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Birmingham Promise to Expand Work-Based Learning Programs for City Students

Huffman High School's Markelle Scott


Birmingham Promise plans to expand its internship program and add new work-based learning opportunities next year for younger students in Birmingham City Schools, thanks to funding approved this week by the Birmingham Board of Education.

The board approved $240,000 to allow Birmingham Promise to quadruple the number of seniors placed in internships and to develop new programs that will allow sophomores and juniors to participate in shorter-term “shadowing” opportunities in the workplace.

“Birmingham Promise is taking career preparation and exposure to a higher level for students in Birmingham City Schools,” said Samantha Williams, executive director of Birmingham Promise. “This is an enormous amount of growth for us. Our goal is to get every possible student in Birmingham City Schools high schools connected to some kind of Birmingham Promise work.”

For the most recent graduating class, internships were available only in the spring, and 50 seniors participated. Next year, internships will be available in both the fall and spring, and the goal is to have 100 students participating each semester.

The funding from Birmingham City Schools will support the expansion by helping Birmingham Promise cover transportation expenses, provide professional development/training for interns, and host networking nights to bring students and employers together.

With the financial support from Birmingham City Schools, Birmingham Promise will also for the first time offer sophomores and juniors “shadowing” experiences where they’ll spend two days with professionals in a variety of fields to explore career opportunities. The goal is for 200 sophomores and 200 juniors to participate next year, hopefully setting the stage for full internships in the 12th grade.

“We want to get 10th- and 11th-graders caught up in all of this sooner,” Williams told the school board.

Board President Neonta Williams said recent graduations in Birmingham City Schools highlighted the effect Birmingham Promise is already having on students.

“I think I saw even more this year, just the excitement behind our 2023 graduates,” she said. “They’ve all been talking about participating in the program.”

Huffman High’s Markelle Scott referred to his internship in his valedictory address, saying that his grandfather’s death to cancer gave him an interest in studying oncology and an internship in an oncology lab through the Birmingham Promise equipped him to pursue his dreams.

Even though Birmingham Promise dollars will also help him pay for college, Scott said he is “grateful especially for the internship” at the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at UAB that gave him an early jump in the field of cancer research.

“It was a very great experience that will help me later on in life,” Scott said. “Through the Birmingham Promise, I’m already set to go and be great in my career.”

Birmingham’s Superintendent, Dr. Mark Sullivan, said Birmingham Promise and Birmingham City Schools share the same goals.

“We’re both working to prepare students for the future,” Sullivan said. “The ultimate judge of our success is whether our students leave us and are in a position to fulfill their dreams. By working together, we can do more to put our students on that path to success.”

Birmingham Promise programs are available only for students at Birmingham City Schools. Since its creation in 2020, Birmingham Promise has provided 200 internships and $5.5 million in tuition assistance to 1,000 graduates of Birmingham City Schools.

Birmingham Promise provides up to four years of tuition assistance for graduates of Birmingham City Schools who attend public colleges and universities in Alabama. It also manages a paid internship program that allows high school seniors to build valuable work experience. For more information on Birmingham Promise, visit http://www.birminghampromise.org/ or follow on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.