Build UP Community School

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Build UP Community School
BuildUP Community School logo.png
Established 2018
School type Private
District N/A
Grades 9-12
Executive Director James Sutton
Enrollment 75 (2023)
Location 222 6th Avenue Southwest

Build UP Community School (BUCS, for Build Urban Prosperity) is a private, non-profit 6-year high school and junior college-level vocational training program with a focus on workforce development. It was founded by Mark Martin and originally located at 1402 Avenue E in Ensley. In 2023 the school relocated to The Cultural Center in the former Commercial Printing Company building at 222 6th Avenue Southwest in North Titusville, which it shares with the A4ONE indoor sports facility, and formerly with the AWAKE Community School for grades K-8.

The program was launched with support from the Seattle, Washington-based Drexel Fund and has also been supported by the Sustainable Communities Initiative of the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae). Brasfield & Gorrie has donated to the program financially and by furnishing safety equipment and conducting OSHA-10 compliant safety training courses. Graduates qualify for a high school diploma and a 2-year associates degree. It kicked off in 2018 with a twice-a-week after school program followed by a summer "boot camp" for about 20 students from Jackson-Olin High School, who worked together to rehabilitate an abandoned house adjacent to the leased classroom space.

The program targets low-income students who qualify for scholarships under the Alabama Accountability Act. Lawson State Community College and Fairfield's Restoration Academy partnered with Build UP to develop academic programs, which are supplemented with courses in real estate, personal finance, and social justice. Students are paid for their labor, with payroll deductions to offset tuition.

The concept of the program is for each graduate to take ownership of a newly-renovated duplex, occupying one unit and renting the other to offset the zero-interest mortgage. The school works with the Birmingham Land Bank Authority and the Titusville Development Corp. to identify candidate properties for rehabilitation, and also solicits donations of homes scheduled for demolition that can be moved to vacant sites. For students who go on to careers outside of real estate or construction, they will still have established real equity and personal skills useful to maintain their property.

As of 2023 the school has 75–80 students. In addition to regular academic courses, students accumulate significant hands-on experience in construction and real estate development. In November of that year the program was awarded a $3 million grant from Enterprise Community Partners of Baltimore, Maryland and the Wells Fargo Foundation of Minneapolis, Minnesota as part of their 2023 Housing Affordability Breakthrough Challenge.



  • Martin, Mark (January 25, 2018) "What should a modern workforce education look like?" guest editorial The Birmingham News
  • Hess, Rich (February 6, 2018) "Straight Up Conversation: Build UP Founder Mark Martin" Education Week
  • Worthy, Ariel (August 16, 2018) "Principal of Build UP Ensley brings workforce development experience." The Birmingham Times
  • Rebman, Stephanie (September 6, 2018) "New Birmingham nonprofit making strides in Ensley - one house at a time." Birmingham Business Journal
  • Rebman, Stephanie (September 7, 2018) "Why Mark Martin started Build UP in Ensley and how it will help Birmingham businesses." Birmingham Business Journal
  • Guiliani-Hoffman, Francesca (March 29, 2021) "This Alabama school wants to turn its students into future homeowners, and build careers in the process."
  • "Birmingham’s Build Up Community School Hosts Community Open House." (February 19, 2023) Birmingham Parent
  • Cardone, Jen (March 2, 2023) "Birmingham private school building up future leaders"
  • Daniel, Nicole S. (April 28, 2023) "21-Year-Old Helps Build House Where He Becomes A First-Generation Homeowner." The Birmingham Times
  • Parker, Illyshia (November 14, 2023) "Birmingham nonprofit awarded $3M in nationwide competition." Birmingham Business Journal

External links