Orwell Award Announcement SusanOhanian.Org Home

Celebrate the World of Opportunity (The WOO)

Susan Notes: I am proud to be able to say that I am associated with the WOO. Their progress over the past five years is remarkable beyond words. Reading their frequent broadsides which detail their recent activities and accomplishments is heartwarming. Students pushed out of high school in the name of standards and testing are indeed finding a world of opportunity.

In 2000, then-adult ed GED teacher Steve Orel discovered that 522 students had been pushed out of the Birmingham, Alabama high schools. In danger of being taken over by the state the school district took the easy way out and pushed out students most like to score low. Desperate to get a high school diploma, these students began enrolling in the adult ed program. When Steve blew the whistle on the outrageous student pushout, he was fired and the adult ed program shut down.

With community support, the World of Opportunity was born to help students continue their education and job training. Five years later, 60 students have earned their GED certificates, more than 40 have enrolled in college, 46 students have been inducted into the National Adult Education Honor Society, more than 35 have passed the Certified Nurse Aide Health Care program and obtained work at local hospitals or nursing homes. More than 350 students have obtained employment using job readiness skills acquired at the WOO. More than 200 students have increased their reading levels. More than 250 students have registered to vote. In 2005, 384 WOO students obtained library cards.

WOO students are reading more books. Young parents are reading more books to their children.

WOO students are participating in community service projects, giving back to their community and collecting funds for relief efforts such as 9-11, South Asia tsunami, Katrina, and local crises in their neighborhood.

WOO students who have the least are always the first to step forward to help another person.

In Steve Orel's words, There are many more smiles where once there were few.

The WOO, surviving financially by a shoestring, needs help to continue its work. Educating the whole person, the WOO works with students and partners with other community programs to assist WOO students with shelter, rent, utilities, food, dental and vision clinic referrals, and restorative justice.

  • Thirty-five cents will buy a cup of soup or other nutritional snack for a student who is studying for the GED.

  • Thirty-five dollars will support the WOO Poet's Circle, the Computer Repair Class, the AutoCAD class, the Spanish class, the Financial Education class, the Job Interview Preparation workshop, not to mention the GED classes. And lots lots more.

  • $350 will help to reopen the carpentry program.

  • You can send donations to:

    The World of Opportunity
    7429 Georgia Road
    Birmingham, AL 35212-2921

    Education activists from across the country who traveled to the WOO to bear witness to the remarkable program and to present them with the Courage in Education Award (including a check representing donations from every state in the Union) came up with a fundraising idea: The CD No Child Left Behind? Bring Back the Joy contains 15 songs of resistance. All proceeds from the sale of this professionally produced CD go to the WOO.

    Make checks ($16.50) payable to Organic Arts and mail them to:
    P.O. Box 1776
    Milwaukee, WI 53201-1776

    You can get a bargain by ordering 5 CDs for $53, postage included.

    Or listen to songs and order online at:

    Celebrate the WOO! Raise your voices in resistance!

    — Susan Ohanian



    This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of education issues vital to a democracy. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information click here. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.