UA student develops life skills course for area students

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Editor's note: The following is the final installment in a four-part series that has featured University of Alabama students who have interned in Jasper this summer.

A life skills course may be implemented in Walker County Schools, thanks to the vision of one University of Alabama student.

Rising senior Rolanda Tina Turner completed an internship with the Walker College Foundation (WCF) in Jasper on Friday as part of UA's New College internship program.

One mission of the WCF, which awards scholarships from Bevill State Community College to high school seniors,  is to help students prepare for college.

Under the guidance of WCF Executive Director Holly Trawick, Turner crafted a vision for a life skills course, which she calls Branch Out. The course would ideally be taught to juniors or seniors in the Walker County School system and potentially students in Jasper City Schools.   

"It teaches them financial responsibility, balancing a budget, time management, interview prep skills, creating a resume, going through mock interviews, body language and how to talk to people, test-taking skills ... just basic necessities," Turner said, recognizing millennials sometimes lack the skills necessary to manage adulthood. "You would be surprised how many people don't know how to write a check or they don't know the difference between and debit or a credit card. They just don't acquire the basic skills that are needed for post-grads."

She added, "This course equips them with every single facet that cannot be taught with a book."

Turner has met with counselors, educators and school board officials to pitch her pilot Brand Out program, and she said they are all on board. There is a legal process, however, to mandate the course, but she's hoping students will be able to enroll in Branch Out as early as the fall of 2020.  

In addition to developing the life skills course, Turner helped organize the WCF alumni reunion.

Turner is a political science and psychology double major at UA, and she is minoring in communications studies with a concentration in childhood adolescence. She ultimately aspires to be a lawyer, but she first wants to take two years off after graduation and accomplish another goal.

"During my time off I want to work as a research analyst for a Fortune 500 company. Then I want to jump into law school," she said.  

Unlike other UA interns that spent time in Jasper this summer, Turner could relate to the small community of Jasper. She is from Pell City, which she says is comparable in size.

"There's always someone to turn to when you feel down or you feel lonely. That aspect of the internship is making me feel at home in my own backyard," Turner said.

She commended Jasper's resources and sense of equality.

"There's just one common goal in Jasper and that's to make it the most decent, welcoming and innovative environment for anybody to come to, and I think that's very important in today's society," she said. "It's a big point with this country being so divided that you can come to a small town in Alabama with so many great resources and feel like you're welcomed and loved."      

Turner is one of four students that interned in Jasper this summer through New College. The Walker Area Community Foundation has sponsored dozens of UA students to come to the city for nearly 10 years.