The Alabama Extended Learning Alliance (AELA) works to ensure Alabama youth, families, and communities have access to high quality programming during Out-of-School time that promotes positive development and life-long learning.
Create a sustainable structure of statewide, regional and local partnerships, particularly school-community partnerships, focused on supporting policy development at all levels.
Support the development and growth of statewide policies that will secure the resources that are needed to sustain new and existing school-based/school-linked afterschool programs
Support statewide systems and partnerships to ensure programs are of high quality.
Felicia Simpson, Network Lead
Felicia Simpson serves as the Network Lead for the Alabama Extended Learning Alliance (AELA), promoting high-quality afterschool programs and summer learning across the state. She is also the Director of the Office of Expanded Learning and Community Supports in the College of Education at the University of Alabama. Felicia has over 23 years experience in education.
She has served as a teacher, administrator and director in K-12 schools. She works diligently with the Governor’s Administration, State Department of Education, Office of Early Childhood Education and numerous other organizations to create awareness around the impact before/afterschool and summer programming has for Alabama students, families, and communities. Felicia is a graduate of Jacksonville State University, University of Alabama, and completed her Education Policy Fellowship at Furman University.
Dr. Melisa (Lisa) Fowler, Director of STEM Education
Dr. Melisa (Lisa) Fowler is a Clinical Associate Professor of Elementary Education at The University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. She teaches elementary science methods courses to undergraduate students and advanced level science education courses to graduate students who are majoring in education. Dr. Fowler is a lifelong educator, having taught in a rural elementary school for sixteen years and at the university level for ten years. Her research interests, focused on underrepresented females in STEM and informal STEM learning, have led to her great interest and support of afterschool programming. She has created, instructed, and supported many afterschool efforts throughout her time in education. One of her most notable accomplishments is the development of STEM Family Nights allowing for family engagement with their children.
The goal of the events is to enable families to see that quality education is a joint effort, and that learning should not stop at the end of the formal school day. These family night events have served as an extension of afterschool programming, and they have successfully involved family, school, and community in the investment of quality STEM opportunities for elementary and middle school children. Fowler’s philosophy is that children need opportunities and spaces where they can think, imagine, build, design, and create. After school programs provide the perfect platform for allowing young minds to grow, question, challenge, and expand their ideas in safe spaces that are not dictated by the rigid formal school schedule. This is why Fowler has invested efforts into quality informal education spaces.
Jeana Ross, Director of Policy and Children’s Affairs
Jeana obtained her bachelor’s degree in early childhood education and holds a master’s degree in education leadership. While in her undergraduate program, She studied psychology courses focused on babies and young children and became interested in a child’s development. Jeana is certified to teach pre-k to third grade and began her career teaching a combined class of second and third graders in rural Alabama. As her career advanced, she became one of the first kindergarten teachers in Alabama Public Schools, a full-day program. When starting her own family, she took a break from her career to raise her two sons. Her love for children’s curiosity and delight of discovery creates a strong desire to always participate in and facilitate the pure joy of learning. Jeana returned to the field in 1997, teaching preschool, and was provided the opportunity to write school readiness standards for the county school district. Her accomplishments resulted in her serving as a coach for other teachers across the state. Through this work in public schools, she assisted and expanded pre-k programs in different school systems, developed high quality afterschool programs and participated in an advisory role as the state began its pre-k program. In 2012, Jeana became the Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Children’s Affairs later changing the name of the Office to Secretary of the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education.
In 2020, Jeana decided to retire and return to her home in North Alabama. However; Jeana wasn’t finished working for children and families. She has joined the Alabama Afterschool Community Network as the Director of Policy & Children’s Affairs.