Banks Academy Welcomes a New Executive Director Cas McWaters

Banks Academy's New Location

Education Extra

Bringing with him a vast number of years of full and part time educational experience and 43 years of music ministry, Cas McWaters recently joined Banks Academy as its new Executive Director. He comes to Banks Academy after retiring as Principal from Vestavia Hills High School in 2013 and serving 8 ½ years in multiple administrative roles at Cornerstone Schools of Alabama.  

Cas McWaters
Banks Academy’s new Executive Director Cas McWaters has many years of experience in full and part time education.

Banks Academy is an ACSI accredited non-denominational private Christian High School located in northeast Birmingham serving grades 9-12. The school opened in August of 2015 and recently moved to a new location in partnership with Huffman Baptist Church located at 700 Huffman Road.

McWaters will be concentrating on starting a Middle School at Banks Academy while continuing to pursue academic excellence for the students. McWaters explained he prayed for several months whether the Lord wanted him to make this change, and the Lord was clear in His guidance.  “Banks Academy is blessed to have an experienced Godly Principal with Dr. Cathy Trimble,” McWaters said adding, “With a goal of excellent Christian education, serving like Jesus in the community, and building character through a competitive athletic program, the best days are ahead for Banks Academy. “

All Banks Academy students receive scholarship help through the Alabama Accountability Act and local donations. If you would like to be a part of the Banks Academy Spring Banquet on April 11, former SEC Head Coach David Cutcliff will be speaking. Tickets may be purchased by visiting

Banks Academy is now enrolling students for the 2023-2024 school year. You may complete an application on the website at or feel free to come by and visit the school. If you have any questions about the school, please don’t hesitate to call McWaters at 205-578-2541. †


Education Extra

Gardendale High School (GHS) is currently collecting donations to assist in sponsoring over 200 children through their 2022 Christmas Visions program. Christmas Visions is their way to give needy children his or her wish list for Christmas. Collections will take place now through mid-December. Christmas Visions benefits children who attend 20 Jefferson County Schools.

Christmas Visions
Fundraising for Christmas Visions continues through December 15.

The GHS student body strongly believes in the opportunity to give back and looks forward to the campaign each year. The majority of the money comes from small donations from 1100+ students. They believe in the opportunity to give hope and to give back. Gardendale’s Student Council (GSC) helps facilitate the campaign under Alex Lewis, the GSC Adviser. Lewis stated, “Christmas Visions is a charity initiative started 31 years ago by the Student Council organization. We provide Christmas for underprivileged students within the Jefferson County School District. The money provides Student Council members the opportunity to shop for individuals’ Christmas wants, but more importantly, their needs. The wish lists are sent to us directly from Jefferson County Counselors and we currently serve approximately 20 schools within the district.” GHS students realize they are a part of something bigger than themselves. Christmas Visions develops, in them, a desire to help others. They want these recipients to feel special at Christmas and have the things that they need. Stories from the recipients lead them to truly want to give. High school recipients say that the shoes provided to them were the first shoes that they have owned that did not have holes in them. Some students request items like name brand food products because that is a special treat for them. The stories are endless.

Christmas Visions Amount Raised as of December 1
Pictured here is Gardendale High School’s Christmas Assembly. As of December 1, the students raised $30,162.14 in 2022. Photos courtesy: Jere Bensko

In an effort to meet their substantial goal, the GSC also reaches out to local businesses and members of the community to request their support. It takes a true community effort to obtain the goal. The program is designed to provide recipients with items that are specific to their situation. Each participating school has a counselor choose their students with the greatest needs. A wish list is gathered for each child, citing their needs and wants, along with the needs and wants of any siblings who are not school-aged. Once all of the money is collected, a GSC member selects two to three children to shop for, purchasing ALL of their needs first, then their wants. Depending on the amount raised, $150 – $200 is budgeted per child. Many kids list things such as toothbrushes, shampoo, blankets, jackets and food as needs.  Wants often include basketballs, footballs, coloring books and bicycles. Each recipient has a huge bag full of gifts that are delivered to their schools where their parents pick them up, just in time for Christmas… making spirits bright.

Collecting money and donating to “Toys for Tots” was Gardendale High School’s first Christmas project. In December of 1990, GHS decided to sponsor families without the assistance of “Toys for Tots.” That year, the Student Government Association (now known as the Gardendale Student Council), decided to give their efforts a name, and Christmas Visions was born. Over 30 years later, the tradition of generosity continues. In 1990, $8000 was raised to sponsor just over 50 children. By 2005, the total had increased to over $35,000. The 2022 goal is to collect $47,000, the largest VISION to date! For more information or to make a donation to Christmas Visions, please contact Alex Lewis at †

OLS Peer Helpers pic

Education Extra

The 2022-2023 Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic School (OLS) Peer Helpers have been chosen! The students were selected based on their teacher recommendations, grade point average, individual questionnaire, and personal interviews. These ambassadors help host special school events. They also tutor and help other students with reading, writing skills, math facts, and art projects, in addition to assisting teachers with various bulletin board projects in the school.

