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Coppin State Opens Campus-based Neighborhood Computer Center

Coppin State University is set to debut formally today its new efforts to help low-income residents in nearby neighborhoods modernize their digital communications skills with the opening of a neighborhood broadband technology skills training center.

The Coppin Heights-Rosemont Family Computer Center opened recently on the school’s campus with nearly $1.2 million in funding, including a $932,000 two-and-a-half-year federal grant received through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, also known as President Obama’s economic stimulus bill. More than $200,000 came from the school and other “partners” in the project. Comcast, the Philadelphia-based cable television giant serving Baltimore, gave the center complete network and free Internet services for the life of the grant.

The center has a goal of attracting more than 500 local non-student residents a week, school officials say, and will offer area residents 15 free training courses and materials on topics including Internet literacy, computer skills, job training, financial literacy, health information and entrepreneurship, according to the school’s grant information. The school plans to use faculty and students from Coppin State to provide some 7,000 hours of volunteer service as trainers at the center during the life of the program, school officials say.

Coppin, one of two HBCUs in Baltimore, was the only college in Maryland to receive a so-called Broadband Technology Opportunities Program grant. The school also says it is one of only three colleges in the country to receive such a grant.

“Working with our partners and the community, we are offering many classes and programs for virtually every age group and skill level,” says Dr. York Bradshaw, chair and executive director of Coppin State’s Institute for Local to Global Community Engagement. Bradshaw also serves as executive director of the computer center.

“We have already had many elementary school students and senior adults take part in our programs,” says Bradshaw, of the new center, which began operations last month in a reserved room. “This public computer center is for everyone in the community.”

Bradshaw says that a key goal of the federal broadband program is to “encourage broadband adoption in the community“ and that the “overall” purpose of the grant is to create and improve jobs, education and health.

“Broadband can be used to help do those things,” Bradshaw says. He says the center hopes to “help people to know broadband and understand how it can be used to identify jobs and improve businesses.”

Coppin State has an ambitious plan to promote the center’s availability to the community, Bradshaw says. It is working with neighborhood associations, area schools, churches and social service groups and distributing flyers and mailing promotional material. He says the school has created free parking spaces for the center, located on the ground floor of the school’s computer center, and campus police know to allow visitors to park free.

The center is strongly supported by Coppin State President Reginald Avery who says it will help the school in its outreach to the community.                                  

For more data on stimulus funding at Historically Black Colleges and Universities, click here.

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