Library and university personnel prepare to cut the ribbon on the new Apple Lab
Students and community members tour the new lab
USC Union is home to the first of eight Palmetto College iCarolina Community Learning Labs
A standing-room-only crowd gathered under and around a large tent set up on the lawn at the Union County Carnegie Library Friday morning to witness the opening of the Palmetto College iCarolina Community Learning Lab at USC Union.
The lab is the first of eight that will open across the state, providing underserved communities with access to high-speed broadband internet. The labs were made possible by a $6 million grant given from the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief funds to USC. The university partnered with Benedict College to establish the eight labs. One will be in Columbia’s Bull Street District, one at Benedict College, and six others at the Palmetto College regional campuses, all of which are located within 15 miles or less of a broadband desert. They will help provide reliable technology and internet access to the communities.
Governor McMaster was not able to attend, but he released a statement saying, “I am pleased that these labs are coming online at a time when basic access to broadband internet plays an essential role increasing opportunities for our rural students and communities. With more labs in the network opening in the coming months, we’re placing resources in the hands of our communities and people, allowing them to participate in our state’s growing economy.”
The operating budget for the campus lab is $571,429, split evenly among 7 campus labs. The Columbia hub received a $2 million allocation. The lab features all-in-one iMac desktop computers, MacBook laptops, and iPads, a wall projector, and Apple’s educational curricula through its Everyone Can Code program. The lab is open not just to university students but to the general public.
Dr. Susan Elkins, Palmetto College Chancellor, said this is just the latest accomplishment by the growing university:
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iCarolina Lab Coordinator John Michael Greer introduced three students who won a poetry contest set up by the university asking what USC Union and Palmetto College means to them. Brittany Hightower, CJ Williams, and Thomas Dartez read their poems. For their efforts in the poetry contest, each won a $1000 scholarship.
Dr. Randy Lowell closed the event by announcing the establishment of two new scholarships in honor of Chancellor Elkins and the iCarolina Lab at USC Union. The crowd then headed inside, where they cut the ribbon, allowed tours and demonstrations of the lab, and served refreshments.