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Collaboration to build learning labs in underserved communities

Staff Report //March 31, 2021//

Collaboration to build learning labs in underserved communities

Staff Report //March 31, 2021//

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A new collaboration between Benedict College, the University of South Carolina system and Apple will build a network of learning labs to support students and communities throughout the state disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster on Tuesday approved the use of $6 million from the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief fund, part of the 2020 Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, to provide technological resources to underserved communities. The network will include hubs at Benedict and in the BullStreet District, along with satellite labs at six of the University of South Carolina’s Palmetto College campuses.

The labs will provide internet access and educational programming and supplement steps taken by the Office of Regulatory Staff, which used CARES Act funding to expand broadband technology to more than 100 S.C. schools and 200 communities, according to a news release.

“The pandemic has made it abundantly clear that internet access is not a luxury but a necessity for millions of South Carolinians,” McMaster said in the release. “The strategic placement of these labs will bolster South Carolina’s premier workforce training efforts by giving our communities and people access to resources they need to expand participation in our state’s growing economy.” 

The labs will feature Apple products and access to curricula including coding, app development and content creation. Each site will be available to faculty, staff, students and community members on a regular basis at no cost.

“We are pleased to partner with the University of South Carolina to expand educational technology access to communities around the state,” Roslyn Clark Artis, Benedict president, said. “Benedict College remains fully committed to narrowing the digital divide for underserved communities in our state. This is a tremendous step in the right direction.”

Last December, Benedict announced it was joining a partnership with Apple’s Community Education Initiative to serve as a regional coding center.

More information about labs and programs will be available in each community, according to the release.

“As the state’s flagship institution, the University of South Carolina is committed to enhancing statewide economic and workforce development initiatives,” university president Bob Caslen said. “By providing access to Apple’s coding curriculum and emphasizing creative learning, this partnership is a game changer for our state. The educational programs and training at these learning centers will give South Carolinians relevant skills that are in high demand in today’s economy.”