Rachel Harmon has been named the inaugural director of Birmingham Promise, a scholarship and apprenticeship initiative of the city of Birmingham, in partnership with Birmingham City Schools and the United Way of Central Alabama.
Harmon will be responsible for the management and execution of the initiative’s strategic plan, as well as oversight of all partner relationships, programs, fundraising and community outreach.
“Rachel is not only a true leader and a valuable economic strategist, but she is also someone who understands the value of partner relationships,” said Mayor Randall Woodfin. “We are confident that her experience and her passion for enhancing economic opportunities for young men and women will greatly benefit Birmingham City Schools students moving forward.”
Birmingham Promise, announced in spring 2019, provides students with apprenticeship and scholarship opportunities. While the apprenticeship pilot kicked off last summer, the scholarship program – open to all Birmingham City Schools students for use at any 2-year or 4-year school in Alabama – had its first wave of applicants in March 2020.
Harmon and team are committed to fulfilling the initiative’s promise to its current student class as they enter colleges in the fall, despite any effects due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“A key to economic recovery past COVID-19 is to set ourselves up for future success, and Rachel’s hiring is doing just that,” said Drew Langloh, president and CEO of United Way of Central Alabama. “We are confident that our path forward will be one that is most beneficial for our donors, partners and, most importantly, the students we impact.”
The Birmingham Promise scholarship provides graduating seniors with funds through partnerships with universities and corporations. UAB was first to announce a partnership to match the contribution made by Birmingham Promise. Regions, Altec and Alabama Power have also announced alignment with the initiative.
While it was announced this week that Lisa Herring, Birmingham City Schools superintendent and a leader in Birmingham Promise’s development, will depart to take a job in Atlanta, initiative leaders are confident in Birmingham leadership and in the partnership moving forward.
“There are so many men and women in our community and within Birmingham City Schools who believe in the Birmingham Promise and are committed to impacting students’ lives for years to come,” Langloh said. “The future is bright and, with Rachel’s appointment as director, the path forward for all involved will be successful.”
Harmon most recently was deputy director of Talent Development in the Birmingham Office of Innovation and Economic Opportunity (IEO). She was the city’s chief liaison to regional partnerships aimed at expanding opportunity through talent development, retention and attraction. Prior to joining the IEO, she was based in Jackson, Mississippi, as a state policy fellow through the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Harmon’s objective was to analyze state and local economic policy choices for low-income residents. Her broader professional and research interests include racial and economic stratification, labor policy, state and local politics and macroeconomic policy.
She graduated summa cum laude from Cornell University with a Bachelor of Science in Labor and Industrial Relations and earned her Master of Philosophy in Evidence-Based Policy Evaluation from the University of Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar.
For more information on the Birmingham Promise, please visit birminghampromise.org.