OLS Peer Helpers pic
The 2022-2023 Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic School 8th-grade Peer Helpers are as follows (from left to right) Left to Right (top):  Olivia Sapalaran, Sofia Arteaga, Caroline Von Hagel, Isla Rohling, Linley Sparks, Sophia Bell Left to Right (bottom):  Hannah McMillan, Joseph Fuller, Caleb Brown, Max Sullivan, Delaney Sparacio

Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic School fosters the religious, academic, and social development of every child, recognizing that knowledge enlightened by faith and realized through service is at the heart of Catholic education. Accredited by Cognia, we provide a curriculum that combines Catholic faith and teachings with academic excellence. We offer a partnership with parents in the religious formation of their children through a family friendly environment to prepare our students to be productive citizens and future leaders. Our school consults with the Diocese of Birmingham Catholic Schools Office, the CDC guidelines, and the recommendations by the American Academy of Pediatrics to maintain a safe environment for our students. To learn more about Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic School, visit †

bigstock Satisfied young woman looking 399555869

Education Extra

Community Partner Logo 22 FINAL 1Brought to you by: Community Partner Scholarships for Kids

The Scholarships for Kids team are planners that take the responsibility of planning the futures of the students they serve very seriously. The community model of Scholarships for Kids offers students, parents, schools, and taxpayers ‘an in’ on one of the greatest opportunities to invest in our future, and it’s an opportunity that doesn’t cost the Alabama taxpayer a dime. The team has a responsibility to donors to utilize funds donated by Alabama taxpayers toward the education of Alabama’s children.

Scholarships for Kids is a community of fundraisers that cannot do this without support. To ensure that parents and schools can plan accordingly, funds donated in any given calendar year are reserved for the next academic year. This budgeting gives families, schools, and donors peace of mind that the Scholarships for Kids team is accountable for the funds they are tasked to handle.

Scholarships for Kids partner schools establish a safe, welcoming, and culturally diverse environment where students can thrive academically, spiritually, and socially. Scholarships for Kids students work hard not only to succeed in a new environment but to overcome challenges they have faced that many will never fully understand. Despite these challenges, they are rising to the occasion as leaders and becoming Student Government Association presidents, salutatorians, and student athletes. They are finding where they fit in, and they are better for it. 

Scholarships for Kids looks to parents to have skin in the game. This means that no matter the tuition amount, parents are responsible for a portion of their child’s tuition. They too are partners in this process. They are transferring due to safety concerns, or because they see a special quality in their child that should be fostered in a different kind of environment. It’s the ultimate team effort, and it’s making a difference in the future of Alabama.

There is only one way you or your business can tell the state of Alabama how to spend your tax dollars and that is by redirecting up to 100% of your state tax liability. These are tax dollars you already must send to the state, and through the Alabama Accountability Act, you can help give school choice opportunities to students from low-income households. This is a dollar-for-dollar tax credit meaning you get back every dollar you invest in this program! For more information, call 205-246-5613 or visit †

FBK Brochure PNG

Premier Event for Women of destiny! Get ready to soar like never before. Join us for an incredible day of Encouragement, Empowerment and Inspiration galore. Hear from a powerful panel of Miss Overcomers as they share life transforming Biblical strategies to help you Reclaim Courage, Affirm your Calling and Walk Strong in the Miss Overcomer lifestyle you were born to enjoy! Don’t miss this Divine Moment tailor made just for you. You’ve been Chosen for the Miss Overcomer Gathering! Cost is Free but seating is limited. Click here to register.


One Place Metro Alabama Family Justice Center is pleased to present Hidden Reality, Relentless Hope: An Evening with Stephanie Land, author of The New York Times bestselling memoir, “Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive,” on Friday, Sept. 30 at Red Mountain Theatre. Join us for a reception, reflections and remarks by Stephanie Land, and a book signing. Land’s memoir inspired the hit Netflix Emmy-nominated show, “MAID,” and recounts her harrowing saga as a single mom experiencing domestic abuse and navigating the bureaucratic nightmare of living below the poverty line.

Hear from Land as she reflects on these personal experiences while connecting her experiences with the many victims and survivors who are facing similar struggles today. All proceeds from this event will benefit One Place, which provides coordinated services to victims and survivors of domestic and sexual violence through a multi-disciplinary team of professionals working under one roof. 

