The staff at Higher Academics Summer School are educators who dedicate a month of their summer vacation to teach, mentor, and inspire students from Alabama’s Black Belt region. Throughout the year, the HASS staff works to secure donors and corporate partners, review and develop curricula, plan cultural events, and write grants. The staff and advisory board are committed to securing funds for HASS, keeping student tuition to a nominal amount.
The HASS Board of Directors oversees the logistics, curriculum, corporate and community partnerships, and grant writing and extracurricular events. Board members communicate regularly with HASS staff to plan events throughout the year and to assist with the program when in session.
H.A.S.S. Advisory Board
Justin Younker, HASS Founder
Since the founding days of the summer school, HASS has been a beacon for rural Alabama’s most driven students who want to achieve life-changing results for their own lives. Justin, the creator and co-founder of the summer school, works with the HASS advisory board and current staff members to continually craft and mold HASS as the school develops and expands with each coming year, ensuring the sustainability of HASS while staying true to the school’s original mission.
Justin spent three years in Sumter County, Alabama teaching secondary English. After leaving Alabama, he moved to Cleveland to become the Dean of Students at a 6-8 middle school. He currently resides in Cleveland, Ohio where he is attending law school.
Thomas Albright, Former HASS ED, Harvard Business School
Thomas joined HASS as the Curriculum and Logistics Director for the 2012-2013 school year and was the Co-Executive Director for the 2013-2014 school year.
Thomas taught Secondary Social Studies for three years in Sumter County. In 2016, Thomas earned an Ed.M. from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Beginning in 2016, Thomas will be at Indiana University working on his Ph.D. in the History of Education. He is excited to see the continued growth of the program and the successes of HASS students.
Bryan Billy, Teach for America Alabama, Director of Teacher Leadership Development
Bryan joined HASS in the year 2014 and provides the staff with his expertise in curriculum and instruction. Bryan currently oversees the curriculum development for Higher Academics Summer School.
Bryan has lived in Birmingham for the past five years with his wife, daughter, and infant son. He taught 7th grade math at Green Acres Middle School in Birmingham before becoming a Manager, Teacher Leadership Development with Teach for America Alabama. He is currently a Director of Teacher Leadership Development with TFA Alabama.
Julie Ellis, Bridgeworth Financial, Director of Business Development and Marketing
Julie has been a regular supporter and volunteer for the Higher Academics Summer School since its inception. She now chairs the advisory board and supports the executive director in corporate and community partnerships. Julie and her family attend every Friday Fun Night with HASS students playing basketball, dodgeball, cards, board games, and trying to participate in dance contests. She is said to sometimes help the students play pranks on the teachers, though she continues to deny any involvement.
Julie has more than twenty years in marketing and serves as Director of Marketing and Business Development at Bridgeworth, LLC, a wealth management firm. Julie is past board member of Leadership Vestavia Hills and is co-founder and co-chair of Help the Hills, a drug and alcohol awareness program. She is on the recently formed Teach for America-Alabama Advisory Board, a volunteer at Sawyerville Day Camp, on the design team of the Yellowhammer Learning Program, and serves on the Vestry at All Saints’ Episcopal Church.
Oscar Price, Price Armstrong, LLC, Partner
Oscar has worked with HASS since the creation of the program, serving as a mock trial coach for five years. Oscar supports HASS by serving as a professional role model for students and connecting our scholars with professional opportunities in the Birmingham area. Oscar oversees the preparation, logistics, and execution of the mock trial.
Oscar is a member of the state bar of Alabama and is admitted to multiple federal courts. He is a member of the American Bar Association, the Alabama Bar Association, the Alabama Association for Justice, and the Birmingham Bar Association, where he holds numerous leadership positions. Oscar is a graduate of the Alabama Bar Association’s leadership forum, has been named an Alabama Super Lawyer®, and was selected as B-Metro magazine Birmingham Rising Star.
Lauren Sanders – Executive Director
Lauren Sanders is a 2013 Teach For America alumna. She received her Bachelor of Science in Biology from Spelman College and a Master of Arts in Education Policy from Teachers College, Columbia University. Upon receiving her Masters, Lauren returned to Birmingham in hopes of engaging in work that addressed the extensive issues that plague education and soon after joined Teach For America. Lauren taught high school math and biology for three years before having to leave the classroom. She also began working with Higher Academics Summer School after her first year in the classroom and has continued working the the program. She continues to serve as the Executive Director of HASS. Currently, Lauren works as a Software Implementation Project Manager at Daxko and has been the Science Content Specialist for Teach For America – Alabama for the past 3 years.
Tawanda Morgan- Program Director
Tawanda Morgan is from Birmingham, a Teach For America 2015 alum, and a product of the BCS school system. Tawanda received her Bachelors in Marketing from The University of Alabama, a Masters in Human Resource Management from Troy University, and most recently completed a Masters in Education Policy, Organization, and Leadership from Samford University.
Tawanda currently teaches English at Woodlawn High School, where she has taught for the last 3 years. She currently serves as the English Department Head, Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports Team Leader, Problem Solving Team Leader, and Assistant Cheer Coach.
H.A.S.S. Teaching Staff
Maya T Battles- 2018 Instructor, Social Justice
Maya currently teaches Chemistry at Parker High School in Birmingham. She previously worked for various non-profit organizations such as S.T.A.R.S. (Student Training for Academic Reinforcement in the Sciences) at the University of South Alabama as a program specialist. She is a graduate of Alabama A&M University with a Bachelor’s degree in Human Development and Family Studies and a concentration in Sociology.
Maya joined Higher Academics Summer School because she has a strong passion for education and child advocacy, and truly believes that students that are excellently educated are the key to a brighter future.
Laura Lou Delehanty- 2018 Instructor, English
Laura Lou Delehanty teaches English and History at Woodlawn High School in Birmingham. She graduated from Juniata College with a degree in Peace Studies and Politics. Laura Lou joined Teach for America after graduating college and has taught in Alabama for four years. She loves reading good books and is passionate about social justice.
Aaliyah Furqan- 2018 Instructor, Test Preparation
Originally from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Aaliyah Furqan graduated from the University of Alabama in Political Science and International relations in 2017. Teaching in Perry County Alabama, Aaliyah is making good on her promise to be the change she wants to see, having embarked on what she hopes will be a long, prosperous career improving educational opportunities for under-resource youth.
Janeise Leonard- 2018 Instructor, Mathematics
Janeise Leonard is a native of Birmingham, AL and matriculated through the Birmingham City Schools system. She graduated from the University of Alabama at Birmingham where she received a Bachelor’s of Science in Finance with a minor in Spanish. She worked in Banking as a Commercial Credit Analyst for 10 years. In 2016, she became a Teach For America corps member teaching math at R. B. Hudson Middle School in Selma, AL.
Janeise shares four children with her husband, Aubrey and loves to read and watch movies. Janeise is excited to join HASS this summer. She looks forward to helping HASS students hone their math skills and apply math concepts to real-life situations.
Elizabeth A McFarland- 2018 Instructor, Science
Elizabeth McFarland is a 2017 graduate of The University of Alabama. During the school year, she teaches secondary Environmental Science and Biology in Greensboro, Alabama through Teach for America. She believes in a focus on the students and building strong relationships with the community as well as fostering an appreciation for the environment.
Elizabeth lives in Tuscaloosa, Alabama with her menagerie of both exotic and “normal” pets.