This week, we turn our spotlight on JRF Alumnus Harold Allen. Harold was a Jackie Robinson Scholar from 2000-2004. A graduate of Howard University, Harold received a degree in chemical engineering. Sponsored by Air Products and Chemicals, he joined the Air Products Career Development Program eight years ago navigating assignments in engineering, sales and operations. These days, Harold focuses on energy sector operations management, supporting the oil and gas industry. He has held positions in Texas, Louisiana, and The Netherlands. Harold recently relocated to the San Francisco Bay area where he serves as the Site Supervisor of a refinery-hosted hydrogen production facility. Harold is JRF’s Scholar Advisory Committee Chair in the newly organized Pacific Northwest region.
Q: Briefly talk about your experience as chair of the Scholars Advisory Committee in the Pacific Northwest.
A: Serving as Committee chair is easily one of the most meaningful volunteer projects I have ever supported. The ability to engage, encourage, and be inspired by graduating high school seniors is an experience for which I was not necessarily prepared. The passion and drive these students exhibit give me confidence that Jackie Robinson's legacy will live on. I hope my ongoing participation serves as a testament to the vision and leadership of my JRF mentors and past chairs that have made both Jackie and Rachel’s dream a reality.
Q. How difficult was it for you and your committee to narrow the field and make your choices?
A: I wish there were more scholarships to give. For every exceptional student fortunate enough to progress through the selection process, there were five that would have benefited from the mentoring and leadership development JRF bestows on each of the awarded scholars. This process has made the inequalities between geographic and socioeconomic areas of the Pacific Northwest glaringly obvious, and provided a target for future community service projects and initiatives.
Q: How has JRF impacted your life?
A: JRF has impacted my life in so many ways. As a Jackie Robinson Scholar, I was able to earn my college degree and pursue my dreams without being a financial burden to my family. I was exposed to professionals in my field who were invested in my professional development and success. I formed lifelong friendships and joined a community of peers who are inspiring and supportive to this day. As an alumnus and a volunteer, I have had the incredible honor to represent JRF and contribute to perpetuating Jackie Robinson’s legacy through the work of the Foundation. The biggest impact, however, is the opportunity that I have to create a similar experience for new Scholars. The opportunity to give back to the Foundation and to support each new class of scholars as they chart their own course is the most rewarding and fulfilling.
Q: What do you remember about your experiences both now, as a JRF scholarship interviewer, and when you interviewed to be a JRF Scholar those years ago?
A: I can’t answer this without a huge smile coming to my face. My interview felt like running the gauntlet inside a board room, flanked by career educators, engineers, and a prosthodontist. I remember lighting up when asked why I wanted to be a chemical engineer, and raving about how invaluable mentor relationships had been to date. As a region, we aspire to develop the continuity and communal nature for which the Chicago committee, from which I was chosen as a JRF Scholar, is renowned. Unfortunately, I don’t think we were nearly as intimidating this year as my JRF interview experience was 13 years ago (smile).
Q: What impact did JRF have on you during college and in your present career?
A: The impact the Foundation has had on my life, both personally and professionally, has been immeasurable. Frankly, at every major intersection of my life since high school, I can point to a member of the Foundation or relationship developed through the Foundation that has been involved. Networking, accountability, and scholarship are all skill sets that JRF has deeply rooted in my professional life and it continues to pay dividends.