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USC Palmetto College iCarolina Learning Labs celebrate 10K visitors

COLUMBIA, SC– The USC Palmetto College iCarolina Learning Lab Network has reached a significant milestone. To date, the eight established iCarolina Learning Labs have served over 10,000 visitors across South Carolina.

The first of the eight iCarolina Labs opened at the Union County Carnegie Library in Union, S.C., in February 2022, and the most recent lab opened in the Kershaw Branch of the Lancaster County Public Library in Kershaw, S.C., in March 2023. The other six labs are located on USC Palmetto College campuses or within nearby public libraries in Allendale, Clinton, Laurens, Sumter, Union and Walterboro. An additional lab will be located in Columbia and is slated to open in the near future.

“We are pleased to be able to reach this milestone in offering Palmetto College iCarolina Learning Labs to South Carolinians and communities that can benefit from accessing the internet to enhance skills, certifications, workforce training, youth enrichment and other technological needs,” said USC Palmetto College Chancellor Susan Elkins. “One of the hallmarks of Palmetto College is accessibility. Whether on our regional Palmetto College campuses, Palmetto College Online or through our various community initiatives like the Palmetto College iCarolina Learning Lab Network, we aspire to meet the needs of South Carolina communities across the state.”

According to 2019 data from the United States Census, more than 22 percent of South Carolina households do not have access to broadband internet service. Many other households do not have access to reliable service. Residents living within these “broadband deserts” often find themselves at a technological disadvantage. Freely accessible community computer facilities planted by USC Palmetto College across South Carolina are meeting the need to close the digital divide.

The USC Palmetto College iCarolina Learning Lab Network has been strategically located for use by citizens in communities across South Carolina, the regional Palmetto College campuses, local school districts, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and the South Carolina Technical College System. Each site provides Apple products, educational programming and workforce development training to community members, faculty, staff and students at no cost to the user.

“The achievement of having over 10,000 visitors in the short time the network has been fully established, is a testament to the job the University of South Carolina is doing in helping provide underserved areas with the resources needed to increase workforce readiness throughout the Palmetto State,” said Bill Kirkland, Executive Director of the USC Office of Economic Engagement. “Thank you to Governor McMaster, our partners at Apple and Palmetto College, for investing in South Carolina’s workforce of the future.”

The iCarolina Learning Labs, in partnership with Apple Inc., launched free Swift coding certification courses in January 2023 to teach Apple’s iOS language to community members across South Carolina, as well as to students in the USC System. Those enrolled in the free courses learn the skills needed to develop apps for iOS (iPad and iPhone), MacOS (iMac and MacBook), Apple TV and Apple Watch. In addition, courses are also being taught to provide community members with skills-based training to familiarize themselves with the various features and software associated with their own Apple devices.

This summer, several of the iCarolina Labs are offering STEM-related summer camps for area youth. In this year’s programs, students in Allendale are learning to code using JavaScript to create apps, students in Sumter are learning the fundamentals of digital design and students in Walterboro are learning the art of creating movies, including the creation of studio quality music scores, using Apple innovative technology.

In March 2021, South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster awarded $6 Million of the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) funds to the University of South Carolina, which has established the USC Palmetto College iCarolina Lab Network to serve communities statewide. The eight Apple computer labs, located at or near regional USC Palmetto College campuses, are all situated within 15 miles or less of a broadband desert, according to the South Carolina Broadband Map, providing reliable technology, internet access, new skills and workforce development training to these communities.

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