Event Schedule:  

5:30-6:30 p.m. – Reception

6:30-7:30 p.m. – Reflections and Remarks with Stephanie Land 

7:30-8:30 p.m. – Book Signing 

Tickets range in price from $79 to $99 and include access to pre-show reception, reflections and remarks with Land, and post-show book signing.The reception includes hors d’oeuvres, drinks, and fellowship. Books will be available for purchase from Thank You Books. The attire for the event is business casual or cocktail. For more information about this event and/or to purchase tickets, visit


Welcome back to first priority kids holding gospel sign

Welcome Back to Class

Did you know that as of last school year there are 163,814 students in 270 schools across Greater Birmingham? First Priority represents 93 of those schools. That means there are 177 schools without a First Priority/Priority Kids club. We are working hard to expand this fall and start new clubs. The vision of First Priority is to share the hope of Christ with every student before they graduate high school. First Priority unites the local body of Christ with a plan of action to influence the school with the Gospel.

First Priority Club
As area students head back to class this fall, First Priority and Priority Kids will play a critical role in helping our youth establish positive peer groups and grow in their faith in Christ.

Did you know that suicide is the second leading cause of death among teenagers? Students are depressed, lonely and looking for a safe place to belong. Christ’s love is the answer and First Priority gives them a great outlet to connect with others who may be going through similar situations. Launching new clubs will allow more students the opportunity to hear the life-changing Gospel of Christ, develop leaders and connect local churches to mentor students.

Priority Kids is a strategy for churches and parents to partner together around schools to empower elementary and intermediate students to influence their school with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We do this by teaching them “What Jesus Said” in the Bible. We believe as they READ IT, SEE IT and LIVE IT for themselves they will have a desire to TELL IT to everyone they meet. A young boy recently told his mom the only reason he wants to attend school is to go to Priority Kids.

First Priority and Priority Kids clubs are much needed on school campuses as they provide a safe environment and positive peer group for students. Will you help us expand this year and launch new clubs? There are multiple ways you can be involved. Visit for more information or email us directly at If you would like your elementary student to participate in Priority Kids this fall or if you would like to volunteer, visit We hope you’ll be a part of this unique movement to reach every last student with the hope of Christ! †


Banks Academy's New Location

Welcome Back to Class

Banks Academy partnered with Huffman Baptist Church for a new location! “We are excited to have such a great Christian high school utilizing our facility enabling our church to further serve the surrounding community,” says Rob Paul, Pastor of Huffman Baptist Church. “The Huffman Baptist facility has everything we need to grow the school to 300-400 students and fulfill our mission of empowering Birmingham area students to fulfill their potential through delivering excellence in education, character, and life skills to live productively in a diverse community,” says Darryl White, Board president and school founder. Banks Academy was founded in 2015 by alumni of the old Banks High School in Eastlake. The school has grown and just celebrated its fourth graduating class continuing its 100% graduation rate and 70% attending higher education. 

Banks Academy's New Location
Here is a look at the new Banks Academy location.

The school is run by Dr. Cathy Trimble, a nationally recognized and awarded educator. “Our mantra for the next five years as the Banks Academy Jets is ‘to Soar to Higher Heights.’ Soaring means continual improvement in character, faith, academics, and athletics.” Banks Academy offers a dual curriculum of college prep and technical and trade through a dual enrollment program with area colleges. Banks Academy is accredited by ACSI and Cognia and is a member of the Alabama Independent Schools Association. The school offers football, girls’ and boys’ basketball, girls’ volleyball, cheering, and track and field. Applications are still being received for the 2022-23 school year. To apply, go to Come celebrate with the board and faculty at the Open House on September 13 from 5:30-7 p.m. at 700 Huffman Road. Free event, RSVP requested, For more information visit † 

American Village

Welcome Back to Class

The American Village in Montevallo invites students to experience the stories of America’s journey for independence, liberty and self-government. Step into the scene and experience the risks, uncertainties, and dramatic events as they unfolded during America’s revolutionary decision to declare its independence. The American Village offers an opportunity for students to become active participants in “Securing the Blessings of Liberty” and leave with a better foundation for good citizenship.

American Village logoMore than a field trip, the American Village educational programs are tied directly to objectives in state courses of study in history, citizenship (civics) and government, as well as graduation standards. Students from every grade level benefit as they participate in experiential learning. Unique in its mission to strengthen and renew the foundations of American liberty and self-government through citizenship education, the American Village is an educational experience like no other. Coming to the American Village is a great adventure! Students are stepping into an immersive experience that is impactful, engaging, inspiring,…and FUN! Learn more here.

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