Southern Company and Apple joined educators and community stakeholders on Jan. 13 in announcing a partnership to launch the Propel Center, a new digital learning hub, business incubator and global innovation headquarters in Atlanta for students of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), including those in Alabama.
Both Apple and Southern Company, which is Alabama Power’s parent company, are founding partners, with the Southern Company Foundation and Apple each contributing $25 million to the effort.
“We know inequities exist in our society, and it’s up to each of us to be more intentional in our efforts to make a difference and bridge the gap,” said Southern Company CEO Tom Fanning. “We know more must be done, and the establishment of the Propel Center is another important demonstration of Southern Company fulfilling our commitment to move our communities to a more equitable future. Partnering with Apple in this initiative is an exciting way to connect future leaders with these critical resources.”
“We’re proud to partner with Southern Company on this groundbreaking new project to build a global hub for innovation and learning for the entire HBCU community,” said Lisa Jackson, Apple vice president of environment, policy and social initiatives. “This important effort builds on our long-standing collaboration to advance educational equity, and we are thrilled to be working together to help HBCU faculty create best-in-class curriculum and ensure their students have access to cutting-edge skills and opportunities.”
The $25 million investment from the Southern Company Foundation will help grow Black entrepreneurship and provide much-needed technology resources to the workforce of the future. This commitment is part of the $50 million multiyear initiative Southern Company and its subsidiaries announced in 2020 to provide scholarships, internships, leadership development, access to technology and innovation to support career readiness for students attending select HBCUs within the Southern Company system’s service footprint in Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.
“We are incredibly encouraged by the future possibilities presented through our support of HBCUs,” said Chris Womack, president of Georgia Power. “By investing in better outcomes, we create new opportunities for the students of today to become the leaders of a more prosperous tomorrow.”
Propel is both a physical and virtual campus that is designed to provide HBCUs with shared resources to support their work of preparing leaders to improve the world. Via a physical campus and digital learning tools, students from 100-plus HBCUs will be able to connect with the brightest minds in the world, through one-of-a-kind global opportunities. The students will also be able to connect with each other – a key component as they become more civic-minded leaders and entrepreneurs of tomorrow.
“Tech jobs offer lucrative salaries and among the best opportunities for growth, yet the workforce in the nation’s top firms still does not reflect the country’s diverse population,” said Dr. David A. Thomas, president of Morehouse College. “Black and Hispanic professionals continue to be underrepresented in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) careers. What students need are more opportunities at the college level to show and grow their skills in coding, programming and data analysis in partnership with industry leaders. Apple and Southern Company are committed to developing the talent found at HBCUs and are committing resources to help improve diversity in STEM.”
Miles College in Fairfield, near Birmingham, is part of the partnership with Propel Center and will collaborate with the center and other HBCUs to bring leadership and career development programming to its students.
“We look forward to being an active contributor to this groundbreaking center of learning and opportunity for Miles College students,” Miles College President Bobbie Knight said.
Propel’s physical campus will be in Atlanta at the Atlanta University Center, a consortium made up of Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse College, Morehouse School of Medicine, Morris Brown and Spelman College. Southern Company will serve as the energy partner for the construction of the building, ensuring it is sustainable and environmentally friendly.
“The Propel Center will be a tremendous asset to Atlanta’s thriving HBCU community and will advance the mission of these institutions in the United States, and around the world,” said Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. “Thank you to Apple and Southern Company for investing in our youth and our communities. We are honored to join you in this monumental effort.”
The Propel Center continues the work that was established by Alabama Power and Apple in February 2020 with the launch of Birmingham’s Ed Farm, an education initiative supported by the Alabama Power Foundation. Ed Farm aims to equip educators and communities in Alabama with innovative tools and strategies that support active learning for all students. Among Ed Farm’s goals: to increase educational equity, improve learning outcomes through technology and prepare the future tech workforce.
Anthony Oni, vice president, Southern Company Gas, who is the founder and chairman of Ed Farm, designed the Propel initiative to advance collaboration and innovation at HBCUs. He will continue to work on the project going forward, actively engaging with academic and institutional partners.
“These investments are critical as we begin to truly scale Black innovation ecosystems,” Oni said. “By leveraging technology and partnerships to connect students with unique learning opportunities, we can lift up the talent that already exists at these institutions of higher learning and accelerate their development. In doing so, we will have a hand in shaping the workforce of the future – and the leaders of tomorrow.”
“Ed Farm’s foresight to bring together this collaboration will forever impact opportunities for our students as innovators in the future workforce,” added Mile College’s Knight. “The Propel Center exemplifies the sincere commitment of our partners, Apple and Southern Company, to value the cultivation of the HBCU graduate.”
For updates and more information, visit www.PropelCenter.org.
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