By Erica Wright
The Birmingham Times
Birmingham Promise — which provides funds for tuition and work experience for city students entering Alabama’s public two-year and four-year colleges and universities — on Wednesday announced a $300,000 contribution from AT&T.
Rachel Harmon, executive director of Birmingham Promise, Mayor Randall Woodfin and Wayne Hutchens, President of AT&T Alabama announced the partnership which will help support education for Birmingham students.
“This contribution will go a long way building ties between our business community, our academic partners and our students,” Woodfin said. “Hundreds of other juniors and seniors have taken advantage of the promise’s apprenticeship program. These are the seeds of a healthy, thriving workforce and something we must continue to invest in.”
The Birmingham Promise Initiative creates post-secondary opportunities and apprenticeships for BCS students and has two tracks: tuition assistance that covers college and apprenticeships; and career experience to prepare students for post-graduation opportunities.
Hutchens said AT&T believes in Birmingham and “we are focused on making sure Birmingham youth have an opportunity to succeed and to make their academic dreams become reality.”
He added that Birmingham Promise is an example of how connecting people has always “been part of our DNA. For nearly a century and a half, we have been connecting people with each other, opportunities and with the future. Technology has changed… but our commitment remains and like Mayor Woodfin, we believe in Birmingham and [are] inspired by a commitment to equity and opportunity . . . working to equip our youth with the education and tools to secure a better future.”
“When AT&T learned about the work that we were doing to enhance economic mobility through Birmingham Promise, they were eager to figure out how they could contribute,” Harmon said. “This is exactly the sort of corporate leadership that makes our community stronger and that makes the Promise work. We look forward to continuing this relationship and expanding our impact.”
John Collins, a recent graduate of Ramsay High School and a freshman at University of Alabama at Birmingham, said the apprenticeship program provided a number of benefits.
“The apprenticeship is just another opportunity to give students a chance to earn an income,” said Collins, an electrical engineering major who completed his apprenticeship with AutoTec, a local company that provides insurance and claims administration services for the automotive industry. “I really appreciate the Birmingham Promise being there and constantly asking us how things were going and staying up to date with everything because it gave me a lot of experience and exposure to the corporate scene. I really am not sure where else I would have gotten that and to be exposed to that as a senior in high school, it greatly impacted me.”
Collins, who said he plans to get a graduate degree in computer engineering once he completes undergrad, said he was moved by a visit Woodfin made to his high school last year.
“He addressed the fear that a lot of students had and that is paying for college. I just really appreciate everything that this does for myself, my family and as an older brother, it is good to know that my younger siblings also have a future. I’d like to thank Mayor Woodfin, AT&T, Birmingham Promise and thank you all for believing in us.”