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Nominate your FOCUS Facilitator as a “Difference Maker!”

The Facilitator chosen as the “Difference Maker” will receive $1,000 cash to be used however they choose. The “Difference Maker” will be chosen based on their school’s activities, their level of involvement with FOCUS, and the creation of successful prevention activities and events.

Eligibility Requirements:

  • The FOCUS Facilitator must be nominated using the Difference Maker form below

  • The winner must be a facilitator at a registered FOCUS school (register your school here)

  • The deadline to nominate your Facilitator as the 2024 Difference Maker is March 29, 2024 at 5:00 pm.

Judging Criteria:

  • The school’s FOCUS activities that were led by the Facilitator.

  • The Facilitator's level of involvement with FOCUS throughout the year.

  • The Facilitator has demonstrated dedication and commitment to creating successful prevention activities and events.

Winner Will Receive:

The selected Difference Maker will receive $1,000 cash to be used however they choose.

2023 "Difference Maker" Recipient: Emily Herring

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FOCUS and the Addiction Prevention Coalition (APC) in Birmingham, AL are pleased to announce Emily Herring, Fairfield City Schools, as the winner of the 2023 Difference Maker Award which recognizes the most outstanding educator facilitating FOCUS in Alabama! The Difference Maker Award was created to honor those whose passion, enthusiasm, and leadership have resulted in real successes in the prevention of adolescent risk behaviors in their school and community. As the winner of this award, Mrs. Herring received $1,000 cash and a trophy.


Mrs. Herring is the Mental Health Coordinator for Fairfield City Schools and has a social work background. She has been the Mental Health Coordinator in Fairfield City Schools for three years and has been a social worker in the Birmingham area for nine years. This is her first social work role working directly for a school system. Mrs. Herring worked with Addiction Prevention Coalition to start Fairfield City’s FOCUS group this school year! She has been wanting to start a student group focused on mental health, addiction prevention, etc., and heard about FOCUS and thought that it fit perfectly with her goals! Over the summer and the start of the school year, she began recruiting students, ensuring that she had representatives from many different student groups. In her role as a facilitator, she has learned so much from her students and is always grateful for opportunities to be their cheerleader as they lead our school, district, and community.


An individual nominating Mrs. Herring stated, “The Fairfield ‘program’ is one of APC’s newest groups, yet Emily Herring and Fairfield's students have quickly become one of our brightest. Within their first year, she has facilitated several events, working alongside Fairfield High's administration and within the district to have the high schoolers talk to the middle schoolers. Emily strives to find opportunities for the students to shine and empowers them to express their ideas at every chance.”


Another individual nominating Mrs. Herring stated, “The reason I believe that Mrs. Emily Herring should be awarded Difference Maker of the Year is due to her caring, ambitious, and dedicated spirit to the students of the Fairfield City System. Mrs. Herring has gone above and beyond for each and everyone of the students she serves. She is a counselor, a friend, a motivator, and most importantly, a confidant for the students that she touches through her work. Mrs. Herring motivates the students to reach their highest potential through her ability to strengthen the ‘program’ groups by offering them a safe place to be themselves.”


Fairfield’s FOCUS group led the way in sharing about the importance of mental health district-wide this year. Their group held three mental health assemblies at Fairfield’s middle school, sharing the importance of mental health and leading mental health trivia and other activities. They then led a mental health assembly in front of their own peers at their school, and each FOCUS member shared why mental health matters to them and how they cope with their own mental health. With the stigma placed on mental health, it took a lot of bravery and boldness to share! As Mrs. Herring always tells them, “Your peers do not need to hear about the importance of mental health from me - they need to hear about it from YOU!” She is incredibly proud of them for seeing a need, working to plan engaging assemblies, and boldly and vulnerably leading the way by sharing. This year they also distributed mental health kits to students, hosted a speaker for human trafficking prevention, packed hygiene kits for the homeless, and had in-depth student-led discussions about student-selected topics. While their FOCUS group just began this year, it was an incredibly full year, and the students deeply impacted their school and community. Mrs. Herring can only imagine how this group will continue to grow over the years to come!


According to Mrs. Herring, “the students in Fairfield’s FOCUS group are some of the most resilient, inspiring people I have ever met! They have done an incredible job creating a vision for student-led mental health efforts in our school district and finding ways to implement that vision. They encourage each other to be bold in talking about mental health. They work together to lead the school. Above all, they have shown immense resilience in overcoming so many obstacles to get to where they are. I could not be prouder of them!”


Emily obtained her bachelor’s degree in social work from Auburn University and a master’s degree in social work from The University of Alabama. She has lived in Birmingham for nine years. She got married in October 2022; Emily and her husband enjoy traveling, hiking and trying new restaurants.


We are honored to recognize Emily Herring for her outstanding leadership! Congratulations and thank you to Mrs. Herring for her work in reducing the incidence of adolescent risk behaviors and truly Making a Difference in the lives of students!     


Check out this video from WBRC about Fairfield City Schools focusing on students' mental health! 


Visit for information on FOCUS and to follow us on social media platforms @AlabamaFocus.

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