When I stepped into the Health and Human Services Building at Coppin State University yesterday to share in the celebration of the grand opening of the Coppin Heights-Rosemont Family Computer Center, I was greeted by University President Dr. Reginald S. Avery. He was beaming with pride at being one of the few universities in the country to receive a BTOP award. He could name the others that had won, including Michigan State and Minnesota. He knew he was in select company. The foyer was bustling with community members, including kids from the local elementary-middle school and the Coppin Academy, an innovative high school located smack in the middle of the university campus.
As the celebration began, what became clear was the close bonds that had been forged between Coppin State University and the surrounding West Baltimore community. As part of the celebration, Dajuan, a ninth-grade Coppin Academy student talked to the audience about how he loved coming to the computer center. He was setting his sights on college, and the center made him excited about learning. After his remarks, Dr. Avery looked him in the eyes, shook his hand and patted him on the back. He did this to all of the students that crossed his path. Patricia Smith also spoke. She is semi-retired but was looking to get back into the workforce. She gave rave reviews to the “Employment and the Internet” training program and the helpful staff that are helping her retool.
After the formal program, the center’s executive director, Dr. York Bradshaw, gave us a tour of the computer center. A class was just breaking up, and a group of adults had finished sharpening their computer skills. As I was leaving one of the labs, a single-file line of seniors was moving into another to take their turn at the computer. The project director, James Smith, was busily speaking to several instructors in the hall. And nearby a few young girls were swapping stories about the digital movies they had made over the summer. For a minute, I forgot that I was on a university campus. It felt like one seamless learning community for all ages and interests. It felt no doubt like what Dr. Avery had intended: a campus dedicated to serving the wider community in which it was cradled.
Anthony Wilhelm is the director of the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program