Vestavia Voice March 2023

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Vestavia Hills home sales decline in 2022

More than 700 existing homes were sold in Vestavia Hills in 2022, with 19 newly constructed homes sold, according to data from the Greater Alabama Multiple Listing Service.

The 723 existing homes sold is down from the 826 existing homes sold in 2021, and the overall total of 742 homes sold is the lowest since at least 2018, according to MLS data.

Data shows the number of homes sold in Vestavia increased in 2020 and 2021 but declined last year, while the number of new homes has decreased in the past five years. In 2018, there were 85 new homes sold, followed by 38 in 2019, 95 in 2020 and 37 in 2021.

For existing homes, there were 733 homes sold in 2018, followed by 801 in 2019, 833 in 2020 and 826 in 2021. While there were fewer homes sold last year, home prices were up. The average price of an existing home in 2022 was about $541,000, up from about $506,000 in 2021.

In the past five years, the price of existing homes sold has increased each year from about $393,000 in 2018, the data shows.

There is only a half-month’s supply of existing homes on the market, according to MLS data. As of Jan. 10, there were 35 homes still active on the market. There were 18 new homes on the market — currently an 11-month supply in Vestavia Hills.

Student or bot? ChatGPT, other tools leading to new

A new form of technology is growing rapidly in popularity and causing some concern in Vestavia Hills City Schools.

ChatGPT, created by OpenAI, is one of several new online content generators,

Hills City Schools

which responds to prompts from users and can answer questions, write poems, essays, songs, speeches and more. It is trained to detect what it says is “misinformation” and also rejects what it deems as inappropriate or harmful, according to both reports and numerous tests conducted by the Vestavia Voice.

Other tools in development include Google’s “Bard” and Baidu’s “Ernie bot.” Microsoft’s existing tool “Bing” will also incorporate technology created by OpenAI, per a company press release.

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Photo by Erin Nelson.
conversations at Vestavia

Physician-driven, patient-centered kidney care

Nephrology Associates, P.C. 205.226.5900 |

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There have been amazing scientific medical advances in medicine in recent years – a non-smoking acquaintance in his 40’s was diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer several years ago, and instead of a life expectancy of 6 months or so, he is living very comfortably taking a pill specifically designed for his cancer, for which he had a genetic predisposition. These incredible and transformative breakthroughs have been seen in many fields of medicine, but unfortunately, advancements in treatment for patients with kidney disease have lagged behind.

Due to the cost and complexity of care of patients with kidney disease, however, one area of innovation for which kidney disease care is becoming a proving ground is care delivery. Patients with chronic kidney disease are generally very medically complex, with higher rates of heart disease, cancer, and even gastrointestinal bleeding than the general population. They have significant care coordination needs focused on preventing worsening of kidney disease, preparation for kidney transplant, and unfortunately preparation for dialysis when appropriate. All of these facets of care require extensive and iterative education; there are many appointments required with various specialists at many different facilities (for which patients require something as simple as transportation); patients with kidney disease often require very extensive and complex medication regimens. Well-intentioned and hard-working nephrologists cannot provide all of this support alone, and deficiencies in support and care lead to worse outcomes for patients, increased hospitalizations, and significantly greater cost to the healthcare system as a whole.

CMS and private insurance companies are acutely aware of these problems. As a result of a combination of the Affordable Care Act of 2010 and the Executive Order Advancing American Kidney Health of 2019, in addition to a change in eligibility for Medicare Advantage plans for patients with End-Stage Kidney Disease (ESKD), we now have an opportunity to partner with both CMS and private insurers to make radical changes to our care delivery models in an effort to increase support, education, and care for patients with kidney disease – and doing so will almost assuredly lower costs.

The phrase being used for these changes in care delivery is “Value-Based Care.” There are a number of healthcare companies attempting to provide some of these services via care management systems run primarily by nurses and other support staff, often remotely, and rarely in partnership with a patient’s physician. In our case, I prefer a phrase that is less catchy but more accurate: “Physician-driven, patient-centered care.” It is physician driven because nephrologists will be taking responsibility and financial risk for every facet of their patients’ care. It is patient-centered because every medical decision we make in partnership with our patients will be guided only by what is best for those individual patients. Now, I would like to think that all of us as physicians have always made decisions for patients based only on what is best for them – but in a

fee-for-service system, we must all recognize that distorted incentives exist that affect how patients are cared for.

Along with 16 other practices nationwide, our practice has partnered with Evergreen Nephrology to provide physician-driven patient-centered care to our patients in need. Over the next several years, we expect to provide these expanded services to a majority of our ESKD and advanced CKD patients. We will be doing home visits, providing mental health support services where needed, addressing transportation limitations, education and patient engagement, food insecurity, early support and education for transplant services, medication review and education, just to name a few facets of care we will provide. Using data analytics and other advancements in information technology, we will be accessing all of a patient’s available electronic health information and leveraging that access and predictive modeling to identify and intervene on the highest-risk patients to make their lives better. We will be heavily focused on disease prevention and stabilization to reduce the number of patients who are forced to start dialysis or undergo transplantation; for those who worsen despite our best efforts, we will be helping to coordinate kidney transplantation when possible – hopefully before a patient ever needs dialysis if possible. For those who are forced to start dialysis, we will be highly focused on Home Dialysis modalities which have equivalent outcomes to standard in-center dialysis, but much better quality of life scores at a lower overall cost.

It is a very exciting time in nephrology as a result of these care delivery innovations. Our programs begin for a relatively small number of patients on 1/1/23, and we hope to increase those numbers dramatically over the next several years. I feel certain that our efforts will yield better, happier, and healthier lives for our patients, and I can’t wait to see to see the results.

Thomas Watson, M.D. is Board-Certified in Nephrology and Internal Medicine by the American Board of Internal Medicine. Born in Lexington, KY, he graduated magna cum laude with a degree in Chemistry from Vanderbilt University. Dr. Watson received his medical education in Atlanta at Emory University where he was president of his graduating class. He continued his training in Internal Medicine and Nephrology at New York-Presbyterian Hospital of Cornell University in New York, NY, where he was also honored to serve as assistant chief medical resident.

His interests include chronic kidney disease treatment and prevention, hypertension, electrolyte abnormalities, acute renal failure, and interventional nephrology—for which he is certified by the American Society of Diagnostic and Interventional Nephrology. He performs procedures at the Nephrology Vascular Lab. He is a member of the American Society of Nephrology, the Renal Physicians Association, and the American Society of Diagnostic and Interventional Nephrology.

A2 • March 2023 Vestavia Voice
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Editor’s Note By Neal Embry

If you’re anything like me, when the calendar flips to March, you start getting excited.

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This month means the return of baseball and hopefully warmer weather.

While I’m not a fan of the late summer heat that comes with a thick blanket of humidity, the arctic conditions we saw in December were enough to turn me off from a deep freeze, too. Maybe this month and the next will give us a true spring season, one that allows us to get outside without beginning to melt.

But even if that does not happen, we will have spring training games this month, and my wife will at some point tell me I can no longer buy cute Braves clothes for my little girl.

Now that our daughter is growing

up a bit, I’m hopeful we can take her to more Braves and even local Birmingham Barons games. I grew up going to baseball games with my cousin

and grandfather, who recently passed away, and I am eager to make those memories with my wife and daughter.

In this month’s paper, we examine the real estate market, which saw home sales dip in Vestavia. Still, experts say the market is strong. We also take a look at how artificial intelligence technology such as ChatGPT is impacting Vestavia Hills City Schools.

I hope this month brings warm weather and good memories to you and your family. And as always, thank you for reading!


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Community Editors:

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Neal Embry

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Jon Anderson

Kyle Parmley

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Erin Nelson

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Kari Kampakis

Loyd McIntosh

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Sarah Villar

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A4 • March 2023 Vestavia Voice
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Council takes next step to put 1Rebel 1Future on ballot

The Vestavia Hills City Council voted unanimously to move along a tax increase proposal from Vestavia Hills City Schools, bringing it one step closer to the ballot box this May.

The property tax increase proposal, which would see a millage increase of 9.8 mills, would fund major construction and facility renovation projects throughout Vestavia Hills City Schools. The “1Rebel 1Future” project would also add and expand program offerings.

The council’s role in the vote was not to give their approval or rejection of the plan itself, but rather to vote to continue the process of bringing the issue before Vestavia Hills voters in a special election, said Mayor Pro-Tempore Rusty Weaver, who oversaw the Jan. 23 meeting with Mayor Ashley Curry attending by Zoom.

“We’re voting to get to the point where you get to vote on it,” Weaver said.

Still, a handful of residents took the opportunity to ask the council to stop the proposal in its tracks.

“This is like Elon Musk saying he needs more money,” Pat Dewees said.

Dewees said the district should avoid “wasting” the money they already have.

David Harwell said he didn’t have a problem with voters having a say on the matter, but he said instead of having the city pay for a special election, it should be held during the next regularly scheduled election.

Harwell’s brother, Donald, said “no one wants to talk” about the city and school system’s debt. He expressed concern that increasing property taxes would only add to that debt, passing along the bill to Vestavia residents.

Others said the school system is highly respected as it is.

“Why does the board find it necessary to seek additional funding when our school system is so greatly admired and presently respected?” Charles Farrell asked.

Farrell said the market values of homes, and subsequent property taxes, have “drastically changed,” and retirees like he and his wife are facing an increased cost of living.

Former council member Gayle England said she’s appealed recent property appraisals and said the school system is “in good financial condition” and not in need of more tax revenue.

City Attorney Patrick Boone, who also serves as the school board attorney, went on record as a Vestavia resident who is supportive of the proposal.

While the council was not voting to signify

their approval of the proposal, Weaver said if the school district does not have proper funding, it will fail. The vote on this proposal will be the second-most important day in Vestavia history, after the day the school district was created, Weaver said.

“Every single question and concern is addressed in that presentation,” Weaver said, referencing an online presentation, “1Rebel 1Future Community Information Meeting,” uploaded by the school district to YouTube.

“If we don’t fund our schools, they’re going to die. It’s that simple. Money translates into performance; it’s proven time and time again, especially in upper-echelon school systems.”

