World of Opportunity

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World of Opportunity (WOO) was an independent non-profit adult education center providing literacy and vocational training and GED preparation classes free of charge. It was founded in 1996 as Workplace Instructional Resources and Educational Development (WIRED), an outreach of Birmingham City Schools' adult education, with Steve Orel as director. Originally classes were held in space donated by the Miller Wire Works in Gate City.

In the Spring of 2000, Orel discovered a number of teenage enrollees coming to the program with withdrawal slips from city schools which listed "lack of interest" as the reason for dropping out. Suspecting that uninterested students would be unlikely to seek out an alternate education program, he decided to investigate. He and Birmingham Board of Education member Virginia Volker accused the system of forcing the low-performing students out in advance of standardized test sessions. Orel was immediately fired from the system, but, along with Charles Todel, and the support of Miller Wire Works quickly re-established the educational program as an independent organization. In 2001 WOO became a chartered member of the National Adult Education Honor Society.

World of Opportunity was incorporated as a registered non-profit on December 3, 2002. It was recognized in the 2005 KnowledgeWorks Foundation report Dollars & Sense II as one of the best, most cost-effective, community-based small schools in the country. When Orel died in 2007 his widow, Glenda Jo Orel succeeded him as executive director. The organization moved to space in Grace Episcopal Church in Woodlawn.

Shrinking allocations from the City of Birmingham and private funders forced the school to close on July 7, 2011. In its 11¼ years, WOO served 6,000 students, many of whom were referred by area school systems, resource programs, homeless shelters, or courts.


  • Woodbery, Evan and Elaine Witt (June 2000) "Accounts of Woodlawn students conflict." Birmingham Post-Herald
  • Viadero, Debra (July 2004) "One Last Chance". Education Week. Vol. 23, No. 42, pp. 34-7
  • Lawrence, Barbara Kind, et al, eds. (2005) Dollars & Sense II: Lessons from Good, Cost-Effective Small Schools Cincinnati, Ohio: KnowledgeWorks Foundation, p. 58-9
  • Gordon, Amy (July 11, 2007) "World of Opportunity director Steve Orel dies of cancer at 53." Birmingham News
  • Brimley, John A. (July 15, 2011) "Birmingham youth opportunity center closing four years after founder's death." Birmingham News

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