Unite Inc. looks to partner with LaFayette City Council

Published 8:00 pm Wednesday, January 30, 2019

LaFAYETTE — A nonprofit organization focused on education is seeking a partnership with the city of LaFayette to continue providing services to the public.

Unite Inc. was founded by LaFayette native Travis Smith in 2011 to improve freshman male retention rates at Alabama State University. Four years ago, he created a chapter in Chambers County based in LaFayette at the Powell Chapel United Methodist Church.

On Monday, Smith asked the LaFayette City Council to enter into a long-term lease with Unite for a community building in LaFayette at 324 1st Street.

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Smith said the building hasn’t been in use for 15 years and the Unite Board of Director has committed to assisting in the renovations of the building.

The council agreed in principle to the suggestions but urged Smith to be as specific as possible when discussing the terms of the lease. The council also suggested Smith get together with Building Superintendent George Green to determine what needs to be done to bring the building up to city codes.

“You need to be as specific as you can with the lease agreement and let us take a look and get back to you,” Mayor Barry Moody said Monday.

Councilman Michael Ellis was entirely on board with the idea.

“It sounds very good to me,” he said. “I was just looking at the old community house and wondering what we could do with the building, and here we go.”

Smith said Wednesday that he and city are working on the details of the lease currently. He said city officials are expected to vote on the lease at the next council meeting.

As of 2016, Unite has had nine seniors go through the program accumulating nearly $5.8 million in scholarships, he said. Additionally, students affiliated with Unite throughout Alabama have been accepted to more than 200 different universities worldwide.

“We’ve had nine seniors that have accumulated more scholarship dollars than entire school districts,” he said. “That tells us that what we are doing is working.”

Smith said every senior who has gone through the Unite program has graduated with an academic scholarship. However, to be eligible for the program, those students must complete 50 hours of community service, all of which must be dedicated to the city of LaFayette. He said students have put in more than 2,500 service hours in three years. That includes help with the daycares, nursing homes and within the schools.

“We are big on giving back,” he said.

Moving into the community center in LaFayette would involve more than helping students, Smith said, as the organization’s goal would be to help individuals from early childhood to adult learners. He said Unite is interested in teaching individuals about money skills, interview skills and healthy living.

“But we need a space to do this,” he said

Smith said he wants to keep Unite in LaFayette because it is his hometown, but he has a board of directors to answer to and if a partnership can’t happen, there’s no guarantee the program will stay there.