Kids First director using trip to help schools

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

The owner of Alabaster’s Kids First Awareness 21st Century Community Learning Center said she is looking to help students in the city retain more information during summer breaks after she attended a national conference in California.

Cindy Hawkins, who operates the after-school center off Simmsville Road for at-risk kids, spent the week before Thanksgiving at the three-day National Conference on Summer Learning in San Francisco.

The trip was funded by a grant from the Alabama Department of Education.

During the conference, national leaders in the education community held workshops and seminars for about 800 educators, after-school programs and faith-based organizations from all over the country, Hawkins said.

Hawkins said she learned the importance of staying in contact with state and national education policymakers, and holding strong summer programs.

“The kids really lose a lot of that information over the summer break,” Hawkins said. “They talked to us about the importance of not only having programs during the summer, but having fun stuff like art and music.”

Hawkins met Dr. Milton Chen, author of the book “Education Nation,” and received an autographed copy of the book for herself and one for Alabaster Mayor David Frings, she said.

She said she would like to use what she learned during the conference to help the schools in Alabaster, both before and after the city splits from the Shelby County School System.

“It’s going to take a whole village. We’ve got to all work together to make our kids successful,” Hawkins said. “This school system is going to be our school system, so of course I want to do everything I can to get involved and get our parents involved.

“All I want for the at-risk children I serve is to help them do better in school, be of good character and be given a fair chance in life,” she added. “We must remember our children are only good as our schools.”