Weaver said if the money isn’t there, the district’s leaders and teachers will leave.

“Our leadership will not stay in a system

where they’re cut off at the knees and set up for failure,” Weaver said.

The next step is for the council to apply for a local referendum and then, in late February, set an election date. The state legislature must pass a bill authorizing the vote, and it must be signed by Governor Kay Ivey before voters can head to the ballot box.

Resident Robert De Buys took issue with the state legislature having a say in Vestavia Hills elections, and also reminded the council that many of them claim to be conservative.

“Raising taxes on three separate occasions is not something that most people would consider a conservative act,” De Buys said.

Councilwoman Kimberly Cook told De Buys that of the three tax increases he referenced, only one was voted on and approved by the council.

The council also approved the city’s seven polling places to be used in municipal elections, including the May election. Some voters will vote at the newest polling place, the new Vestavia Hills Civic Center next to City Hall. City Clerk Rebecca Leavings said voters will be notified of their polling place by mail ahead of the election, through a neon-colored card her office uses.

In addition to the Civic Center, other polling places include: The Church at Liberty Park, Vestavia Hills Methodist Church, Shades Mountain Baptist Church, Mountaintop Community Church, Cahaba Heights Baptist Church and City Hall, with the latter only serving absentee voters.

The council’s last February meeting, during which they were expected to set the date of the election, fell just after the Vestavia Voice’s print deadline.

For more on this meeting and the election, visit

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The practice field behind the Vestavia Hills High School gymnasium. Photo by Erin Nelson.

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Vestavia Hills Sports Hall of Fame project making progress

A Hall of Fame honoring sports heroes from Vestavia Hills will be a “centerpiece” of the new Vestavia Hills Civic Center, said committee president and Board of Education member Jay Stewart.

The committee is using ExpoDisplays to create the memorial, which will not only honor those who contributed to sports within the city, but those who had excellent careers in athletics and hail from Vestavia Hills, Stewart said. That includes those who hold international athletic records, NCAA records and more, he said.

“It’s long overdue,” Stewart said. “It’s just a fantastic representation of sports heroes who grew up in our community.”

Design work for the Hall of Fame is in its final stages and committee approval should happen soon, Stewart said. The city has already authorized all it is responsible for, council member Rusty Weaver said.

More than half of the funds for the project have been raised and secured by the city and organizers. Construction

will begin following design approval, Stewart said. The project is being paid for with privately raised funds, Weaver said.

The Hall of Fame will begin by honoring current inductees from the classes of 2010 and 2012. The class of 2010 is: Buddy Anderson, Fran Braasch, Sammy Dunn, Casey Dunn, Chris Hammond, Trey Hardee, David Jordan, Suzanne Olcott, Mutt Reynolds, Jay Waggoner, Jeanne Wilson and Mike Chandler (Distinguished Citizen). The class of 2012 is: Peter Braasch, Steve Gaydosh, Ryan Halla, George Hatchett, Beanie Ketcham, Sam Short, Les Stuedeman and Charlie Dickinson (Distinguished Citizen).

Displays honoring different classes will be able to be rotated as new inductees are honored, Stewart said.

The plans are to include an interactive digital display that can highlight statistics and accolades, along with memorabilia and more, Stewart said.

The hope is to have another class inducted sometime this fall, Stewart said, with new classes inducted every four years.

The timeline for completion is unknown, Stewart said.

Mayor’s Minute

On Jan. 30, the Vestavia Hills City Schools inducted five new teachers, administrators and staff into the Vestavia Hills Education Hall of Fame for 2022. Congratulations to these new inductees: Kelly Bagby, Brian Cain, Dr. Karen DeLano, Kimberly McBride and Audrey Pharo.

On Feb. 16 and 17, our City Council held its annual strategic planning work session. You will be hearing more about the priorities that were set by the council for the coming year.

Let’s talk about March. As you emerge from the winter freeze, be sure to check out all of the city-wide events taking place as a part of this year’s annual Vestavia Hills Dogwood Festival. Festival events are scheduled throughout the months of March and April and there is truly something for everyone! For the full list of events, visit

Other events to be celebrated or recognized in March include:

► March 3: National Employee Appreciation Day. Our citizen surveys continually indicate that our city employees have a high “customer satisfaction” rating from our citizens. We sincerely appreciate their contribution to the high quality of life that we enjoy in Vestavia Hills.

► March 25: National Medal of Honor Day. This day was established by Congress to “foster public appreciation and recognition of Medal of Honor recipients.” Let’s remember these special veterans on this day.

Last, but not least, the newly assembled Vestavia Hills Arts Council met recently and will be launching a series of events dedicated to promoting a variety of arts experiences. I hope you will participate in some, if not all, of these events. More to come as the Arts Council works to provide opportunities for all to experience the arts in our community.

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The City of Vestavia Hills new Sports Hall of Fame will be located on the second floor of the Civic Center. Design plans were still being completed in mid-February.
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Swinging into a new business

The Golffice opens on US 31

Michael Weber always wanted to put a golf simulator in his home.

Fifteen or so years ago, he was a member at the Riverchase Country Club and played golf four to five times a week.

He would have put a simulator in his home, but he never had a house big enough for it, he said.

But when a friend’s business client offered to sell him a golf simulator last year, Weber took him up on the offer and put the simulator in some vacant space on the first floor of his business, Weber Mortgage on U.S. 31 in Vestavia Hills.

He invited real estate agents and clients over to join in the fun, and after a couple of months turned the space into a consumer-oriented golf simulation business called The Golffice. It opened Jan. 11.

For $35 an hour, people can rent out the golf simulator room to work on their swing, play a variety of games or play simulated golf on hundreds of courses. The 900-square-foot space also includes a small conference room with a table that converts into a poker table and a largescreen TV that’s good for watching sporting events, Weber said.

That room also can be rented for $35 an hour, or both rooms can be rented for $50 an hour.

Weber said he expected to see a lot of men in their 40s coming in as customers, but so far, the customer base has leaned more toward younger people — teenagers and people in their 20s.

Weber’s 21-year-old son, Jack Weber, is

serving as manager of The Golffice.

A lot of customers are individuals, but in the first few weeks, two companies had rented both spaces, Michael said. The simulator room, which includes seating for six, can fit about eight people at most, and the two rooms combined can handle 12 to 15, he said.

There’s a small bar in the simulator room, but The Golffice doesn’t serve food or beverages.

People can, however, bring their own food or have gatherings catered. Some people have rented space just to watch sports with friends.

Jack Weber said it usually takes about an hour for one person to play a full 18 holes on the simulator.

For people wanting to improve their game, the simulator tracks things such as ball speed, launch angle and spin rates. People also can practice

hitting targets, hit on different kinds of slopes, or change the wind, light and weather settings, the Webers said. It’s also just fun for goofing off, they said.

Right now, there’s just one simulator, but if the business proves profitable, Michael said there is potential for expansion to add more simulators and possibly food service in the future.

Also, “if we can prove the model, we would look at franchising it,” Michael said. The 900-square-foot space could easily be put in a strip center, he said.

While some people who make or sell golf clubs or teach golf lessons have simulators, he’s not aware of another business in the Birmingham area that is designed primarily for golf simulation rental by the public.

That type of business is more common in the North, where the colder weather means shorter golf seasons and more demand for indoor play, he said. The peak season for golf simulation businesses is winter, he said.

Michael said there was little risk in starting the business because he already had the simulator and the space. Weber Mortgage formerly had space on both floors of the building but consolidated employees on the second floor when the mortgage business slowed down and the number of employees dropped.

His father, who started Weber Mortgage in 1999, still owns the building and leases it to the company, which Michael took over in 2008. Jack, who graduated from Spain Park High School in 2020, spent a “gap year” in Colorado but then moved back to the Birmingham area and now is the loan processor for Weber Mortgage, in addition to taking on management of The Golffice.

People can book sessions at The Golffice online at

A10 • March 2023 Vestavia Voice Business
The Golffice, located at 1442 Montgomery Highway in Vestavia Hills. Photo by Erin Nelson.


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The nominating committee for the board of directors of America’s First Federal Credit Union has nominated Katie Voss and Ross Mitchell to fill two positions on the board of directors for the next three years. Voss is vice president of risk management for Brasfield & Gorrie and was first elected to the America’s First Federal Credit Union board of directors in 2020 and currently serves as vice chairwoman. Mitchell works for Tenet Healthcare as vice president of external and governmental affairs for Brookwood Baptist Health in Alabama and director of government relations in Tennessee. He previously served on America’s First Federal Credit Union’s board of directors from 2015 to 2021 and as an associate director in 2021. Board members will be selected at the credit union’s annual meeting on April 18.


Alicia Huey, a Greystone resident, home builder and developer with more than

30 years of experience in the home building industry, recently was elected as the 2023 chairman of the National Association of Home Builders during the association’s International Builders’ Show in Las Vegas. Huey is president of AGH Homes, a custom home building company she founded in 2000. In addition to building high-end custom homes for buyers on individual lots, AGH Homes has also built in several golf course communities in Hoover and Vestavia Hills.


Birmingham-based Tessa Commercial Real Estate, specializing in the sale, lease, and development of commercial properties across the Southeast, announced the addition of 20-plus year regional real estate veteran and industrial property expert Rich Vanchina as principal. Rich, a Vestavia Hills native, moved to Tessa after over 20 years at Southpace Properties, where he focused mainly on industrial and office asset classes. Rich has held an industrial specialist designation from the Society of Office, and Industrial Realtors since 2005. March 2023 • A11 Business Happenings Business news to share? If you have news to share with the community about a brick-and-mortar business in Vestavia Hills, let us know at isn’t for everyone. Because Doing it Yourself Residential Commercial Special Projects 205-823-2111 • One Man & a Toolbox Handyman Services Does your pup need a check-up or a haircut? 1360 Montgomery Hwy Suite 114 Vestavia Hills, AL 35216 CALL TODAY to schedule your pet 205.824.2077 Animal Hospital of the Hills offers veterinary and full-service grooming services all under one “woof.”

Vestavia Hills junior receives regional award

A lead role in an elementary school play set Vestavia Hills High School junior Colton Smith on a path that has now led to a major regional award.

