Impact Through Service

josie ricketts headshotWhen Josie Ricketts began applying for college in her hometown of Nashville, Tennessee, The University of Alabama stood out among her options. Her older brother attended the Capstone, so she and her parents visited campus several times to see him and join in the fun of Bama game days. Her brother was also involved in many clubs and organizations on campus, so her existing knowledge of the different involvement opportunities excited her. All of these variables came together when it was time to make the ultimate choice, and Josie soon found herself cheering on the Crimson Tide as a student at UA!

After settling into campus, Josie hit the ground running with a very busy freshman year. The demands of her double major of psychology and human development held Josie off from joining many clubs, but she wanted that to change during her sophomore year. She made up for this by following in her brother’s footsteps and joining Al’s Pals!

Al’s Pals is an after-school program facilitated by the Center for Service and Leadership (CSL) where UA students mentor local Tuscaloosa elementary students. Mentors help their mentees complete lesson plans, reinforce reading and math skills and even engage in fun games and activities with them. It didn’t take long for Josie to fall in love with the program, as she explained, “I’ve always had a passion for service, and I really liked working with elementary school kids in high-school.” On her last day of her first semester in the program, she received a heartfelt message from the mentees that assured she would return to Al’s Pals.

“At the end of the semester we took a group picture … and [the mentees] came into the classroom and gave us thank you cards,” she said.

“I got eight thank you cards with notes saying how thankful they were, how much fun they had and how much they’ll miss me. It showed me that two hours of my life once a week had such a positive impact on those kids,” she said.

After her first semester, Josie came back and quickly advanced within Al’s Pals. She became a grade leader in her second semester and was tasked with making sure that each classroom was running smoothly and that the mentees were still growing academically while having fun with their mentors. Now, in her third semester with Al’s Pals, she serves as an assistant team lead and works hand-in-hand with CSL staff members to ensure that the after-school program runs smoothly across all participating elementary schools for the entire semester. Her positions throughout the semesters have proven to be a great boon for Josie as she grows into a stronger leader with each passing day.

“It’s a big commitment working with the CSL,” she began. “it has taught me how to work with other strong-minded people with awesome ideas, figure out how to work with them and communicate effectively with others. It’s also taught me how to be a leader and step into a role where people are looking up to you to d the right thing and make the right decision,” she said.

Even when she’s not working with Al’s Pals, Josie still finds meaningful ways to work with children. Alongside her volunteer work through the CSL, she also works as a research assistant at the Autism Spectrum Disorders Clinic on UA’s campus. She performs testing and helps with diagnoses, allocates josie wearing a high-visibility coat and posing in a crouch with another studentsgrant money, plans a back-to-school bash and even conducts data-based research. In fact, her research is award winning! On Aug. 23, 2023, Josie won the Aces and School Engagement Poster Award! When asked about this accomplishment, Josie expressed that it was humbling to be honored and that she wants to continue doing research on adverse childhood experiences.

Josie’s time in the CSL has been incredible. Not just for her, but also for every child in Al’s Pals that she’s positively influenced. She serves the children in Al’s Pals intentionally, and provides a beautiful definition of service, saying “service means helping others who don’t have the same opportunities that I do.” She also encourages other UA students to volunteer their time with the CSL. “If Al’s Pals doesn’t work for you, there are six other organizations that would love for you to serve with them,” she said. Josie is set to graduate in May and wants to be a clinical psychologist so she can continue working with children and serving her community.

josie with a dog