Huffman High School graduate: Birmingham Promise apprenticeship boosted career skills

Birmingham, Ala. — Jarvis Prewitt’s academic ability is evident: He was the salutatorian of the Huffman High School Class of 2019, excelling in tough Advanced Placement courses and graduating with a 4.0 GPA. His academic record earned him a full scholarship to Alabama A&M, where he is now sophomore studying to become a mechanical engineer.

“I love me some math and science,” Prewitt says.

But when he talks about the strength of his education, Prewitt recognizes some of his most important lessons did not take place in the classroom.

Between graduating from high school and starting classes at A&M, Prewitt was among the first group of students from Birmingham City Schools to benefit from the Birmingham Promise apprenticeship program.

The program was created by the city of Birmingham’s Office of Innovation and Economic Opportunity, with funding approved by the City Council and additional support from the private sector. Birmingham Promise has two components. One involves scholarships that help graduates of Birmingham City Schools pay for college. The other involves apprenticeships that provide high school juniors and seniors the opportunity to work for local companies, earn a paycheck, and get real-life job experience.

In the summer of 2019, there weren’t immediate apprenticeship opportunities for Prewitt to work in the engineering field. But he was grateful for the chance to work as an apprentice in the financial sector, at BBVA.

“The apprenticeship program, it was just phenomenal,” Prewitt says.

In addition to boosting his own financial literacy skills, Prewitt said he gained valuable experience related to networking, communications and social interactions in an office environment. He learned a different kind of analytical thinking and how to think on his feet — experiencing the occasional workplace equivalent of a pop quiz.

On one occasion, he was invited to sit in on an executive level meeting — and afterward, he was asked to give a recap on what had just occurred. Yet again, Prewitt aced the test — but the experience highlighted the importance of listening skills in a whole new way.

He left the apprenticeship with a greater understanding of the business world and with experiences he believes will benefit him for a lifetime.

“Being in school is important, but being exposed to a career — that is something that nobody can take away from you,” Prewitt says. “It’s about gaining knowledge and making myself more viable and more of an asset.”

Having been raised by a single mother who sometimes struggled to make ends meet, Prewitt understood the value of Birmingham Promise and was determined to make the most of it. He looks forward to the day when he can support Birmingham Promise when his career is under way, and in the meantime, he encourages students in Birmingham City Schools to take advantage of the opportunities available through the program.

“Those were opportunities at my footsteps, and all I had to do was seize the moment,” he says. “If it weren’t for programs like this, I wouldn’t be the individual I am. I’m a product of the Magic City.”