January 2016 Newsletter

2015 Fall Semester Recap

Wow! It’s been a great year for the Liberty Learning Foundation and the entire Liberty’s Legacy Team. We are off to a tremendous start! I am enjoying my new role as I learn and grow with my dedicated team members. One of the best parts of my job is getting to meet so many new faces each week. I also enjoy traveling to see the wonderful schools across the state, and to witness the cool and innovative things going on. Still, hands down the best part of my job has definitely been seeing the thousands of students we reach respond to the this program, and literally seeing communities bond together for the sake of their children. That’s what is all about. Your participation and responses make our difficult job seem easy.

The Next Great Americans Tour Bus, powered by our amazing Events Team has traveled nearly 4,000 miles across the state of Alabama. Our fabulous Education Team has trained hundreds of new teachers thus far. Torch Teams and Hands on Learning Teams honored over 300 real-live heroes in your communities, proving that our Next Generation has citizens to look up to and emulate. Want a staggering fact? Last school year, through our Super Citizens and Hands on Learning programs, we served just over 13,000 students state-wide. However, during the first semester from August through December, we served over 20,000 students! This means that we are on pace to nearly triple our impact from last year. That is quite an accomplishment. During our tremendous growth spurt we have made stops for the first time in places like Dothan, Selma, Decatur and Covington County just to name a few..

Hands down, one of the most memorable moments of the first semester came during our Lockheed Martin Flag Folding event. The Liberty Learning Foundation partnered with Lockheed Martin to honor our veterans and active duty military personnel. Each year Lockheed Martin employees fold commemorative flags to send to military personnel. This year, with the help of LLF, several local super citizens were able to join in the fun. Fifth grade students from Huntsville City Schools at Highlands, Ridgecrest, and McDonnell Elementary Schools all combined to support the occasion. Members of our Education Team went out to the schools to deliver the powerful lessons. They helped the students understand the significance of flag folding, in addition to providing special instructions in the flag folding process. It was a win-win for all involved. The students were able to participate in a meaningful and memorable service project, while also earning money to offset the cost of Lady Liberty Statues used to honor local heroes for their class Torch Teams. Again, the event was a smashing success, so much in fact that Lockheed Martin wants to make this a yearly event. We salute our military heroes, and give special thanks Lockheed Martin for allowing us to participate in this awesome experience.

It’s no longer a question. The impact that The Liberty Learning Foundation is having on schools and communities across the state is undeniable. We are looking forward to bringing more events to more students and communities in 2016. Visit our website and stay tuned in for more Great Americans stories!

– Reeivice Girtman, Executive VP of Business Development


Spotlighting Super Schools & Super Teachers

Vinemont Elementary Students Salute Veterans

On September 18, 2016, Vinemont Elementary’s 5th grade students organized an Honor Walk for Veterans as an outgrowth of the Super Citizen experience. According to Joyce Bishop, Educational Director for Liberty’s Legacy, “Actually experiencing the Honor Walk was energizing and made me feel grateful that these children are being taught lifelong lessons in responsibility and caring.”

The Buddy Poppy Fund at Cullman Post 2214 is used to help returning veterans with cash to use for immediate living expenses. The local volunteer commander, Mitchell Maddox, explained that the post had two returning veterans who had asked for help. Interestingly, the membership at the post was in the process of voting on which veteran to help because there wasn’t enough money in the fund to help both. During that time Mrs. Sandlin and her 5th grade students invited Mr. Maddox and other veterans in the community to attend their Honor Walk. The students raised $1505.00 to present to Maddox.  Because of the community’s generous spirit in sponsoring the kids in this endeavor, both veterans and their families were helped!

A special guest at the Honor Walk, Mr. Walt Gringrich, an 81-year old Korean War veteran, emerged from his car and gave a crisp salute as the 5th graders marched by striding in time to the Armed Services Medley. Dozens of parents, some of who are veterans themselves, participated in the Honor Walk with their children.  Along with the $1505.00 donation, the 5th graders presented a signed banner to Mr. Maddox who assured them that it would be hung in a place of honor at the VFW.  Parents were overheard offering to help in making next year’s Honor Walk even bigger and better.

Liberty’s Legacy and the Liberty Learning Foundation salutes Mrs. Sandra Sandlin and her 5th grade students for honoring those men and women in their community who fought so bravely to protect the freedoms of this country.

“When you honor a hero, you become a hero.

 Salim Jones: I am an ENCOURAGER!

One of the best parts of my job at Liberty’s Legacy is getting to meet outstanding teachers and students while working in schools throughout Alabama. Valley Elementary and Valley Intermediate located in Pelham, AL are two schools that I would put at the top of the list.  Both schools achieved A+ status this past semester based on their dedication to implementing the Super Citizen experience. From the outstanding instructional leaders to the classroom teachers, it was evident their passion for their students and their learning. Of course typical academic lessons can be observed, but what they are instilling in their students about leadership, personal responsibility and empathy for others truly resonated with me at my mid-point visit during the fall of 2015.

While visiting classes, I always like to ask questions about the program and what the students have done since the Kickoff to make their community a better place. This could simply be an act of kindness or service to others. On this visit I had the opportunity to meet Salim Jones.  When I asked what he had done for someone in his community he replied, “I am an encourager.”  The touching part was the little girl who was sitting in the front of the class that was so excited to confirm what he said…he had obviously helped her on several occasions…encouraging her. What a wonderful example of what we can do for others as a valued member of a community.

