By David Miller
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – The Alabama Power Foundation’s support of Stillman College continues with a $100,000 grant to support the college’s STEM education and workforce initiatives.
Representatives from both the Foundation and Stillman met on campus Wednesday to announce the grant, which will provide scholarships, internships and externship opportunities to Stillman students through the Black Male Initiative, 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.”
The Black Male Initiative focuses on the academic and life issues of Black males, both on and off campus, through consistent interaction and mentoring between students, faculty, staff and alumni. BMI has a keen focus on empowering Stillman students to compete in industries like 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, Western Division Vice President for Alabama Power. “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. We are grateful for the Alabama Power Foundation’s support of this program, and 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 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 serve as a “foundational piece” to fulfilling BMI’s academic mission, which will help the state remain economically viable.
“When we look at what future workforce development means for Alabama, it needs males of color in STEM fields,” Gilmore said. “For instance, [Stillman is] looking at coding and programming initiatives for youth of color, providing both an introduction to the field and the 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 its student leaders 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. As the Inaugural Mister Stillman and BMI Student director, I plan to leave a legacy of honor, discipline, and manhood for the Stillman male for generations to come.”