By Alicia Rohan
Students from all seven Birmingham City high schools make up the first Birmingham Promise class of freshmen at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The scholarship program provided 68 students with the opportunity to pursue their bachelor’s degree with a full-tuition scholarship through a partnership with Birmingham Promise, Inc., at UAB.
More than 50 percent of the Birmingham Promise scholars self-identify as first-generation college students and receive supportive services through the program to help them achieve their goal of a four-year degree.
“Education is the path to prosperity,” said UAB President Ray L. Watts. “So we are working alongside Birmingham Promise scholars every day to help them navigate obstacles and provide the tools they need to accomplish their goals. I have been touched to see our offices of the Provost, Student Affairs, Advancement and so many others from across the institution step up to make a meaningful difference for these students.”
UAB was the first academic institution in Alabama to partner with the City of Birmingham and Mayor Randall Woodfin to offer the Birmingham Promise scholarship to Birmingham City Schools graduates. The scholars receive tuition, as well as resources from UAB that include student housing, laptops, peer mentors and a dedicated advisory team.
“UAB was the first to offer a one-to-one scholarship match,” Woodfin said. “Because of President Watts’ and his entire team’s enthusiastic commitment to this next generation of scholars, our students have seen tremendous early success. These results encourage other institutions across the state to become partners of Birmingham Promise, which is now a standalone nonprofit.”
Opening doors to a bright future
Morgan Rankin-Taylor, a Birmingham native and Ramsay High School graduate, began her freshman year at UAB as an engineering major with hopes to be a materials engineer. The full-tuition Birmingham Promise scholarship allows Rankin-Taylor to focus on her studies.
“When Mayor Woodfin announced the scholarship program, my mother and I saw opportunities and doors open that we never imagined,” Rankin-Taylor said. “Receiving this scholarship shows the commitment the city has to our generation’s future. It is an opportunity for my dreams to come true. With the help of the scholarship, I can stress less about money and focus on the schoolwork.”
Rankin-Taylor was inspired to be an engineer by the ICAN Girls in Engineering program in middle school. Creating ways to build beautiful buildings that are environmentally friendly inspires her.
“I want to find ways to make things safe and greener,” Rankin-Taylor said. “Materials engineering excites me and gives me an opportunity to achieve my dreams. All of these dreams are coming true through the Birmingham Promise.”
Starting off during a pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic made typical social interactions and student experiences difficult. The school year kicked off on Aug. 5 for Birmingham Promise scholars with a virtual, multi-day “Welcome Weekend” experience for incoming students, co-hosted by UAB and the Birmingham Education Foundation. The welcome weekend provided a space for scholars to mingle and exposed them to the academic rigor and social support that exists at UAB.
“Our primary goal for the welcome weekend was to ensure scholars felt supported, successful and excited as they enter their freshman year at UAB,” said Carolyn Williams, program manager for the Birmingham Education Foundation.
During the virtual welcome weekend, each scholar within the Birmingham Promise program received a peer mentor to help them through their first year of college. These role models for success are Birmingham City Schools graduates who are now sophomores, juniors or seniors at UAB.
“College is hard,” Rankin-Taylor said. “I struggled during my first few weeks trying to find classes, balance the workload and find friends. My mentor has helped me with presentations, navigating life on campus and figuring out how to overcome the challenges in my first year of college. It has been nice to have someone who has gone through life on campus help me.”
To the class of 2021
UAB and Birmingham Promise, Inc., will partner again to help Birmingham City Schools seniors graduating in 2021 attend college next year. The scholarship will be available to students who are admitted to UAB as first-time, full-time freshmen, in the academic year following high school graduation from one of the seven Birmingham City high schools.
Rankin-Taylor has a sister who is a senior at Ramsay High School and is proud she will have the same opportunity to attend her dream university.
“We have always shared a room and pretty much everything in life,” Rankin-Taylor said. “While it has been nice to experience college on my own, I’m excited that my sister will get to have the same experience and opportunities for her future.”
In order to qualify for the Birmingham Promise scholarship at UAB, Birmingham City Schools students must:
- Be eligible for UAB admission, which for fall 2021 is a minimum 2.75 GPA. Learn more about admission requirements at UAB at uab.edu/admissions.
- Be admitted to UAB as a first-time, full-time freshman in the fall semester of the academic year immediately following their high school graduation.
- Complete the FAFSA form and UAB application by Dec. 1, 2020.
- Complete a Birmingham Promise application by March 1 (applications can be found atorg)
The Birmingham Promise scholarship at UAB will cover tuition for full-time study at UAB. To maintain eligibility, a student must be enrolled at UAB full time and demonstrate progress toward a degree by passing 67 percent of hours attempted and maintaining a GPA of 2.0 or higher.
More information about how students can receive the Birmingham Promise scholarship at UAB will be released in the coming months. For more information, contact Chandler Thornton at firstname.lastname@example.org.