The Alabama Power Foundation’s support of Stillman College continues with a $100,000 grant to support the college’s STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education and workforce initiatives.
Representatives from the foundation and Stillman announced the grant, which will provide scholarships, internships and externship opportunities to Stillman students through the Black Male Initiative (BMI), a student support and career development program on campus.
DeMarcus Hopson, executive director for the Williams Institute for Leadership, which oversees BMI, said the funding will allow BMI to advance plans for programming and research that were projected one to two years into the future.
“It’s a huge weight lifted,” Hopson said. “With anything, it costs to do things right. We can now tailor some programming that we didn’t think we’d have and put things back on the table that our scholars need.”
BMI focuses on the academic and life issues of Black males, both on and off campus, through consistent interaction and mentoring among students, faculty, staff and alumni. BMI has a keen focus on empowering Stillman students to compete in professions, such as teacher education, STEM fields, business and criminal justice.
“The Alabama Power Foundation recognizes the critical need to support retention, graduation and engagement efforts for Black males in our educational system,” said Mark Crews, Alabama Power’s Western Division vice president. “It is so important that we work together with our HBCUs to create a more equitable and diverse workforce for our state.
“Stillman College adds tremendous value to West Alabama, and the Black Male Initiative will provide critical educational opportunities for our community,” Crews said. “We look forward to the positive impact it will bring to our area.”
Alabama Power has been “a great partner” in supporting the educational needs of Stillman College and other HBCUs across the state, said Derrick Gilmore, executive vice president for Stillman College. Most recently, Alabama Power and its parent company, Southern Company, supported Stillman through funding technology programs and dual enrollment expansion for Alabama’s Black Belt counties.
In 2021, with a new round of funding available, Stillman wanted to focus on student pathways to lucrative and in-demand STEM careers, where Black representation is historically low; according to the Pew Research Center, only 9% of STEM jobs are held by Black men and women. Gilmore said the Alabama Power Foundation grant will be a “foundational piece” to fulfilling BMI’s academic mission.
“When we look at what future workforce development means for Alabama, it needs males of color in STEM fields,” Gilmore said. For example, he said Stillman is looking at coding and programming initiatives for youths of color, providing both an introduction to the field and career possibilities.
Ronnie Williams, a senior business major from Mobile and student director for BMI, said the mentoring and guidance he’s received through the program has been foundational in preparing him for graduation. The support from the Alabama Power Foundation will equip student leaders to affect more change across campus, he said.
“BMI’s vision is clear, and we know where we’re headed,” Williams said. “We are creating and laying the foundation for our future leaders.”
This article originally appeared on the Stillman College website.