New programs could benefit whole county

North Shelby County has been home in recent weeks to two new initiatives that could make a positive difference in Shelby County.

Though Freshman Focus and Senior Leadership Academy are targeted at people of different ages and were administered by different organizations, both have the potential to grow into programs that could affect residents across Shelby County.

During Freshman Focus, about 400 ninth grade students at Oak Mountain High School studied careers that interest them and presented plans based on their findings to mentors from the community.

“The goal was for our students to present a plan of how they would be spending their next four years at Oak Mountain High School,” said Lauren Ingram, one of the school’s career preparedness teachers.

Students developed portfolios that included a four-year academic plan, assessment results, resume and cover letter, 10 academic goals, 10 personal goals and their career project highlighting a career they are interested in.

And each student developed a 5-7 minute oral presentation they shared with 18 volunteer community mentors in December 2017.

The mentors offered constructive criticism about the students’ plans and were even asked to assign a grade for the presentation.

Senior Leadership Academy, meanwhile, was a joint effort among the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, North Shelby Fire Department, Cahaba Valley Fire Department and the Middle Alabama Area Agency of Aging.

A pilot program was held at the Heardmont Senior Center, with one day each week for 10 weeks devoted to teaching the seniors who attend about different aspects of public service in the county.

Topics covered the sheriff’s office, NSFD and CVFD, M4A, Project Lifesaver, the Yellow Dot and Red Folder programs, fire safety and crime prevention techniques, Shelby County 911, computer and smart phone training and medication management.

Lt. Cody Sumners of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office said the idea is for the senior leaders to take the knowledge they acquire from the Academy back to their communities.

Freshman Focus and Senior Leadership Academy are separate initiatives with a commonality: they both undoubtedly benefit those who participated, and it would be wonderful to see them instituted throughout Shelby County.

Stephen Dawkins is a staff writer for the Shelby County Reporter. He can be reached at 669-3131 ext. 524 or by email at