Smith, 17, has been recognized as a “Keynote Emerging Artist of Promise” by the Southeastern Theatre Conference, one of only four students across the Southeast awarded that distinction.

Smith will attend the conference’s convention March 1-6 in Kentucky, where he will be able to learn from workshops and get his foot in the door for auditions in front of hundreds of colleges and more.

“I was completely surprised when I found out I won,” Smith said. “It’s very humbling.”

The conference will let him audition in front of more than 300 schools, allowing his name to rise to the top and “cut through the fat” of what can be a difficult application process, Smith said.

Smith began acting in fifth grade, landing the lead role in a play that year, he said. That led to him choosing theater as an elective in middle school and continuing on his acting path through his high school years.

“It’s just really, really freeing to be able to express your thoughts and condense this manifestation of emotions through a character,” Smith said.

Smith spends time getting inside his characters: their life experience, their thoughts and more, in order to be as diverse a performer as possible, he said. Doing so allowed him to play Adrian in Shakespeare’s “The Comedy of Errors,” though the department gender-flipped the play.

“I immersed myself in it,” Smith said.

He and several of his peers won best in show for that performance, while Smith personally won best lead performer.

Jamie Stephenson, Smith’s theater teacher at

VHHS, said Smith has a strong work ethic.

“His hard work and talent make him stand out,” Stephenson said. “He is the first one to perfect the dance or to memorize the lines. He is that student that leans in and loves the work rather than looking for the easy way out.”

Smith is the second VHHS student to be named an emerging artist of promise, following Diane Snoddy five years ago, Stephenson said.

“It is a huge honor and says a lot about the strength of our program and the students that are in the theater program,” Stephenson said. “We work to give our students numerous opportunities for success.”

Excelling academically has always come easy for Smith, he said. He plans on furthering his education not only in acting, but in the legal field as well, double majoring in pre-law and performing arts. In the future, he hopes to act or work in entertainment law cases. It’s his way of combining his strengths with the world that he loves.

“I just want to be in the industry,” Smith said.

The performing arts aren’t given nearly as much spotlight as other parts of the school, Smith said. It’s easy for them to be overlooked next to STEM-connected competition teams or athletics, he said.

In addition to his work in the theater department, Smith is in the show choir and drumline and plans to take all Advanced Placement courses next year, he said.

“Vestavia … has given me a platform to do so much and find a balance,” Smith said. “Mrs. Stephenson has taught me so much.”

Smith’s goal is to be able to act and audition for any project that interests him, not worrying about financial inhibitors, but hopefully as part of the entertainment world, he said. He hasn’t chosen a college yet but is looking at Boston University, Belmont University and the University of Miami.

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Vestavia Hills Elementary East to get playground upgrade

The Vestavia Hills Board of Education has added a playground upgrade into the plans for proposed improvements at Vestavia Hills Elementary East.

Superintendent Todd Freeman said the school’s parent teacher organization already has raised money for the playground upgrade.

The school board on Jan. 30 voted to alter the school system’s contract with Lathan Associates Architects, which already is doing design work for proposed improvements that are part of the 1Rebel 1Future plan, to include new turf for the play area at the school.

Freeman said it made sense to put all the design work in the same package and the playground work likely could proceed regardless of what happens with the 1Rebel 1Future plan, which includes a proposed 9.8-mill property tax increase.

These changes increased the tentative budget for all the proposed improvements at Vestavia Hills Elementary East from $4.1 million to $4,371,500 — an increase of $271,500.

Total compensation for Lathan Associates Architects increased from an estimated $332,875 to an estimated $354,595 — an increase of $21,720.

Other improvements proposed for Vestavia Hills Elementary East include a classroom and gymnasium addition and interior renovations.

In other business, the school board:

► Hired Lathan Associates Architects to design safety and security upgrades at all Vestavia Hills City

Schools campuses. The tentative budget for the upgrades is $455,900, and Lathan is estimated to be paid no more than $38,060, according to the contract.

► Hired Raymond James & Associates to invest up to $11 million of school system revenues in U.S. treasuries to take advantage of higher short-term interest rates. Chief Schools Finance Officer Courtney

Brown can recoup the money as needed to pay bills throughout the year, said Matt Adams of Raymond James & Associates.

► Approved a trademark licensing agreement with The Vestavia Store, giving the store the authority to sell promotional items with Vestavia Hills City Schools logos, symbols, insignias and marks as long as the school system receives 10% of the

revenue from such sales each quarter.

► Recognized Kelly Bagby, Karen DeLano, Audrey Pharo, Brian Cain and Kimberly McBride as recent inductees into the Vestavia Hills City Schools Educator Hall of Fame.

► Heard more from Assistant Superintendent Aimee Rainey about a proposal to hire “instructional partners” for each school in the system

as part of the 1Rebel 1Future plan. The instructional partners would be similar to instructional coaches and would be highly skilled teachers who help other educators in their school improve their teaching skills, Rainey said.

► Congratulated all of the Vestavia Hills City Schools Teachers of the Year, both for individual schools and the district as a whole.

The playground at Vestavia Hills Elementary East. Photo by Erin Nelson.


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Mark Gualano with Vestavia Title said he is “cautiously optimistic” about the market and that there is still business out there. Higher prices have come as a result of lower inventory, he said.

Homebuyers are having to change their budgets on what they can afford as a result of higher mortgage rates and higher home prices, he said.

Looking ahead to the rest of this year, Gualano said he expects the market to remain about the same.

Charles Kessler, a local developer, said that a lot of people cannot qualify on the higher end of home sales and that some builders are having a hard time finding financing.

While new home construction was down last year compared to previous years, that number is set to rise in the coming years as build-out of the new Bray development continues in Liberty Park.


The project will bring The Bray Town Center, a 102,000-square-foot commercial development that will include a hotel, restaurants, specialty retail and general business, and possibly a medical office, to Vestavia Hills. Along with the commercial growth, the project will also bring more than 600 single-family homes to Liberty Park.

Site work began immediately following the council’s approval of an incentive package and an amendment to the annexation agreement, the latter of which authorized the additional single-family homes.

John Bonanno, vice president of Liberty Park Daniel Communities, which is developing the project on behalf of Liberty Park Joint Venture, said mass grading is being wrapped up for the town center, with final plat approval coming sometime in early summer.

While Bonanno said no names can be given at this point, the commercial parcels have received “a lot of interest.” By the end of the summer, Bonanno said he hopes to see vertical construction on the town center.

The key component of the town center will be a new hotel, he said. Other components, such as retail and restaurants, will also come, he said. As opposed to other developments, Bonanno said he and his colleagues are working to curate the tenants they want, instead of simply saying “yes” to whoever calls.

Three acres of green space will be developed into a park, Bonanno said. There will be an area for kids to play and options for parents and others to dine while enjoying the park and its amenities, he said. Goodwyn Mills Cawood, which is planning that project, is tying park components to Liberty Park’s coal mining history.

On the residential side, 59 single-family lots and 46 townhome lots were approved in November for construction to begin, Bonanno said. Daniel Communities is now working to design 150 lots to bring on board in the next couple of years, targeting empty-nesters, he said.

In the current market, while there is no problem selling the lots, which are averaging around $600,000, Bonanno said the homes are a bit smaller because of construction costs. Still, the area is popular, he said.

“Liberty Park is going to be a place where people want to be,” Bonanno said. “It’s a great place to be.”

Work also continues to redevelop, the neighborhood’s website, Bonanno said. The idea is to help visitors know who is coming to the town center and keep them

abreast of updated site plans, he said.


The market is doing well, despite mortgage rates rising about two percentage points from 2021 to 2022, said Jason Kessler with KADCO Homes. The average interest rate as of mid-February was 4.5%.

The average interest rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage had fallen below 3% after the COVID-19 pandemic hit, dropping as low as 2.65% in January 2021. That was the lowest

rate in history and encouraged many people to move or build because they could borrow money at a lesser price and afford a bigger house.

But the Federal Reserve steadily raised short-term interest rates throughout 2022 in an effort to control inflation. The result was that the average 30-year mortgage rate edged up from 2.75% in December 2021 to 4% in March 2022, 5.25% in May and 7% in October, according to Freddie Mac.

There is “a lot of activity” in the market, Kessler said. Homes are

being sold, and more contracts continue to come in, he said. The spring market is picking up, and people are “coming to terms” with higher mortgage rates, Kessler said.

The price of new homes is the highest it has been in at least five years, according to data. The average price of new residential construction in Vestavia Hills in 2022 was about $947,000, up from about $716,000 in 2021.

The most expensive area for new homes were in Liberty Park, with an average sale price of roughly

$925,000 of the three homes sold there in 2022. Four homes were sold in the Southbend neighborhood, with an average sale price of about $895,000. Four other homes were built throughout the city at an average cost of about $822,000.

Kessler and KADCO are focused on new construction, building both single-family homes and townhomes, he said. The homes they are building aren’t huge, falling somewhere between 3,000 and 3,500 square feet. That is just below the citywide average, which was a fiveyear high of 3,732 square feet for new construction.

The average size of existing homes sold has remained about the same in the last five years, with an average of 2,816 square feet last year, according to MLS data.

New homes are being bought quickly, Charles Kessler said, often being sold as soon as specs are out, before the home is completed.

Cahaba Heights has seen a lot of new construction, though it comes at a price, Charles Kessler said.

“If you’re going to build in Cahaba Heights, you’ll have to tear down,” Kessler said.

While everyone is feeling the impact of inflation, the price of lumber has come down after the material’s cost rose significantly due to supply chain issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic, Kessler said, and other than a slight price appreciation in home values, there has not been much change.

“I do think that with construction nationally slowing down some, they do expect material and labor to slow down,” Kessler said.

In the future, Kessler said he expects a rebound to continue and is “encouraged” by what he is seeing. There are, so far, more buyers than anticipated.

– Community Editor Leah Eagle contributed to this report.
19 37 7 18 6 28 A16 • March 2023 Vestavia Voice

Mortgage rates have risen. Now what?

there are solid reasons to purchase a home now, especially if you’re renting.

“All of the great reasons for buying a house still exist,” Smith said. “We haven’t seen as good of a time to buy for renters, with rent rates going up 20 to 30% in the last two years.”

