Birmingham Mayor Randall L. Woodfin and Birmingham Promise Inc. executive director Rachel Harmon on Tuesday announced $7 million in corporate gifts to support college scholarships and other services provided through the groundbreaking organization.
The gifts include the largest private donation to Birmingham Promise to date: a $5 million commitment from Vulcan Value Partners, an investment management firm located in the Magic City.
New commitments of $1 million each also came from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama and Protective Life Corporation, respectively.
“These investments represent a commitment not only to the students who benefit directly from Birmingham Promise but to the future of our city,” Woodfin said in a statement. “Birmingham Promise is laying a foundation that will create economic opportunity and prosperity here for generations to come.”
Additionally, Alabama Power Company has committed to a gift of $1 million for the second consecutive year, which is not included in the total number announced Tuesday.
Birmingham Promise provides tuition assistance for graduates of Birmingham City Schools who attend in-state public colleges and universities, as well as success coaches who continue to support the students during their college journey. Birmingham Promise also provides paid apprenticeships that allow Birmingham high school juniors and seniors to gain work experience.
“Our goal is to clear pathways to opportunity for our students in Birmingham,” Harmon commented. “Whether we’re providing career experiences or money for college, the objective is to unleash potential and open doors. We are planting the seeds of success for these students and for our city.”
Vulcan Value Partners explained that the vision of Birmingham Promise is aligned with its corporate philosophy and goals.
“As long-term investors, we look for leadership and vision, both of which Mayor Woodfin has delivered with Birmingham Promise,” said C.T. Fitzpatrick, the founder, CEO and chief investment officer of Vulcan Value Partners. “By committing to Birmingham Promise, we are investing in our future – our young people – knowing that what we are doing today will pay dividends in the future.”
BCBS of Alabama said supporting Birmingham Promise is a way to enhance the overall well-being of the community.
“One of our corporate values at Blue Cross is ‘Give Back to the Community,’ a commitment that we uphold and continue to carry out by investing in the health, education and well-being of Alabamians,” stated Tim Vines, president and CEO of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama. “Through these efforts, our goal is to help create a stronger, healthier Alabama, and the Birmingham Promise is a perfect fit for this vision.”
Protective advised that education is a key to ensuring opportunity and making a regional impact.
“At Protective, we know we are only as successful as the communities in which we live, and we are committed to making a positive impact,” remarked Rich Bielen, president and CEO of Protective. “Education is a cornerstone to providing equitable and accessible opportunities, and we are proud to support this project, which enables Birmingham’s students to move our region forward.”
Harmon gave credit to the corporate partners that support Birmingham Promise.
“We couldn’t do what we do without the strong support of our corporate partners,” Harmon stressed. “On behalf of our students, their parents, and our citizens, we are all indebted to those who are willing to invest in Birmingham Promise.”
Students who have benefited from the program also expressed thanks to the corporate partners, as well as the City of Birmingham, which has committed $10 million over five years to the program.
“I want to thank Mayor Woodfin, the Birmingham City Council, and the other individuals and companies that are providing these opportunities to me and other students in Birmingham City Schools,” said Justin Williams, a Parker High School graduate, Birmingham Promise scholarship recipient and University of Alabama computer engineering student. “By investing in Birmingham Promise, they are helping to open doors for all of us and hopefully getting us in a position one day to provide the same kind of leg-up for students in the future.”
To date, Birmingham Promise has partnered with businesses to offer 150 paid apprenticeships to juniors and seniors in Birmingham City Schools.
The program in its first year supported 396 students with scholarships, 293 of whom had a financial gap related to tuition and received direct financial assistance totaling almost $1.5 million. All students received supportive services through Birmingham Promise success coaches and staff.
Among the class of 2021, 618 students have completed the application and are on track to provide all required documentation by June 1.
Dr. Mark Sullivan, superintendent of Birmingham City Schools, thanked Birmingham Promise and its corporate donors for supporting his students.
“This week, hundreds of scholars will graduate from Birmingham City Schools. While we are excited about their accomplishments, we are even more excited about what they will do in the future,” Sullivan concluded. “Many of our scholars will pursue university and community college degrees with financial support from Birmingham Promise. This announcement of additional contributions today is a huge investment in our business and civic leaders of tomorrow. Thank you.”
Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn