‘This helped me a lot in life’

Joshua Young helps Brennan Browning with a geometry problem.

Joshua Young helps Brennan Browning with a geometry problem.

Brennan Browning, a Cleveland High School junior, is featured in a print advertisement and a video for the United Way of Central Alabama (UWCA) because of a six-week program she participated in as a freshman.

Cleveland’s principal Chris Lakey said that in the 2016-2017 school year, he had an opportunity to hire a math interventionalist thanks to a Bold Goals grant from UWCA. The grant of $50,000 that year and $75,000 the next, which went through the Blount County Education Foundation (BCEF), made it possible for the Blount County Board of Education (BCBOE) to hire math and reading interventionalists for a number of schools. At Cleveland, in the spring of 2017, 40 students in grades seven through nine, including Browning, received extra attention in math one period a day for six weeks in classrooms that averaged less than seven students each. Lakey acknowledged that teacher-to-student ratio was critical, as was hiring the right teacher.

At the time, Joshua Young was a substitute teacher. After observing how well Young interacted with students, Lakey hired him full time as the school’s math interventionalist using the grant funds to pay his salary. Young changed Browning’s attitude and grades in a positive way. Browning said it was not long after she started Young’s class that she had an attitude adjustment. She said Young “made the environment fun.” Her grades turned around as well, from Cs in math to now Bs.

In her freshman year, Browning described herself as a mediocre math student who did not have any enthusiasm for math class. “I thought it was such a bore and something I didn’t need.” Lakey said she was not failing, but was under the benchmark level for her grade level. The same was true of all the students selected for the program. “They were in the middle of the road. This (program) brought up their scores.” Browning was reluctant to receive extra instruction at first, but after Lakey talked to her and her parents, Kevin and April Browning, she agreed to participate.

Mitchie Neel, executive director of BCEF, said the administration of the Foundation and the BCBOE had anticipated a rise of one to two percentage points in the students’ GPA. But the results were much better, rising from four to 12 percentage points. “The Foundation was just thrilled with this project,” Neel said. “We couldn’t have done this without the grants.”

Browning said the program was more than about math. “I’m using thinking skills thanks to the intervention. I have a different outlook and perspective of life itself. I break a problem down, not just math problems, and start from its root. This helped me a lot in life.”

Browning has not decided where she wants to go to college, but is interested in pursuing a career in graphic design.

Browning’s UWCA ad is on page A4 of this issue and the video produced by the UWCA can be seen at www.uwca.org/videos/brennan/ or the high school’s website www.clevelandhighschool.net.