Arkansas Baptist College, Claflin University, and Morehouse College are among the HBCUs becoming technology hubs for their campuses and communities

By Joelle Goldstein
July 16, 2020 09:47 AM
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Mikki Harris

Apple is bringing more coding and creating opportunities to communities across the U.S. by expanding its partnership with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU).

The tech company announced on Thursday it will add 10 more HBCU regional coding centers across the nation that will serve as technology hubs for their campuses and surrounding communities.

The effort is part of Apple's Community Education Initiative, which was launched in 2019 and is designed to bring coding, creativity and workforce development opportunities to people of all ages.

Schools expected to serve as new coding hubs included Arkansas Baptist College, Central State University, Claflin University, Dillard University, Fisk University, Lawson State Community College, Morehouse College, Prairie View A&M University, Southern University at Shreveport, Louisiana, and Tougaloo College.

Apple

"Apple is committed to working alongside communities of color to advance educational equity," Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president of Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives said in a statement. "We see this expansion of our Community Education Initiative and partnership with HBCUs as another step toward helping Black students realize their dreams and solve the problems of tomorrow."

With the new addition of 10 HBCU hubs, the initiative now extends to 24 locations across the U.S. — 12 of which are HBCUs and 21 of which predominately serve majority Black and brown students.

Over the last year, Apple worked alongside Tennessee State University (TSU), which currently serves as a national hub, and successfully introduced thousands of students and adult learners to the ins and outs of coding and app design.

Dr. Robbie Melton, an associate vice president of the SMART Global Technology Innovation Center and Dean of Graduate and Professional Studies at TSU, played a major role in kickstarting the school's community-driven initiative.

Apple

"It's empowering for our faculties and students to know that the opportunity to code and create will place them in the digital workforce that crosses all disciplines," Melton, 68, tells PEOPLE. "To see the changes in the world, especially about smart connective devices, we know that this is the future."

"To see how underserved students can become innovators versus just consumers is why I'm so passionate about this. Instead of playing games, I want to be able to help them to create and code these games and that's what this initiative brings," she adds. "You're talking about multiplying out across the community. It goes beyond the classroom — it goes into our communities, our homes and our businesses."

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Melton notes that being able to connect students and faculty with the community has allowed for a better understanding of what resources are truly needed.

"We convene academics and we're able to hear community issues, such as a food bank and the need to find resources," she explains. "Bringing in the community has opened up doors... we didn't know the dynamics and impact of having an app to identify food banks around Nashville, and with the skill of coding, with the opportunity to create, we can do that."

By the end of the summer, Apple expects to double the numbers of HBCUs partners and also has plans to host a virtual Community Education Initiative Coding Academy for nearly 500 teachers and community leaders from the HBCUs.

Meanwhile, Melton has her sights set on the end of the year, which she hopes she can help double the number of Black women in technology and eventually have all HBCUs coding and creating.

"In one year, I'm gonna double the number of women and in two years, we're gonna be coding all across not just HBCUs, but I want to move into Native Americans, Indians, Hispanic communities — I want to underscore the underserved," she says. "If we're not engaged and embracing this new, smart, connected world, then we're behind."

"This initiative offers HBCUs the opportunity to code, the opportunity to create and the opportunity to change the world," adds Melton.