In 2017, Dr. Mark W.C. Martin returned home to Alabama after nearly 15 years away.  He returned to help fulfill the calling of his mentor, the late visionary Dr. John L. Blackburn, to “fix the damn state.” Prior to his homecoming, Mark completed his Doctor of Education Leadership at Harvard University and then declined several opportunities to take his talents elsewhere. Instead, he launched Birmingham’s Build Urban Prosperity (Build UP).

Build UP - Ensley, the program’s pilot site, is the nation’s first and only early-college workforce development private school that comprehensively addresses poverty and urban blight. Build UP provides low-income youth with career-ready skills through paid apprenticeships with industry-aligned coursework, leading them to become educated, credentialed, and empowered civic leaders, professionals, homeowners and landlords.

Mark specifically chose Birmingham’s Ensley neighborhood to empower young residents to lead the revitalization of a depressed and uninvested community, and to help draw positive educational attention to both Birmingham and the state of Alabama as the program gains esteem and expands nationally.

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