August 2020

The University of West Alabama's Division of Economic & Workforce Development, in partnership with Co.Starters of Chattanooga, Tennessee, recently graduated its first class of REBUILD, an entrepreneurial training class to assist small businesses in recovery, rebuilding and growing their firms. 
This first-of-its-kind program in rural Alabama, completed virtually over a ten-week period, graduated six small business owners and entrepreneurs located in Hale, Marengo, Sumter and Clarke counties. The inaugural cohort included: Aqutia Bennett (Hale County); Yvonne Walker (Marengo County); Carolyn Walker (Sumter County); Jerry Harper (Marengo County); Deborah Rankins (Clarke County); and LaQuita McCalpine (Hale County). 
The live-facilitated virtual program was designed to help refocus and stabilize small businesses that have been impacted by COVID-19 as well as assist in building a long-term growth plan. The interactive program also allowed participants to work with each other thus building a support system for future development. 

"Faced with fear of the unknown during a pandemic, the UWA/Co.Starters - Rebuild program saved the day", said Carolyn Walker Sumter County resident and owner of Catch 22 Ministries. "The time and effort put into the program was worth it! Small business owners should take advantage of this opportunity." 

Among the many topics taught were creative problem-solving, financial stability strategies, understanding the customer base, refocusing marketing strategies, and other tools to support success techniques for sustain growth and profitability. 

"The UWA Co.Starters REBUILD program gave me the business tools, resources, and strategies to fine-tune my independent publishing business," according to Clarke County business owner, Deborah Rankins. "Along with our knowledgeable facilitator and the support from my teammates, the course stimulated my entrepreneurial spirit, gave me a better understanding of my customer and the importance of valuing my business and myself." 
CO.STARTERS is a national entrepreneurial firm based in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Through a national growth network designed to help people and communities thrive through entrepreneurship, CO.STARTERS has served over 12,000 small businesses and 200 communities with their unique training and modeling techniques.

UWA and CO.STARTERS will announce new online virtual entrepreneurial training programs in the near future. Watch for announcements or go to: or

In addition, watch for news coming soon about the Alabama Virtual Summit on Rural Innovation and Entrepreneurship scheduled for Friday, October 23. For more information, go to or call 1.833.UWA.WORK.

Black Belt Museum provides face shields to teachers

Faculty, staff and students around Alabama have returned to the classroom. UWA's Black Belt Museum assisted teachers in the Black Belt with going back to school by providing face shields. They partnered with UWA's Julia S. Tutwiler's College of Education and created face shields for in-service teachers and those involved in the Black Belt Teacher Corps. Second and Fifth grade teachers, Haley Richardson (pictured), at the University Charter School don their face shields to keep them and their children safe during daily lessons. To get the latest updates on the Black Belt Museum's work, don't forget to follow them on Facebook. 

Opportunity Zones Highlighted
Rural Recovery Accelerator program

As part of the Rural Recovery Accelerator, a new community-oriented technical assistance program designed to help rural communities build the economic resiliency strategies they need to survive the current crisis, UWA's Division of Economic and Workforce Development and the Sumter County Chamber of Commerce seeks community input on community needs post COVID. 
The Rural Recovery Accelerator is a new initiative launched by Opportunity Alabama, a statewide 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to connecting communities with capital. 
Sumter County was selected from a statewide pool of applicants for the new program, which has already received national attention from Forbes Magazine. 
"We were impressed with the capacity Sumter County demonstrated for economic growth, even in the midst of the current national crisis," said Opportunity Alabama CEO, Alex Flachsbart. 

Dr. Tina Jones, Vice president for the Division of Economic and Workforce Development, said, "We are excited to work with Opportunity Alabama and want to encourage the community to complete the survey and strategically target needs. This becomes another tool we can use to move Sumter County forward." 

Rural Recovery Accelerator operates at the county level to foster collaboration between neighboring townships and municipalities. The Sumter County team will meet regularly with Opportunity Alabama staff to address economic resiliency in five key ways: strategy development, data analysis, network development, marketing materials, and investment opportunities. The team already completed its first meeting with Opportunity Alabama and has already identified various projects that show real promise. 

Opportunity Alabama (OPAL) is a nonprofit organization that connects Alabama communities and projects to a statewide and national network of impact-oriented investors. Though its primary focus to date has been projects in Opportunity Zones, OPAL has broadened its view to better address the needs of Alabama's rural and low-income communities. Rural Recovery Accelerator is one of the ways OPAL intends to address those needs. 

"We see this moment-where communities are setting aside their differences to work together on recovery-as a chance to put lasting infrastructure in place to improve local economies," said Alex Flachsbart. "To us, the question is not: how do we reopen over the next 2-3 months? Rather, it is: how do we leverage this moment to build a stronger economic foundation over the next 6-24 months?" 

Sumter County is one of six counties statewide selected to participate in the beta version of the Accelerator. Other communities statewide selected to participate in the Accelerator include Butler, Jackson Calhoun, Limestone, and Chambers counties.

To participate in in Sumter County's Community Impact Survey, click HERE
September 15
Black Belt Arts Symposium Online
Get your tickets HERE 

October 23
The Alabama Virtual Summit on Rural Innovation & Entrepreneurship 
Get your tickets HERE 
Student Spotlight:
Palmer lands job in Nashville

Brea Palmer, a recent graduate of UWA's Certified Nursing Assistant program, is now a BioPharma Technician for a healthcare laboratory in Nashville, Tennessee. 