When the Federal Reserve raised interest rates in early February to combat inflation, one area of concern for many potential homebuyers was how the Fed’s actions would affect mortgage rates and their ability to afford a new home.

However, Clint Thompson, a mortgage officer with Fairway Independent Mortgage Corp. in Inverness, says the perception that mortgage rates automatically increase following a rise in interest rates is incorrect. “There is always misinformation out there when people hear what the Federal Reserve is doing. They think, ‘Oh gosh, mortgage rates jumped a quarter of a percent,’” Thompson said.

While it is true that interest rates and other signals from the Federal Reserve influence the economy, Thompson said mortgage rates are more closely related to inflation rates than direct action from the Federal Reserve. Thompson explained that the interest rate hike should eventually have the opposite effect on mortgage rates if inflation slows.

“Mortgage rates can come down when the Fed makes a hike, because overall it’s more about inflation than interest rates,” Thompson said. “You may see that 30-year mortgage rates actually improve because the markets interpret that as a positive move.”

Largely due to government spending during the COVID-19 crisis, the U.S. inflation rate grew at a rate of 6.5% in 2022, according to data published by the U.S. Department of Labor in mid-December, after growing to 7.1% in 2021. Among the areas the government spent additional funds, according to Thompson, were mortgage-backed securities and treasuries, which kept mortgage rates from organically adjusting to

market forces, a concept known as “quantitative easing.”

“The Fed basically ignored the whole inflation factor and continued to buy treasuries and mortgage-backed securities,” Thompson said. “That artificially kept interest rates down close to 3%.”

As the government slowed quantitative easing measures over the past 12 months and raised interest rates in February, mortgage rates rose from an average of 3% for a typical 30-year mortgage to just over 6% in under a year, While the rapid rise may create sticker shock among homebuyers, Thompson said the market is responding organically to the Federal Reserve’s policies and, although mortgage rates spiked to more than 7% recently, potential homebuyers should start seeing rates lower in the second and third quarter of 2023.

“We’ll just have to see how it all plays out, but the consensus is we should see 30-year mortgage rates close to 5%, maybe even just a fraction below 5%, sometime this summer,” Thompson said.

Fred Smith, owner and operator of The Fred Smith Group RealtySouth agency in Crestline, said the Federal Reserve’s interest rate hike may finally return the local real estate market to a much-needed state of normalcy. Smith said the economic conditions of 2020 through 2022 created unnatural conditions in the market that should stabilize now that mortgage rates have risen.

“People are getting used to the rates. It’s not like they’ve gone up to something that’s unreasonable. They’ve normalized,” Smith said.

“2019 was the last normal market. Then we had 2020, and we worked our way through that market, then we entered a seller’s market in 2021 and 2022 with bidding wars and all that kind of stuff,” Smith said. “Now, I feel it’s going to be a normal 2023.”

With 30-year fixed mortgage rates hovering at 6.9% and housing prices on the rise, what do the current conditions mean for the average homebuyer? Smith and Thompson both recognize that affordability is a factor in many cases but said

For homebuyers for whom a one-point or twopoint rise in rates could cause monthly-payment sticker shock, Smith suggested a couple of strategies. First, he said an interest rate buydown is a viable option or an adjustable rate mortgage, especially for new homebuyers likely to move within five years of their purchase.

“In Crestline, the average homebuyer lives there less than seven years,” Smith said. “If they get a seven-year ARM and they’re moving about every five years, why have a 30-year fixed rate when you can take advantage of a lower interest rate?”

Thompson, who said he believes mortgage rates should settle back down to 3 or 4% over the next few years, suggests a two-for-one buydown mortgage. This option allows the homebuyer to pay 2% lower than the actual rate for the first year of the mortgage, then 1% lower for the second year, then the rate increases to the regular rate in the third year.

At current rates, a homebuyer would pay 4.9% in year one, 5.9% in year two, then 6.9% for the remainder of the loan or, Thompson said, refinance prior to year three.

“If the experts are right,” he said, “that person’s never going to make a payment in the sixes because interest rates will have come down close to 5% and we would have refinanced down before then. So, a two-for-one buydown option can help with affordability.”

Smith also offered one more piece of advice, reminding potential homebuyers they are allowed to write their home’s interest off their taxes. “I’m not going to say it doesn’t matter, but the benefit of being able to write off that additional interest is a wash,” Smith said. “It almost doesn’t matter, because that interest deduction can overcome the difference in that increased interest rate.”

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The technology makes available in seconds what in the past would have required “immense amount of brain power,” said Whit McGhee, director of public relations for Vestavia Hills City Schools.

For example, McGhee said the technology can write a poem about plants in the style of William Shakespeare: “Oh, gentle plants that grace our Earth below, With verdant leaves that shimmer in the sun, Your beauty fills our hearts with tranquil glow, As we behold your splendor, one by one.”

ChatGPT’s influence is growing by leaps and bounds, according to a report by Reuters. It took Netflix 3½ years to get to 1 million users. It took Twitter two years. Facebook achieved 1 million users in 10 months, while Spotify surpassed the mark in five months. Instagram outpaced them all, obtaining 1 million users in 2½ months.

ChatGPT had more than 1 million users in five days.

Vestavia Hills High School English teacher Ben Davis said the technology is “really impressive,” though it does not “dig in” like teachers want their students to do.

Still, Davis said several students have been caught trying to use the technology to cheat, a major concern with ChatGPT, which not only can produce original content but can create different responses to the same prompt.

Still, there are some “bugs” to be worked out, McGhee said. It cannot recall information after 2021 or speculate about the future, and its responses may not always be what teachers are seeking.

Using technology to try to score higher than another student or improve a grade goes against the school’s code of ethics, Davis and McGhee said.

McGhee said tools are needed to help educators ascertain whether submitted content was written by a student or by a bot. While websites like detect plagiarism, they cannot,

at least as of yet, determine whether the content was written by a human.

“We need to teach students the ethical use of this technology,” McGhee said.

Youth Leadership Vestavia Hills takes the lead in teaching digital citizenship to younger students, he said.

While ChatGPT and similar sites are blocked on school computers, McGhee said that solution will only last for so long.

It might lead to a change in the form of assessments, both McGhee and Davis said. Davis said it might force teachers to go back to handwritten assignments.

ChatGPT does not just present a challenge when it comes to preventing cheating, but also in how it can disrupt the importance of learning, Davis said.

“I learned a lot about writing from working in my dad’s furniture shop in Pelham,” he said. “Knowing how it [furniture] is constructed and why. …. Not knowing makes it weaker, less refined.”

In the same way, simply using technology to create content instead of learning how to properly create a poem, essay or other type of assignment weakens a student’s writing, which Davis said is “like a human superpower.”

“It’s going to be very uncomfortable as they go to read it,” he said.

McGhee said the technology does not nullify the need for great teachers.

“There is a human element in everything we do,” McGhee said.

As advanced as this technology is, McGhee said it will only become “exponentially more advanced.”

“For a kid entering kindergarten, this is the most rudimentary technology they will see in their lifetimes,” he said.

Still, McGhee said he is hopeful that Vestavia’s reputation will remind students of their responsibility.

“Vestavia Hills has always been a community that has focused on academic excellence,” McGhee said. “It’s always been a point of pride that they [students] did it themselves.”

CHATGPT CONTINUED from page A1 SEE MORE ► Want to see how ChatGPT compares to a real student’s essay? Visit us online at vestavia
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Vestavia Voice staff put ChatGPT to the test by entering various prompts to see how the online content generator would respond.
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Rebels looking for bounce-back season

If the Vestavia Hills High School softball team can avoid the injury bug this spring, head coach John Simmons likes his team’s chances against just about anyone.

“If healthy, I feel good about their experience and the ball that they have played,” he said.

In his first season last spring, Simmons had to work around injuries to seven different starters at various points. Even with those challenges, the Rebels posted a 32-16 record and look poised to have a strong team this spring as well.

The Rebels have six seniors this season. Miah Simmons and Kayla Franklin are two recent college signees, as Simmons will play at the University of Mobile and Franklin will play at Chipola College in Florida. Outfielders Ella Gallaspy and Abby Gallaspy, catcher MK Meeks and infielder Catherine Cassimus are seniors as well.

Miah Simmons returns as one of the team’s top pitchers, along with junior Tait Davidson, a UAB commit. Davidson put together a good summer and fall and is healthy heading into this spring.

Franklin is also hoping for a healthy season after missing a chunk of the 2022 campaign. She will hold down a position in the middle infield.

“Being that you’ve got four returning [senior] starters, that’s a good number,” John Simmons said. “That’s some leadership in terms of the expectations. Having them perform at a high level is something we discuss. Leadership comes from action, not the mouth.”

There are a few other players returning with experience. Lucy Spisto has played much of her career to this point in the outfield, but John Simmons said to look for her in the infield this

season. Laura Faith Beard is a junior who has started plenty in the outfield, while Reese Johnson earned some starts at third base last season as well.

The Rebels will have a new face at catcher following the graduation of Caroline Redden. Sophomore EJ Bragan and freshman Sadie Meadows are two names to watch behind the plate.

“I think we can make some waves,” John Simmons said. “In the circle, we’ve got veteran pitchers to help us. Offensively, how we bat 1-9 is going to be a key element. … Us being able

to put some runs on the board will help us all the way around.”

John Simmons arrived at Vestavia Hills last year following a lengthy tenure at Hayden, where he won a couple state championships and plenty of games. He said the biggest difference in moving to a school at the Class 7A level is the frequency of playing top competition.

“We played all the teams in the past at Hayden. But at the 7A level and where we are located, we’re playing all these teams two times apiece. There are no breaks. The competition level we play at is extremely high. We have to

train and prepare to bring our best every time,” he said.

After hosting the Red & Blue Classic to begin the season, Vestavia’s schedule features the likes of Curry and Helena, as well as Area 5 opponents Hoover, Thompson and Tuscaloosa County. If the Rebels advance out of the area tournament, they will play in a regional in Albertville against two Area 6 teams.

