Mayor Randall Woodfin announced Tuesday that three corporate foundations — Alabama Power, Altec/Styslinger and Regions — have each committed $1 million to the new Birmingham Promise educational initiative.
The Birmingham Promise initiative initially was approved as part of the city’s FY 2020 budget, funded with $2 million taken from the city’s allocation to Birmingham City Schools. The program is planned to offer juniors and seniors in city schools paid internships and dual enrollment opportunities, as well as offering graduates the opportunity to attend in-state two-year or four-year public colleges tuition-free.
The $3 million in corporate contributions announced Tuesday will go “a long way” toward the tuition assistance side of the Birmingham Promise, Woodfin said.
The program is “last-dollar,” which means students must have applied for other financial aid first. During Tuesday’s press conference, both Woodfin and BSC Superintendent Lisa Herring highlighted the impending March 1 deadline for students to submit their Free Application for Federal Student Aid.
“The bottom line is this,” Woodfin said. “We no longer want the limitless potential of Birmingham City School students to be handcuffed by their circumstances. The steps we take today are the building blocks for Birmingham’s future workforce. … Every student deserves the opportunity to succeed, and I’m very grateful to our business community and academic partners for helping us put people first.”
Josh Carpenter, Woodfin’s director of innovation and economy opportunity, added that the $3 million contribution gives students graduating in May “a pathway to college.”
“Because of the generosity of these institutions, of these companies, and the hard work of these folks … we now have the opportunity to say, ‘You can begin to plan for next year,’” he said.
Carpenter added that while the long-term plan for Birmingham Promise was to raise $35 million, the $3 million in donations would “far and away cover” first-year tuition costs for participating students.
Herring added that public education benefits “when powerful partners come together to make a difference. Today is a celebration of that type of power,” she said. “To our corporate investors who are choosing to invest in the lives of children, we are grateful.”
Representatives from those three corporations — Alabama Power Vice President Tony Smoke, Altec Chairman and CEO Lee Styslinger III and Regions President and CEO John Turner — also will serve as fundraising co-chairs for the Birmingham Promise.