"I had a truly rewarding experience during my time in the Certified Nursing Assistant Program, Palmer said. "I have always wanted a career in healthcare and through the program, I was able to learn valuable information about the laws of healthcare, proper healthcare techniques, and great patient care. I have been able to use many of the skills I learned in the program in my new position as a BioPharma Technician at a medical lab. I also enjoyed the opportunity we had to utilize the skills we learned in an actual clinical setting and gain direct patient care experience." 

Palmer said she joined the UWA CNA Program to gain real-world clinical experience after earning a B.S. in Biology from Birmingham-Southern College. After completing the UWA CNA Program, she worked as a health screener on the UWA campus during its reopening.

According to Dr. Tina Jones, vice-president for the Division of Economic and Workforce Development, "Brea Palmer was an outstanding CNA participant. She was a tremendous asset to our COVID-19 screening team for the UWA campus. She helped everyone start their days with a smile during this pandemic. We wish her the best of luck in the next stage of her career path." 

The CNA program is now in its 5th year at UWA and receives funding through the federal WIOA program managed by the Alabama Department of Commerce and its Workforce Division and Region 3 Workforce Development Council. 

Palmer added, "The best part of my experience was the staff. Everyone from the office personnel to my instructor always wanted me to succeed and were always ready and eager to help me any way they could. I am very happy that I had the opportunity to be in the program. I now have skills and a new family I know will help me excel in my healthcare career." 

For information about the program or to apply, contact Jordan Mahaffey, WIOA Program Director, at (205) 652-5494 or

This project is funded 100% with Federal Funds made available to the State of Alabama Department of Commerce by the U. S. Department of Labor/Employment and Training Administration as the Grantor.

UWA's EMS program earns top marks for ADPH certification

Curriculum earns top approval from ADPH; courses are also offered to the public for non-credit

The Emergency Medical Services (EMS) program at UWA has earned accreditation by the Alabama Department of Public Health. Garnering top marks, this accreditation helps ensure that licensure courses offered on campus meet the highest standards and provide exceptional training. UWA, the only program in the state to boast a 100 percent pass rate on the National Registry Exam. The accreditation process includes an application phase and a site visit.
"Livingston Fire & Rescue Chief Kevin Brunson has been instrumental in leading and conducting this effort with UWA," said Dr. R.T. Floyd, chair of the School of Health Sciences and Human Performance. "He has made a huge difference in our efforts, and this accreditation would not have been possible without his commitment. The 100 percent pass rate on the National Registry Exam is evidence of his support."

The accreditation process is based on national guidelines to ensure that successful EMS education curriculum completion will allow the student to take the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) exam with a reasonable expectation of passing. UWA offers basic emergency medical technician courses that, when taken together, meet or exceed the U.S. Department of Transportation National EMS Education Standards for the Basic Emergency Medical Technician. They also meet the requirements necessary to sit for the NREMT Examination.

Alabama requires completion of the NREMT testing process for licensure for EMT. Successful completion of the courses, whether non-credit or for credit provides examination and licensure eligibility. Courses include EMS 200 Basic Emergency Care, EMS 205 Basic Emergency Clinical Internship, and EMS 206 Basic Skills Laboratory. UWA students may take the courses for credit at the regular tuition cost. Courses are offered to the public for non-credit. Non-credit tuition for the entire program is $700, payable at the first class meeting, and does not include the cost of textbooks.  Required textbooks are available through the UWA Bookstore. 

In accordance with the 2019 Alabama Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Rules (Section 420-2-1-.32 Education Standards and Procedures), all institutions conducting classes for the purposes of EMS education must be accredited by the Office of EMS (OEMS).

For more information on UWA's EMS program, contact Dr. R.T. Floyd at or 205-652-3714.

Sumter County is a certified Work Ready Community with 100% of county goals completed. A complete report description is available at the link below. 

Click here to view the report.

During COVID-19 our regularly scheduled ACT Workkeys testing has been suspended. However, we are still available to assist individuals in preparing for testing and to schedule test post COVID-19 restrictions. For information, call (205)652-3828 or email 


Click here to download the Certified Nursing Assistant Flyer

Alabama Public Television presents Alabama Black Belt Blues. 

For a sneak peek go to and to learn more about the project go to 

This is a project of the Center for the Study of the Black Belt.
Time is running out to be counted. Make a difference for the Black Belt and complete the 2020 census here

In-person visits have resumed at the Livingston office of the Alabama Career Center on the University of West Alabama campus. Masks are required for entry.  Individuals must also have temperature check before entering Land Hall.

The University of West Alabama is committed to providing an educational and employment environment free of harassment and other forms of discrimination on the basis of: race, religion, hearing status, personal appearance, color, sex, pregnancy, political affiliation, religion, creed, ethnicity, national origin (including ancestry), citizenship status, physical or mental disability (including perceived disability), age, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, veteran or military status, predisposing genetic characteristics, domestic violence victim status, or any other protected category under applicable local, state, or federal law, including protections for those opposing discrimination or participating in any grievance process on campus, with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or other human rights agencies. 

The University has designated a Title IX Coordinator who oversees implementation of the University's Policies and Procedures on Equal Opportunity, Harassment, and Nondiscrimination. The University's Title IX Coordinator is Robert Upchurch, Webb Hall 200 (Station 1), Livingston, AL 35470,, 205-652-3533. 

Any person may report harassment, discrimination, sex discrimination, including sexual harassment, in person, by mail, telephone, or email, using the contact information listed above for the Title IX Coordinator. Such a report may be made at any time (including during non-business hours) by using the telephone number, email address, or by mail to the office address, listed above for the Title IX Coordinator. For the University's Policies and Procedures Regarding Equal Opportunity, Harassment, and Nondiscrimination, please visit

UWA Division of Economic and Workforce Development
(205) 652-3828