By: Mike Oakley, President – Bibb County Board of Education

A large part of providing a “total high school experience” is helping students learn about life outside of school. As providers of education the trick is to look for more than just the time that students spend in the classrooms. What, for example, could students do when they are not in class that could possibly prepare them for life after school? Could there be a way to spark an interest in something that could launch a career?

Education is far more than what happens within the confines of a school building located on an elementary, middle, or high school campus. And the truth is that you are never too young or too old to learn if you don’t limit yourself to possibilities or to what people tell you “you ought to do.”

Possibilities are what makes experiments happen, movies get made, books written, rockets take off and new frontiers get explored. Imagine if Lewis and Clark had listened to the naysayers of the time or if Columbus had believed the world was flat? Exploring or opening the doors to those possibilities for young people should be the responsibility of everyone; be they private, public or whatever.

Thankfully, in small towns, people know each other and step up to the plate when called upon to help. Likewise, there are many businesses within driving distance willing to help young people find their niche. One such business is the Bibb Medical Center. BMC is one of the top employers in Bibb County. While other rural health care facilities across Alabama are fighting to stay open, Bibb County is lucky to have a viable and healthy hospital that is also a virtual economic engine.

This summer six young people from across the county are interning at the thriving health care facility and are learning life skills that will take them far in whatever career they choose, be it health care or not.

Shelby Lawrence, for example, is attending college and majoring in social services. She found out about a program through the hospital that would help pay for school in exchange for her working at the hospital. Not only will she get an education that leads to a career, the community will profit from a talented young person returning to her home town to give back in a very important way. When Shelby graduates she will return to Bibb to work at the hospital in social services.

Autumn Lippeatt and Breanna Pate of West Blocton are also interning at the medical center. They are working in the nursing home, front office, and throughout the hospital performing various duties. They are being exposed to a variety of jobs that will enhance their lives and their studies.

Boy interns at BMC July 2018Three young men are also working at the medical center. Adontis Underwood, John Deavers and Noah Hobson, all of Centreville, are getting a baptism in concentrations consisting of three main disciplines – maintenance, purchasing and environmental. In performing these jobs, they will get to see, from the ground up, how things work at a business. Their experience will prepare them to not only work but run a business. The work they do, from working the ground to taking care of the equipment and learning how cleanliness affects a work environment, will help them no matter their chosen field of interest.

Valerie Cook, Executive Director of the Bibb County Chamber of Commerce said, “The ability for students to gain work experience while they are in school is invaluable. So many times, students go through their formative years with no idea of how to move forward or what it takes to succeed. Bibb Medical Center joins other businesses in providing an important piece of a large puzzle for these young people. They also offer an attractive incentive for them to work when they graduate.”

“Business leaders in our community face a critical need to elevate the discussion around workforce development planning and development,” says Joseph Marchant, CEO of Bibb Medical Center. “We are proud that BMC has a long history of serving our community as an engaged partner. We also know collaborations of the past need to become more involved. For those who ask, “who is responsible for workforce planning?” I would say, all of us!”

Education inside the classroom is vitally important but what students do outside the classroom often dictates the direction they will take in their lives. Bibb County may be considered a “rural county” but the richness of its business environment ensures its students are prepared for the long haul of life in a productive manner.

“It doesn’t matter how many books you read, lectures you hear, notes you take or videos you watch in high school or college,” said Duane McGee, Bibb County Superintendent of Education. “On the job training and putting theory to practical application is where the rubber meets the road. We are extremely fortunate for internship opportunities our local industry provide to our high school co-op students as well as to our college students.”

The Bibb County Board of Education takes the education of its students seriously and salutes the businesses that take a genuine interest in helping grow our own students and help us keep our talent, in-county. If you have ideas on how to help us help our students, please don’t hesitate to let us know by contacting us in person or by our website,

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Mike Oakley is a longtime community and state activist dedicated to making his space better than when he found it. A 39-year member of the Alabama Army National Guard and U.S. Army, Oakley achieved the rank of Command Sergeant Major (CSM) and was mobilized or activated four times. He is a member of the Bibb County Board of Education since 1998 and works tirelessly to improve education initiatives in his home county. A member of several state boards of directors, Oakley believes that your attitude determines your latitude and a positive mindset is imperative to defeat negativity encountered in life. A lover of books, poetry, music and history, Oakley is excited to be a part of the move to bring news and enlightenment to interested readers.