“I hope we’re ready to come and show up at that high level,” John Simmons said. “We want

B SECTION MarCh 2023
Events B9
Vestavia Hills’ Kayla Franklin (22) catches a throw as Spain Park’s Katie Flannery (6) steals second in a game at Spain Park High School in March 2022. Photo by Erin Nelson.

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Rebels head into 2023 with high hopes

Many times, following a highly successful season, a high school team has to deal with the prospects of replacing several key players in order to get back to that level.

That’s not the case for this year’s Vestavia Hills High School baseball team. The Rebels reached the Class 7A semifinals a season ago and return many of the key contributors to that team.

“We have a lot more experience coming back than we’ve probably ever had,” Vestavia Hills head coach Jamie Harris said. “We had a deep run last year and hope that pays off with even more experience and experience in high-pressure situations.”

Harris was quick to point out, though, that experience does not guarantee success. The Rebels will still be required to earn their success in 2023, especially across the rugged landscape of 7A baseball in the greater Birmingham area.

“It all comes down to, ‘You better play good at the right time,’” he said.

The Rebels certainly did that last spring. They battled through a challenging regular season, won a play-in game against Spain Park to reach the playoffs and swept their first two playoff foes.

Vestavia’s 15 seniors this season will look to replicate and potentially even better that impressive season-ending run. Harris has had the pleasure of knowing and coaching this group of seniors for over a decade, since his son Jackson is one of them.

“We have known for a while this class was going to be good,” he said.

Hudson Walburn, a Jacksonville State signee, will share time at catcher this spring with John

Paul Head, a junior who will bounce between third plate and catcher. Jackson Glasgow is a senior who will see some time behind the plate as well.

Jackson Harris is headed to Samford following this season and is back for his third year starting at first base. He is also expected to be one of the Rebels’ top arms on the mound.

William Pearson was a part-time starter last spring and is competing with junior and Duke commit Mason Perrigo at second base.

Will Cox is another three-year guy and will man the shortstop position. Head will spend time at third base, and senior Luke Henry

Swanzy could see time at any of the four infield positions throughout the year.

Grant Downey and Christopher Johnston are back in center and right field, respectively. Johnston missed the second half of last season with an injury. The Rebels getting the Auburn signee back at full health this spring should be a big boost.

As for left field, Jamie Harris mentioned Caden Taylor, William Tonsmeire, Houston Owen and John Martin Richter as potential options.

“Really versatile,” Jamie Harris said of the lineup. “We have a chance to legitimately

hit 1-9.”

In complete contrast to last season, the Rebels have several returning experienced arms on the mound. Aiden Black, Jackson Harris, Barrett Harper, Ryan Vermillion and Jable Ramey are among the pitchers back after contributing to last year’s run. Bruce Littleton is a sophomore who could provide a spark as well.

Vestavia always plays a tough schedule and will attempt to advance out of Area 5 this season, which features Hoover, Thompson and Tuscaloosa County. Throughout the season, the Rebels will face local foes such as Oak Mountain, Chelsea and Spain Park as well.

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Vestavia Hills’ Jackson Harris (6) makes contact during an at-bat in a game against Hoover at the Hoover High School baseball field on March 9, 2022. Photo by Erin Nelson.

Rebels reach semifinals of state bowling tournament

The Vestavia Hills High School boys bowling team has been a fixture at the state tournament, and this year was no different.

The Rebels finished third in the Class 6A-7A state tournament Jan. 27 at The Alley in Gadsden, reaching the semifinals.

Vestavia grabbed the No. 3 seed after the first day of the state tournament, which is used for seeding the bracket on the second day of the tournament. The Rebels totaled 2,647 pins over three sets of traditional games, slotting them behind Sparkman and ahead of Hewitt-Trussville.

Douglas Dellaccio was the top bowler for the Rebels individually, as he put together games of 202, 203 and 176 to total 581, good for sixth overall. Heath Eshleman had a strong individual performance as well, totaling 411 pins.

Chandler Long, Joey Sousa, Michael Brewer, Carson Gentry, Noah Evans and Cyrus Sabri all contributed in a strong manner to the Rebels’ performance at state as well.

Bracket play is a best-of-seven Baker game format, in which five bowlers each take on two frames. Vestavia took on No. 6 seed Spanish Fort in the opening round, winning 4-1. Vestavia took a 176-169 win in the first game, then put together a pair of 200-pin games (203-177, 209134) to take a commanding 3-0 lead. Spanish Fort grabbed a win in the fourth game, 190-159 before the Rebels won 154-117 in the fifth to take the match.

Vestavia Hills fell in heartbreaking fashion in the semifinals to Sparkman, 4-3. The Rebels took the first game 180-157 before Sparkman dominated the second game 231-172. The Rebels got back on the board with a 195-187 win in the third, and Sparkman responded with a 177-166 win in the fourth. Vestavia’s lone 200pin game of the match gave the team a 3-2 lead, but Sparkman won 201-162 and 161-156 over the final two games to take the match.

Sparkman defeated Spain Park 4-3 in a thrilling final to claim the state championship.

Sparkman won the state title for the second time in three years.

American Christian beat Sparkman to win the 6A-7A girls state title. Etowah’s boys and Beauregard’s girls won the Class 1A-5A crowns.

Vestavia Hills reached the state tournament by finishing second in the South Regional the week prior in Spanish Fort. The Rebels claimed the No. 2 seed after a day of play before going on a run in bracket play. They dominated Baker

and Auburn to the tune of 4-0 victories before running into Spain Park in the final. Spain Park claimed a 4-2 win and top prize at the regional tournament, bowling over 200 in five of t he six games. March 2023 • B5
Vestavia Hill’s Douglas Dellaccio competes in the boys AHSAA Class 6-7A state bowling tournament at The Alley in Gadsden on Jan. 26. Photo by Erin Nelson.



▶ SPORT: Wrestling

▶ COLLEGE/ UNIVERSITY: Northern Michigan University


▶ SPORT: Softball ▶ COLLEGE/ UNIVERSITY: University of Mobile


▶ SPORT: Baseball ▶ COLLEGE/ UNIVERSITY: Samford University


▶ SPORT: Baseball

▶ COLLEGE/ UNIVERSITY: Jacksonville State University


▶ SPORT: Track and field ▶ COLLEGE/ UNIVERSITY: University of Virginia



University of Richmond



▶ SPORT: Wrestling

▶ COLLEGE/ UNIVERSITY: Kent State University


▶ SPORT: Softball ▶ COLLEGE/ UNIVERSITY: Chipola College


▶ SPORT: Baseball ▶ COLLEGE/ UNIVERSITY: Auburn University


▶ SPORT: Baseball

▶ COLLEGE/ UNIVERSITY: Jacksonville State University


Vestavia Hills High School’s successful athletic programs have led to several student-athletes earning the opportunity to compete at the college level. That’s no different for the Class of 2023, as the school hosted a ceremony Feb. 1 recognizing its seniors heading to play their respective sports at the next level.


▶ SPORT: Wrestling

▶ COLLEGE/ UNIVERSITY: Wartburg College


▶ SPORT: Basketball ▶ COLLEGE/ UNIVERSITY: Belmont University


▶ SPORT: Baseball ▶ COLLEGE/ UNIVERSITY: Huntingdon College


▶ SPORT: Soccer ▶ COLLEGE/ UNIVERSITY: Mississippi College


▶ SPORT: Track and field ▶ COLLEGE/ UNIVERSITY: Samford University


▶ SPORT: Golf

▶ COLLEGE/ UNIVERSITY: Wallace State Community College


▶ SPORT: Tennis

▶ COLLEGE/ UNIVERSITY: University of Alabama at Birmingham

▶ SPORT: Lacrosse

▶ COLLEGE/ UNIVERSITY: University of Alabama in Huntsville

▶ SPORT: Golf ▶ COLLEGE/ UNIVERSITY: University of Tennessee at Chattanooga


▶ SPORT: Football

▶ COLLEGE/ UNIVERSITY: Worcester Polytechnic Institute


▶ SPORT: Volleyball


Sewanee, The University of the South

B6 • March 2023 Vestavia Voice

Rebels boys take 2nd at state indoor

The Vestavia Hills High School boys indoor track and field team capped off a strong season with a second-place finish at the Class 7A state meet Feb. 4 at the Birmingham CrossPlex. Hoover swept the boys and girls titles, winning the boys championship with 134 points, while the Rebels scored 61 points to take the runner-up trophy. Huntsville was third and Hewitt-Trussville finished fourth. On the girls side, Chelsea and Hewitt-Trussville claimed

second and third. Vestavia came home sixth.

Alex Leath had a great day for the Rebels, as he set a state record in the 1,600-meter run and won the race in 4 minutes, 10 seconds. Leath also won the 800 in 1:53 and was the anchor on the 4x800-meter relay team, which won and set a state record with a time of 7:57.02. Leath was joined by David Howard, Max Armstrong and Mitchell Schaaf on that relay.

Kennedy Moreland was the top finisher for the girls team, as she won the pole vault

competition by clearing 12 feet.

Armstrong (third in 400 and third in 800), Henry Strand (third in 1,600) and the 4x400 relay of Leath, Schaaf, Howard and Armstrong (second) also earned podium finishes for the boys. Claire Spooner (third in 3,200) reached the podium for the girls.

Also earning points on the day for the Rebels were Riley Zeanah (sixth in 800), Will Jordan (seventh in 3,200), Kaitlyn Wende (fifth in 3,200), Tanner McInnis (eighth in high jump), Gabby Walls (sixth in high jump),

Krislyn Thomas (fifth in pole vault), Chase Kaiser (seventh in shot put), and the eighthplace girls 4x400 (Zeanah, Finley Becker, Spooner and Abby Allen) and 4x800 (Zeanah, Kendall Feild, Becker and Elizabeth Gannon) relays.

