For Jermerra Bailey, the question wasn’t whether she’d go to college. It was how far away from home and how far in debt she’d go to get a degree.
Birmingham Promise gave her the best answers on both fronts. The scholarship program expanded her options for colleges, while limiting the amount she had to borrow.
“I still had to get loans,” she said. “But without Birmingham Promise, I would have probably gotten larger loans. And I probably wouldn’t have gone to the University of Alabama honestly.”
The tuition assistance from Birmingham Promise gave her the luxury of choosing the college she really wanted to attend, rather than one closer to home that would have helped her shave some of the cost. “I could go to any public college in Alabama without any financial burden or stress,” she said. “It was very helpful.”
Jermerra was the second Birmingham Promise student to earn a four-year college degree, graduating magna cum laude from the University of Alabama in May 2023 with a degree in public health with a concentration in health professions. She starts graduate school at UAB this fall and wants to become an occupational health and safety specialist.
Jermerra was able to graduate college a year early because she started early, while still a student at Ramsay High School. Through the Upward Bound program, she earned dual enrollment college credits by taking courses in history, psychology, and other subjects at Lawson State Community College. Academically, this experience helped set her on a successful collegiate course.
“It definitely gave me a better understanding of how they run classes in college,” Jermerra said, “and how to organize my schedule.”
But what she wanted was the experience of going away to school and experiencing life on campus, meeting different kinds of people and participating in traditional college activities. And by that, she doesn’t just mean parties and fun.
In her case, that included participating in Project Health, an outreach promoting healthier living to students; Hands in Health, which provides professional development as well as an opportunity to do community service; and Collegiate 100, a community service auxiliary of 100 Black Men of America.
It also included joining Alpha Kappa Alpha and living in the sorority house for her last year at UA. While COVID restricted campus activities during her freshman year (as it had during her senior year in high school) Jermerra feels she experienced the best of college life during her time at UA.
“I got to make connections and meet people from everywhere,” Jermerra said.
About Birmingham Promise
Birmingham Promise provides up to four years of tuition assistance for graduates of Birmingham City Schools who attend public colleges and universities in Alabama. It also manages a paid internship program that allows high school seniors to build valuable work experience. For more information on Birmingham Promise, visit http://www.birminghampromise.org/ or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.