IrisIn Glen Iris, a group helped restore a rock wall and clean the historic neighborhood.
Jeremy Blackmon, a senior from Birmingham majoring in African American studies, began volunteering with Into the Streets in 2016, serving this year as a site leader at Red Mountain Park. Last year, Blackmon volunteered at Legion Field, where he helped pick up trash and paint. At Red Mountain, he helped clear unnecessary bushes and vines to help certain species of animals prosper more easily. He enjoys the out-of-the-box opportunities for public volunteerism that Into the Streets offers.
“We don’t think of helping nature as a community service,” Blackmon says. “It opened a new mindset for me that I could participate in a place where I could look at creeks and mountaintops.”
Into the Streets also introduces students to people and neighborhoods beyond UAB’s borders, he adds. “It opens a door for people to question what places need service—to learn how we can help others, but also help ourselves not be ignorant of what’s going on in other communities.”
Al Dixon, co-chair of the Signature Service Committee and a senior from Montgomery majoring in early childhood and elementary education, says Into the Streets has helped him realize he has the power to make a difference wherever he lives.
“I’m from Montgomery, but I’m in Birmingham now, and I have to give back where I am,” he says. “It’s important to get involved in the community you live in. We aren’t here just for a degree. We’re here to get to know people and give back.”

Photo of students working with children and parents at art festivalIn Avondale, students staffed the Art in Avondale Park festival, an event drawing visitors and attention to the resurgent community. Yet another group of volunteers went to North Roebuck to restore trails and beautify Village Creek.

Published August 2017