I had the opportunity to talk to Salim further about his gift of being an encourager…he went on to say, “When other people need help, I hear this and I go to them and encourage them.  I tell them that they can do it.  Don’t give up.” I asked him who taught him this…he told me, “My parents have always told me to help other people so they can succeed.”

What a wonder example of what it means to be a leader, encourager, Super Citizen to others!

– Cynthia Green, Vice President of Educational Resources

Innovative – Decatur City Schools

One word can best describe the approach that Dr. Rachel Poovey, Supervisor of Elementary Curriculum, took when implementing the Super Citizen program in her elementary schools – INNOVATIVE! Last semester all 5th graders in Decatur participated in the Super Citizen program facilitated by the school counselors. It was something new and different not only for the program, but for the counselors as well. While the resource may have been utilized differently between all of the schools participating, the end result was the same…students honoring men, women and organizations that truly exemplified what it means to be a good citizen in their community.

All of the schools in Decatur City did a phenomenal job with the program, however, one school truly embraced all aspects of the program and should be mentioned as a “Super Star” – West Decatur Elementary. Prominently displayed in their school and on their website is the school’s mission statement: Empowering Leaders One Step at a Time. Through the leadership of the principal, Mrs. Datie Priest and the school counselor, LeeAnn Sapp, these 5th grade leaders were empowered through the Torch Team process to turn lessons learned and inspiration sparked into actions and real life applications. Mrs. Sapp’s classes selected two events to raise funds for the replicas of the Statue of Liberty that would be given to their heroes at their Celebration. Within a two-week period, this small group of dedicated and determined students raised enough money to honor four heroes in the community. The students not only collected the money, but tallied the amounts after each activity on cash sheets, learning important financial literacy terms in the process.

“Our Pajama Day raised $190 and our Halloween Costume Day raised $125. The students counted and reported the total amount to me after each event.  I didn’t have to do much but supervise and confirm the figures before turning the money into the office. Thank you for allowing us to participate in this fun and rewarding learning experience,” said Mrs. Sapp.

This innovative way to facilitate the Super Citizen program was made possible through a partnership with the Liberty Learning Foundation and the Decatur-Morgan County Chamber of Commerce – Quality Education Committee.



Watch a video from Decatur’s Celebration:


“This was bigger and better than anything I’d ever imagined! We questioned whether or not we could really make it happen. For them to come through the funding of this, to effect this many children in our community on this scale, it was just awesome to see in action. We are thankful and appreciative beyond what we can even begin to express.

Dr. Rachel Poovey, Decatur City Schools

Flag Folding

Looking for a creative way to raise funds for your Lady Liberty Replicas for your Torch Team Heroes? Click here to watch the video about how several schools in North Alabama raised the money with the help of a local business. This is a great idea that’s fun for everyone!

Madison City Schools Begin Super Citizen Program With Help From Lee Greenwood!

On January 22nd, we were so excited to have Grammy Award Winning Singer Lee Greenwood take the stage to join in on the Next Great Americans Kickoff with Libby Liberty.

Read more about the event here > 

Teachers Asked to Take Survey After Completing The Super Citizen Program

We are all guilty of it- deleting that pesky email or hanging up on the person asking you to take a quick survey. Who has the time for that? I’m way too busy to take a few minutes to complete it. And who knows what they are using it for? Forget it, it’s not worth my time.

Does that sound familiar? We get it. Surveys can be annoying. But surveys can also be a tremendous help for organizations, especially non-profits like the Liberty Learning Foundation, to increase supporters and provide feedback to we can improve our curriculum. Starting this 2015-2016 School Year, all teachers that participate in the Super Citizen 1-2 and 3-5 Programs will be asked to complete a short survey once they complete the program in their classrooms. The short survey is no longer than 23 questions and will take you less than 5 minutes to complete. Each question provides us feedback that we can use so many ways.

First and foremost, the survey gives the Liberty Learning Foundation a gage of the effectiveness of the program and it also gives us a greater understanding of what areas we need to improve on in order to make the program better. We strive to better the program, our staff, and the student’s experience at each and every school. And we can’t do that alone. We need your help! Hearing your feedback lets us know how we can do things better or the effectiveness of the program already.

Secondly, the survey helps us determine our Outcome and Measurements or in other words “The Proof” that the program is working. Our measurement of our outcomes simply tells us if we are doing what we say we are doing. For example, feeding the hungry is easy to “prove” by simply counting those being fed, but because we talk about improving citizen we need to have stronger examples to show this. Donors are savvier than they used to be in the nonprofit arena. It’s important that we are able to show concrete change in the lives of students and in the lives of people as well. The results on the teacher’s survey help us do just that!

“More and more grantors just like donors are requesting not only outcome measurements but the data in the theorem behind it”, says Gina Walley. Walley is the Liberty Learning Foundation’s grant writer. She says she is always asked to specify results when applying for grants.

“It’s important because we want to continue to grow into more schools in Alabama, to do that we have to tap into individual and corporate donors and also look at grants from all different sources. It’s important because they require it. They want to know, as everyone does, that their money is being spent judiciously and widely. That if they are giving us money to promote citizenship, that’s exactly what we’re doing.

If you complete this survey you are giving us the tools to impact more children. We know that every minute is valuable to you, teachers are pulled in every direction and we are so grateful for all that you’ve done for the Super Citizen Program already. So as a “Thank you” we are offering each teacher that completes the survey a chance to win a $100 Visa Gift Card. Not bad, huh?

If you have any questions in regards to the Teachers Survey feel free to contact your Liberty’s Legacy Education Team member.

 Barbie Sumner, Director of Public Affairs