Jack Lockhart, Reese Beckner, Maddie Crawford, Addison Armstrong, Henry Drew, Sarah Kate Misner, Colin Robinson, Troy Littlejohn, Dylan Anderson, Chase Webb, Ava Patterson, Blakeleigh Anderson and Joi Cook competed for the Rebels in the meet as well. March 2023 • B7 Mr. Handyman is taking care of Birmingham’s “To-Do” List ® like us on follow us on 205-606-0800 Give us a call! $50 OFF One coupon per househ old. Participating locations on ly. Minimum $300 of service. Not valid with any othe r o er or discount. Limited time only. Independently owned and operated franchise.© 2022 Mr. Handyman SPV LLC. All rights Reserved Visit to learn more about our services If you have news to share with the community about your brick-and-mortar business in Vestavia Hills, let us know! Business news to share? Share your business news with us at Over 500 Booths! Birmingham/Jefferson Convention Complex 205-836-7173 Fri/Sat: 10am-6pm Sun: Noon-5pm Advance Ticket holders get in an hour early! All credit cards accepted $10 ADULTS march 3-5 WWW.COTTONTAILSFESTIVAL.COM Adults-Advance: $10, At Door: $11 Children 6-12 Advance: FREE, At Door: $5 Children under 6: FREE! ALL CREDIT CARDS ACCEPTED Party dresses for your princess creative gifts | personalized Easter baskets | home decor | garden accessories | arts | crafts | gifts | food The first opportunity to purchase tickets to Christmas Village in November is in the show office at Cottontails! TICKETS:
Left: Vestavia Hills’ Alex Leath reacts as he finishes first in the boys 1,600-meter run during the Class 7A state indoor track and field meet at the Birmingham CrossPlex on Feb. 4. Right: Vestavia Hills’ Kennedy Moreland clears 12 feet in the girls pole vault event during the Class 7A state indoor track and field meet. Photos by Erin Nelson.

Rebels soccer teams looking to get back to the top

The Vestavia Hills High School boys and girls soccer teams are coming off spectacular seasons, albeit ones that came up a little short of their ultimate aspirations of a Class 7A state championship.

Representatives from both teams appeared at the third annual Birmingham area high school soccer media day event, held at Thompson High School Jan. 25-26, to discuss their hopes for the 2023 season.

The girls are coming off a 16-4-4 season last spring and an appearance at the state final four, where the Rebels fell to eventual champion Spain Park, a team they beat twice during the season, in the state semifinals.

The team has 10 seniors this season, many of them key players on last year’s team.

“We have a lot of experience back from last year,” Vestavia head coach Brigid Meadow said. “That’ll be beneficial for us. Our seniors know what it takes to have a competitive team.”

One of Meadow’s keys to this year’s team reaching its potential is gaining “100% buy-in” from everyone on the roster.

“What gives me belief that they’re going to be successful this year, every single one of them is eager and ready to do what is asked of them,” she said.

With Meadow at media day were five of the team’s 10 seniors. They emphasized the positive team chemistry to this point and how that

allows them to get along, trust each other and, ultimately, win matches.

The Vestavia boys are in a similar situation as the girls team, given the team’s 12 seniors and large amount of experience back this spring.

Over the years, the Rebels have played and beaten the top teams in Alabama, as well as neighboring states. The one thing that has eluded the program in coach Leo Harlan’s tenure so far is a state championship trophy. He believes this team has the chance to do that.

“We’ve been very close,” said Harlan, who enters his eighth year as head coach.

Harlan brought Jack Davis, Jack Brewer and Parker Denie to media day. Each player expressed the hope of building off a 2022

campaign in which the Rebels posted a 22-3-0 mark. A loss to Huntsville in the quarterfinals of the playoffs has made them hungry to exceed that level this spring.

“Last year, we built on the previous year. This year, they’re ready to take another step,” Harlan said.

Harlan also emphasized his team’s commitment to one another and to others and believes that will translate to the field.

The path to a potential state title won’t be easy for either team, as the likes of Spain Park and Oak Mountain await in the first or second round of the playoffs no matter how things shake out.

“We’ve got a shot; we’ve just got to play well and play together,” Harlan said.

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Left: Vestavia Hills head boys soccer coach Leo Harlan and members of the team attend the 2023 soccer media day at Thompson High School on Jan. 20. Right: Vestavia Hills head girls soccer coach Brigid Meadow and members of the team attend the 2023 soccer media day. Photos by Kyle Parmley.

Storyteller, author Dolores Hydock coming to library

Author Dolores Hydock will join the Friends of the Vestavia Hills Library on March 23 at 10:30 a.m. to tell the story of Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland.

The event, to be held in the community room, shows how the two women “raced, solo, in opposite directions around the world in 1889,” according to a library press release. “Their stories overlap in a fascinating series of coincidences that had them racing against time, injustice and each other.”

Tickets to Hydock’s talk are free for members of the Friends of the Library. General public tickets are available in advance for $15, check or cash, at the library’s adult services desk.

Also in the adult department, guests can get an introduction to genealogy at 6 p.m. in the community room on March 6. They will learn how to do genealogical research from the staff at the Southern history department.

There will also be a St. Patrick’s Day celebration on March 16. There will be a movie and bingo, leprechaun punch, snacks and “fabulous” prizes, the library announced. Register by contacting Holly at holly.parker@ or by calling 205-9784674.

In the children’s department, kids looking for ways to spend their spring break can also start at the library this month.

From March 27 to 30, there will be special events each day for children. On Monday, March 27, there will be a wind chime craft at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., followed by an animal show on March 28 at 2 p.m. On Wednesday, there will be a “super science show” at 2 p.m. On Thursday, there will be a nightlight jar craft at 2 p.m.

All activities are for students in kindergarten through fifth grade, and children must register for the Monday and Thursday events. Also in the children’s department, this month offers a chance for a magical night.

Magician Russell Davis will entertain families at 6:30 p.m. in the community room on March 14, with dinner at 6 p.m. For a full list of events, visit vestavialibrary. org. March 2023 • B9 Events Every item you donate equals lives and communities transformed in Africa and Haiti. DONATE. DONATE SHOP LIVES CHANGED PROCEEDS Gently Used Clothing & Household Items Impact the Poorest Places on Earth Shop where it makes a difference Greystone | Vestavia Hills | Westover Online: No Hidden Costs A+ BBB Rating Full Line of Urns, Cremation Jewelry, and Life prints Lowest Total Cost Guaranteed CremationCenter Your families needs are met with comfort, not more worries Call us at 205.970.6886 for affordable cremation services that make a loss easier to bear Cremation Center of Birmingham
Author Dolores Hydock will speak at the Vestavia Hills Library in the Forest on March 23. Photo courtesy of the Vestavia Hills Library in the Forest.

Sean and his wife, Jamie, moved to the Birmingham area in March 2022. This is a column he wrote on his fourth day in his new town.

Day Four. We have been living in Birmingham for four days and I am lost. Hopelessly lost. Right now I am in interstate traffic and I have no idea where in the Lord’s name I am.

Also, it’s colder than a witch’s jogbra in this city. The temperature last night was 37 degrees and I couldn’t feel my digits.

Before you accuse me of being a weather wimp, I must remind you that I come from the Panhandle, where the median temperature is 103, and our hurricane season lasts from June to the following June.

So I was not ready for the freezing temps a few nights ago. My entire little family slept in one bed to keep warm, and whenever it got cold, my wife threw on another dog.

But that’s what you get here in the foothills of the Appalachians. Because when I asked the guy at the hardware store if it would ever warm up, he explained the weather like this:

“This is Birmingham, dude. You git what you git, and you don’t pitch a fit.”

Which reminds me: I know all the hardware store employees on a first-name basis now. I’ve been spending a lot of time at Home Depot lately.

Since we are still busy moving into our house, my wife has been sending me on random hardware errands for items such as felt chair pads, shims, sink stoppers, and (don’t

Sean of the South By Sean Dietrich New in town

ask) pitchforks.

I go to the hardware store four or five times per day, sometimes more. Sometimes I don’t even buy anything, I just wander the aisles wearing a helpless look, glancing at my wife’s list in a way that causes concerned employees to sidle up to me and ask if I need a chaplain.

Then an employee leads me to an aisle where my item is located and I am forced to choose between an infinity of options, colors, and denominations.

Do you want the one with the five-eighths angled grommet, or the eleven-sixteenths one with the reinforced brackets? Do you want galvanized or powder coated? Or would you like the three-quarter nodule with the all-weather defibrillator and the reverse coupling ribbed flange?

Nothing is easy in the hardware store anymore.

Take lightbulbs. Used to, buying light bulbs was a snap. Your mom bought them at the supermarket. She simply tossed a box of bulbs into her buggy with her non-smoking hand and kept on trucking.

Back then, you had three kinds of bulbs to choose from — which were all the same bulb, but different wattages. The whole process took maybe 4 seconds.

Today, however, the hardware store has a lightbulb aisle that’s roughly the size of Newark. There are bulbs with different “lumens,” “finishes,” “contours,” “hues” and “shapes.”

You have incandescents, compact fluorescents, halogens, light emitting diodes, tubes, candles, globes, floodlights, spirals, Edisons, capsules, track lights, cool lights, white lights, warm lights, menthol lights, Miller Lites, etc.

And God help you if you buy the wrong bulb, because your wife will send you back to the hardware store. This is very embarrassing. When you re-enter through the pneumatic doors again, you immediately make eye contact with the same employees you saw a few minutes earlier, and you feel much like a neutered dog.

Then, one of the employees usually attempts to make you feel better by saying, “Listen, it’s not easy, shopping in this store, it’s overwhelming.”

Which makes you feel about as manly as a guy dressed in a Hello Kitty costume.

But hey, this is all part of the moving process. Moving means learning how to adjust to new situations, new experiences, and new highways.

Speaking of highways. I’m still driving, and

Life Actually By Kari Kampakis

When I was growing up, and especially as a teenager, the word “virtue” made me cringe.

What flashed through my mind was a picture of a nun or a monk, and since I had no desire to spend the rest of my life in a convent, it didn’t sound too appealing.

Today, as an adult, I think differently. I see the necessity of virtue to live a positive life, especially after witnessing the heartache, destruction, and consequences caused by unvirtuous choices. I understand evil as a corruption of the good that God creates and why virtue helps us become our best selves.

The challenge now is, how do I convey this to my kids? How do I counter the permissive, anything-goes society that pokes fun at anyone who tries to live by a moral code? Working with teenage girls, I’ve seen how the enemy gets clever. In this stage of life where peer approval is paramount, and nobody likes to feel awkward or alone, it’s easier to go with the flow and do what is popular rather than what feels right.

