Southern Company Pledges $10 Million To Foster HBCU Talent in Partnership With INROADS, UNCF and Thurgood Marshall College Fund

Originally published at Southern Company ranked No. 20 on The Fair360, formerly DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2021.


On Dec. 15, Southern Company announced $10 million in grants via the Southern Company Foundation to fund a new and innovative collaboration between INROADS, Inc., one of the nation’s largest nonprofit developers of underrepresented talent; and United Negro College Fund (UNCF) and the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, global leaders in providing students at HBCUs with financial support for academic opportunities. The grant provides students with incentives to use their talents to drive economic development in the communities that surround their campuses.

This commitment is part of the $50 million multi-year 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. Of that original commitment, $40 million has been pledged to date – including a $25 million founding partnership with Apple to launch the Propel Center; a new digital learning hub; business incubator; and global innovation headquarters in Atlanta for HBCU students; $5 million to increase access to technology for HBCU students and the newest grants announced today.

“Advancing education equity is one of the pillars of our social justice strategy, with a specific focus on building on the already strong relationships we have established across the Southern companies with HBCUs,” said Chris Womack, chairman, president and CEO of Georgia Power, the largest electric subsidiary of Southern Company. “We’re honored to support this historic collaboration, which will have a positive impact for hundreds of HBCU students who then will be empowered to improve and elevate their communities. We look forward to seeing the success of this program and continued work with the partners in bringing this initiative to life.”

The collaboration is focused on job training for the next generation of business and community leaders. Together, INROADS, UNCF and Thurgood Marshall College Fund will provide students and HBCU campuses with scholarships, endowments and paid internships. The scholarships and endowments will be essential to helping HBCUs establish or grow programs in STEM, urban planning, architecture and other programs related to the sustainability industry; while also solving an opportunity gap that plagues talent of color.

“Degrees matter. Careers matter. Impact also matters. Imagine the impact of this initiative as graduates pursue careers focused on developing and ensuring the viability of our communities! Thanks to the Southern Company Foundation for this important investment and innovative collaboration with UNCF and Thurgood Marshall College Fund.  This investment will go a long way to provide sustainable impact for HBCUs, their students, and our communities,” said Forest T. Harper, Jr.,  President and CEO, INROADS, Inc.

“This student-centered initiative aims to improve college completion rates of HBCU students, increase the conversion rate of student interns to full-time positions immediately upon graduation, and increase HBCU alumni representation in executive leadership roles in sustainability-related careers,” said Dr. Kelly Owens, Chief Impact & Strategy Officer, INROADS, Inc.

“UNCF is proud to be a part of this powerful collaboration spearheaded by the generous gift from Southern Company Foundation. The scholarships, internships and career development will change the lives of many students who may not have the financial means to further their education after earning a high school diploma,” said Dr. Michael L. Lomax, president and CEO, UNCF. “With this support, more students will have the opportunity to earn degrees in STEM, business administration, and other disciplines leading toward meaningful careers in the 21st-century workforce.”

“This partnership is an example of Southern Company moving the needle in the national dialogue on diversity, equity and inclusion,” said Dr. Harry L. Williams, President & CEO of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund. “We are proud to partner with the Southern Company to support the next generation of leaders from HBCUs, institutions that play a critical role in ensuring young people of color are not left behind.”