Consequently, many teens make choices they don’t want to make. Many who fall into the permissive, anything-goes lifestyle later wrestle with deep regret and end up in a counselor’s office. At this point, the enemy can go in for the kill, whispering lies to make them hate themselves or believe their future is doomed. Those who don’t know the truth about God’s mercy, redemption, and grace may spend years (or decades) believing hopeless thoughts. They may wrongly assume they’re damaged goods or that it’s too late to turn things around.

So when talking about virtue — defined as “behavior showing high moral standards” — it’s important to be sensitive to human fallibility.

I still have no earthly clue where I am.

So far, I’ve been learning how to navigate this foreign city with a sociopathic GPS that often tells me to “turn right here” while I am speeding over a bridge.

I’ve had to pull over and ask random pedestrians for directions three times this morning. Although, I have to admit, the residents in this city are extremely accommodating.

A few minutes ago, for example, I asked a guy for directions who I met in a parking lot near a Mexican restaurant. He was Latino, and more than happy to help.

This kind hearted man took nearly 15 minutes of his valuable time to tell me, in painstaking detail, exactly where I should go, where I should turn, and how long it would take me to get where I was going. At least I assume that’s what he was saying because he didn’t speak one lick of English.

In fact, the only English words he apparently knew were, “It is what it is, man.” He must have said this phrase 2,193 times.

“Thank you for your help,” I said as we shook hands and parted ways.

“It is what it is, man,” he answered.

Which, I suppose, roughly translates into, “You git what you git and you don’t pitch a fit.”

Sean Dietrich is a columnist and novelist known for his commentary on life in the American South. He has authored nine books and is the creator of the “Sean of the South” blog and podcast.

Talking to your child about virtue

We’ve all made unvirtuous choices, and the enemy loves to keep us stuck so we don’t choose a better path.

As Christians, God calls us to be different. He sets us apart for His purpose. Rather than blindly following the crowd, He wants us to follow Jesus. One way to explain this to your child is by pointing to nature and the journey of a salmon.

A salmon is different because it swims upstream against the current while most fish swim downstream. In its final and most difficult journey, the salmon swims upstream back to its birthplace to lay eggs and produce babies. This takes great energy, perseverance, and commitment, and by the time the salmon arrives, it’s exhausted. Many die shortly after reaching this destination.

Amazingly, God equips the salmon to accomplish this mission. A salmon can do miraculous things, like leap up waterfalls and swim past hurdles such as fishermen’s nets, rushing rapids, and predators like bears and eagles. While some salmon won’t survive, many will. They’ll press on toward home to do what they were born to do.

This salmon’s journey is considered one of nature’s greatest triumphs. It takes more energy to accomplish this feat, yet that energy is spent in a way that maximizes life fulfillment.

Like the salmon, God designed us to swim against the current of what’s popular. He works miracles to help us reach our destination. We were created for eternity, and the longing for heaven that God planted in our hearts helps propel us home. Our journey is difficult but worth it. Even if we’re exhausted by the end, we

find meaning and fulfillment in a life well-lived.

So how do you help your child live a life of virtue? What does “swimming upstream” look like in real life? These tips can offer a starting point.

1. Be intentional. Nobody lives a positive life by accident. Set standards for yourself and pre-decide what you’ll do in tricky situations so that when the time comes, you’ve mentally prepared and have a response.

2. Trust your gut. When something doesn’t feel right, it’s usually not right. Trust God’s quiet voice inside you over the megaphone of public opinion, and know that His nudges and whispers can guide you toward the right path.

3. Live for God’s approval. Many of us are people-pleasers by nature. We hate to disappoint or let people down, but this can cause trouble — especially when a questionable request is made, like a friend asking to cheat off your test or telling you to exclude someone. Friends come and go, but God is forever, so aim to please Him, not people. When you put God first, you’ll attract friends who do the same and won’t put you in situations that force you to compromise your values.

4. Know you’ll be teased no matter what choices you make. You might as well make choices that are good for you, help you sleep well at night, and honor God.

5. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Learning to endure awkward moments is a crucial life skill. Each time, you build muscles of self-control that prepare you for bigger pressures. Sadie Robertson once said, “5 seconds of awkwardness can save you from a lifetime of regret,” and it’s true. It’s okay to be the only

person in the room not participating or to leave when things go south.

6. Find your people. In any journey, you need like-minded friends. You need allies who relate to you, support you, and have your back. Especially when you’re tempted to quit, you need friends who can say, “These are our goals. We can do it.”

7. Show yourself (and others) grace. Nobody lives virtuously all the time. We all mess up and miss the mark. Thankfully, God’s grace is bigger than any mistake or wrong turn. As He forgives us, that’s how we’re called to forgive too. Only through His power can we resist the pressures that get us off-track.

G.K. Chesterton once said, “A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it.” When God’s spirit lives inside us, we gain the desire and the power to do what pleases Him. Nobody lives a perfect life, but we can live an intentional life, a life that values virtue and understands its role in helping us become our best and propelling us toward our final home.

Kari Kubiszyn Kampakis is a Mountain Brook mom of four girls, author, speaker and blogger. Kari’s newest book, “More Than a Mom: How Prioritizing Your Wellness Helps You (and Your Family) Thrive,” is now available on Amazon, Audible and everywhere books are sold. Kari’s bestselling other books — “Love Her Well,” “Liked” and “10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know” have been used widely across the country for small group studies. Join Kari on Facebook and Instagram, visit her blog at karikampakis. com, or find her on the Girl Mom Podcast.

B10 • March 2023 Vestavia Voice Opinion

Metro Roundup


Take-home meals take center stage at ‘Teenie’s Take-Home Market’

Tina Liollio’s heritage is a mix of distinct cultures, but she wouldn’t have it any other way.

“My dad’s family is 100% Greek Orthodox, and my mom’s family is 100% Sicilian,” Liollio said. “My mom is from Birmingham, but my dad’s family immigrated from Greece to Pensacola, and that’s where they met. The first few years of my life, we lived in Pensacola, but in the 1990s, we moved to Birmingham, and it’s been home forever.”

Liollio learned to cook from both sides of her family. Her great-grandmother lived across the street, and every Saturday and Sunday, she would go to her house to watch and help make spaghetti and meatballs and all the Sicilian things she liked to make, Liollio said.

She spent time working for Jim-n-Nick’s throughout her early years, but after college, Liollio heard they were starting a new catering program that would launch in the Birmingham area first.

“I started relationship building in the community [for Jim-n-Nick’s] and helped manage things like the call center and their first sales force,” Liollio said. “The restaurant business has been in my dad’s family since the 1960s, so I grew up in the restaurant business.”

When she left Jim-n-Nick’s, she managed the catering market for the state of Alabama, and she supported out-of-state events for major

corporations and nonprofit organizations.

In late 2018, Liollio decided to start her own business that manages events for nonprofits, called Local Link.

“One of the nonprofits that I work for is Jones Valley Teaching Farm,” she said. “They do a lot of work with different schools in Birmingham to show kids what it means to grow your own food. They [recently] opened a center for food education where they teach children things like fractions through interactive cooking and use that as a way to teach and continue

their mission.”

In 2020, when events were virtually nonexistent, Liollio used the opportunity to begin cooking for friends and family and delivering meals to those in need. Once things began to get back to normal, she continued doing events, but her meal delivery experience was always in the back of her mind.

“One of the big events that I did was the World Games. When that was over, Jennifer Ryan, who owns BlueRoot and who I met during the event, reached out to me about a

space she was considering sub-leasing because she was busy with her location at the Pepper Place Market,” Liollio said.

This conversation happened in October 2022, and the spot for Teenie’s Take-Home Market opened in November 2022.

“It all happened so fast,” she said. “It’s so small. It’s 300 square feet. We cook [our meals] at Jones Valley Teaching School because they have a commercial kitchen, I am one of their employees, and that’s where we are certified by the Jefferson County Health Department,” she said.

Currently, Teenie’s Take-Home Market does not offer catering due to space restrictions, but Liollio hopes to add that as part of the business in the future. Products at the store, including main courses, sides and desserts, must be purchased in person.

“We will always have lasagna and Greek chicken on our menu,” she said. “Those are our staples. We do have weekly specials, and we will rotate different things by season, but we will always have staples available.”

Her mission with Teenie’s Take-Home Market is to incorporate more local, women-owned businesses into the store. They purchase wholesale items from companies like BlueRoot, Dryft Coffee, The Breakup Cookie and NOLA Ice – Broad St. Peaux Boys.

“I plan to incorporate many other local, female-owned businesses into the mix each quarter,” she said. “The goal is to offer variety as well as promote other local female entrepreneurs in the community.”

For more information on Teenie’s TakeHome Market, visit

Hoover’s newest senior living community is welcoming new residents! You’ll be greeted with fresh, exciting experiences around every corner, not to mention all-day dining with your choice of chef-prepared, seasonal menu items and a full calendar of activities, live entertainment and guest speakers. Discover a vibrant community created for you and your lifestyle — and a future full of ways to live inspired at The Crossings at Riverchase. Come see our beautiful community for yourself. Call March 2023 • B11
Tina Liollio stocks the cooler with meals at Teenie’s TakeHome Market at Mountain Brook Village. Photo by Erin Nelson. Brought to you by our sister paper: villageliving 2171 Parkway Lake Drive | Hoover, Alabama 35244 Independent Living | Assisted Living | Memory Care ALF #D5986 | SCALF #P5928
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Learn dance with the professionals

Alabama Ballet

The Alabama Ballet School is the official school of the Alabama Ballet, the state’s premiere professional ballet company. The Royal Academy of Dance certified Alabama Ballet School provides the highest quality training to aspiring artists of all ages through various summer programs including Summer Intensive, Junior Camp and Tutus and Tiaras.

Junior Camp is a two-week camp for dancers ages 8-12. Students will take age-appropriate ballet classes, learn modern dance, and jazz technique, and take character and/or theatre dance classes. All students will study dance history and prepare for an end of the session performance.

Tutus and Tiaras is a one-week camp for children ages 4-7. Students will take age-appropriate ballet and tap classes, create ballet-oriented crafts, and learn how ballet dancers tell stories with pantomime. Students will also have a story time where they can learn the story of ballets such as The Nutcracker, Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty and other classical ballets.

Both camps will take place July 17-28 at the Alabama Ballet Center for Dance in Birmingham.

For more information, contact Natalie Hunt, Alabama Ballet School Administrator,


► Junior Camp: Two-week camp for dancers ages 8-12

► Tutus and Tiaras: One-week camp for children ages 4-7

WHERE: Alabama Ballet Center for Dance

WHEN: July 17-28


CONTACT: Natalie Hunt, Alabama Ballet School Administrator

CALL: 205-322-1874

EMAIL: nataliehunt@alabama

at or 205-322-1874. Registration is open now at


Take center stage and express your creativity

Red Mountain Theatre Summer Camps give kids an outlet to use their creativity in dramatic ways at all ages and skill levels. It’s not just about singing and dancing, it’s about teaching teamwork, focus, discipline, confidence and so much more. Red Mountain Theatre’s camps allow students to dip their toe into the theater world by learning basic performance skills, or become fully immersed with intensive camps for students who are already enthusiastic about musical theater. Most sessions end with a short “sharing” for students to show off what they’ve learned to parents and friends. For our youngest students, ages 4-6,

Red Mountain Theatre

half-day Play Making camps use a familiar book like “Where the Wild Things Are” as a basis to explore storytelling and creative play. Theme Camps, for ages 7-12, allow creative students to immerse themselves in a favorite book world like Hogwarts, Narnia or Arendelle and cultivate their own original characters. For theatrical 7-8 year-olds, Red Mountain Theatre offers Summer Sprouts, where students will learn 3-5 Broadway-style production numbers to perform for family and friends. The fast-paced Blast Camps ask 9-14 year-olds to learn an entire 30-minute original script, plus music and choreography in just one

WHERE: 1600 3rd Ave. S., Birmingham

WHEN: May 30-Aug. 4

AGES: 4-17

CALL: 205-324-2424

EMAIL: education@redmountain


week to share with a supportive audience. For young people aged 9-18 who are serious about musical theater, Red Mountain Theatre

offers intensive musical theater camps like Broadway Bootcamp, featuring theater professionals from across the U.S.

Red Mountain Theatre’s educators are Teaching Artists — highly skilled instructors who have both practical theater experience and teaching experience. All our professionals meet exacting safety and learning standards to provide students with a safe environment in which to learn, grow and express themselves. Pricing starts at $180 for half-day camps and $300 for full day camps. Payment plans and financial aid are available. Before- and after-care as well as lunch programs can be added on for students.


S t o r y te l ling and ive play for b udding arti an original script, music choreo gr a p h y . BLAST CAMPS
9-14 Intensiv aining fo r serious t s REGISTER NOW AT
Create a cterin a favor it e book world PLAY MAKING Ages 4-6 SUMMER SPROUTS Ages 7-8 THEME CAMPS Ages 7-12 BROADWAY BOOTCAMP Ages 9-17 yrT uo t B r o a d wa ystyl e production numbers. SCAN FOR ALL CAMPS

Take the spotlight in a supportive, fun atmosphere

Virgina Samford Theatre

Find the secret to brighter children

Mason Music Camps

For over a decade, Mason Music has provided music education to thousands of children across Birmingham. Mason Music’s summer camps are designed to give incredible music experiences tailored to each child’s stage of musicianship to make sure they have something exciting and educational to do during break. Mason Music has camps for every age, from preschool children (ages 3-5) to advanced musicians (up to age 18).

Mason Music is intentional about staffing their camps with seasoned music teachers who are dedicated to the value of music education for their students.

“Music education has been proven again and again to increase social skills, spatial awareness, hand-eye coordination and even numeracy and language,” says Mason Music’s Director of Marketing, Laine White.

Mason Music places an emphasis on teaching music that kids are excited about, instead of forcing genres or styles of music that children don’t relate to.

AGES: 3-18

WEB: music-camps

“Our unique approach to music education ensures that our students get the full benefit of their musical exploration while having a blast,” says White.

As parents, it can be a lot of pressure to teach your children important life skills, but Mason Music Camps provide a unique avenue to a brighter and more socially developed child. Their vast community of Birmingham music educators and resources like popular performance venues, recording studios and guest speakers provide your child with the most comprehensive and accessible music opportunities possible. There truly is nothing like Mason Music in Birmingham.

2023 Summer Music Camps

AGES 6-9

AGES 3-5

AGES 6-10

AGES 10-15

Virginia Samford Theatre in Birmingham offers children and teens ages 7-18 a fun, no-pressure introduction to the joys of creating musical theater with its STARS Camp VST in June.

STARS Camp VST focuses on singing and dancing and also offers classes in stage combat, costume and set design, playwriting and Shakespeare. There are two levels of instruction, beginner and intermediate.

“We'll also have a small showcase at the end of the week to highlight some of the fun music, dancing, scenes and games we've learned,” says Jenna Bellamy, director of the STARS Program at VST.

The VST is also launching its new STARS Summer Studio — open to rising 6th graders and up with prior theater or performance experience — where campers can receive advanced instruction in dance and vocal performance.

All of the instructors are theater professionals or have a musical theater background.

The atmosphere at the camps is “fun, supportive and kind,” Bellamy says.

And this year, the camps will be held at the recently renovated Mountain Brook High School.

“It's exciting to have campers working and learning in their beautiful arts campus,” Bellamy says.

WHERE: Mountain Brook High School

WHEN: June 5-9 and June 12-16,

AGES: 7-18

EMAIL: stars@virginiasamford

WEB: vststars/camp-vst

There will be two one-week sessions of Camp VST, Monday-Friday, June 5-9 and June 12-16, from 9 a.m to 3:30 p.m. There will also be two one-week sessions of STARS Summer Studio on the same dates from 12:30-4 p.m.

The cost is $350 for registrations before April 1 and $400 after April 1.

Parents can register their kids at virginia

AGES 10-15

AGES 10-18

AGES 10-18

B14 • March 2023 Vestavia Voice

Get grossed out!

Fresh Air Family

Crawdads, slimy salamanders and roly poly races — it’s the kind of science children love: hands-on, a bit disgusting, and all taking place in the Great Outdoors.

Award-winning Gross Out Camp provides children a safe opportunity to explore and study their natural world. Held outdoors at McCallum Park in Vestavia, among other locations, we will spend the day in the creek and on the trails. The camp is geared for children entering grades 1-4, with counselor-in-training opportunities for older kids. Gross Out Camp runs a full day, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with before- and after-care available 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Campers hike the trails as they look for millipedes, worms, jelly-eared mushrooms and a host of flowers and bugs. In the creek, we will hunt for crawdads and other creatures. We will study whatever they find. A live animal show will bring in snakes, turtles, bearded dragons, skinny pigs and a bunny, all available for touching and holding (except for one really fast lizard)!

Fresh Air Family also offers scholarships so that all interested children can participate. There are only 20 campers per session, a perfect size for maximum learning. Sessions run weekly from May 30 to July 28.

Offering boys a unique outdoor experience

Summers at Southern

Summer camps have existed for generations, but Southern Preparatory Academy in Camp Hill, Alabama, has reimagined the experience and created a unique, exciting program for boys entering grades 6-12.

Summers at Southern, which the Academy has offered for over a decade, returns in 2023 with an authentic outdoor experience on the school’s well-equipped 320-acre campus.

The campus features two fishing ponds, gyms and rifle ranges, as well as a football field, indoor swimming pool, dining hall and dorms.

All activities are designed to allow boys to get outside, get dirty, run, play, jump, swim and get off of their electronics.

Perhaps most important, Summers at Southern also gives boys the chance to problem solve and think for themselves through creative challenges.

WHERE: 174 Ward Circle, Camp Hill

CALL: 256-307-7348 or 256-790-9202

WHEN: Weekly from May 30 to July 28, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with before- and after-care available 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

AGES: Children entering grades 1-4

WEB: For more information and to register, visit

Sign up at We guarantee tired, dirty children! It’s the most fun you can have while learning.

Award-Winning Science Camp

With a 16:1 camper-to-counselor ratio, Summers at Southern gives the boys the individualized attention they need.

The counselors challenge the campers in a positive way and make sure they have the best summer ever while making new friends and building their confidence as young men.

► Week One – Adventure (June 18-24): Activities include whitewater rafting, canoeing, paintball, aviation, firearms safety and more.

► Week Two – Survival (June 25-July 1): Activities include archery, land navigation, shelter building, overnight camping, kayaking and fishing.

► Week Three – Advanced Adventure (July 9-15): This is an advanced version of Week One with no prior experience required.

► Week Four – The Challenge (July 16-22): Campers sharpen their survival skills while camping overnight, building fires and catching and cooking their own catfish.

Each camp is customized to the boys’ experience and grade level.

Registration opens March 1 at summersat For details, call 256-307-7348 or 256-790-9202.

Summer Camp Reimagined

For Boys in Rising 6th - 12th Grades

WEB: Are you looking for a summer experience unlike any other? Summers At Southern is a series of week-long themed camps designed specifically with boys in mind. Our camp is 90% outdoors, with activities ranging from white-water rafting, catfishing, aviation, firearm safety education, kayaking, paintball, and much more! March 2023 • B15
Brought to You by at Vestavia's McCallum Park
Visit to register today.


At Alabama Power, we work hard to provide the dependable service our customers expect and deserve. We give 100% to achieve 99.98% dependability. That means regularly inspecting and trimming trees as a way of preventing potential outages.

About 45% of outages experienced by Alabama Power customers are due to trees and plant life.

Overgrown branches can brush against power lines and cause outages. They also make power lines more accessible to wildlife.

We use technology and data analytics to help identify areas in need of tree trimming to protect the electrical system.

Keeping you aware of upcoming work is a priority to us. Scan the QR code to see the neighborhoods tree crews will be working in.

If you have any questions, please call Alabama Power at 205-257-2155 and request to speak with a member of our utility tree care team.

To learn more about how we safely maintain our system or for recommendations on planting the right trees in the right place, visit © 2023 Alabama Power Company.

Articles from Vestavia Voice March 2023