SHREVEPORT, La. — In January, Apple announced a set of major new projects as part of its $100 million racial equity and justice initiative to help fight against systemic racism. One of the efforts is the opening of the Propel Center — a physical and digital hub for historically black colleges and universities (HBCU), including Southern University Shreveport.
Apple is working with the gas and electric business, Southern Company and a range of community stakeholders to launch the Propel Center. Apple’s $25 million contributions will enable the Propel Center to support HBCU students and faculty through a virtual platform and physical campus at the Atlanta University Center in Georgia.
In Shreveport, Southern University students will have access to the Propel Center’s digital hub. It’s an app developer academy to support coding and tech education.
“Currently, minorities, blacks, browns and other people of colour haven’t represented the way they are represented in the totality of the community in the tech industry,” said SUSLA Shreveport Chancellor Rodney Ellis.
This initiative comes following the deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. After the protests and riots, a spotlight was placed on racial injustices in America, including in the education setting.
“Historically, HBCU’s exist because [you know] people of colour could not go to predominately white institutions,” Ellis said.
“For too long, communities of color have faced gross injustices and institutional barriers to their pursuit of the American dream, and we are proud to lend our voices and resources to build new engines of opportunity that empower, inspire, and create meaningful change,” said Lisa Jackson, an Apple vice president.
SUSLA says the digital curriculum accessible to its students through the Propel Center hub will ensure students are groomed for success given its partnership with Apple to help create the curriculum.
SUSLA Shreveport previously had a relationship with Apple, which was spearheaded by Sharron Herron-Williams, special assistant to the chancellor.
Williams was invited to bring a team to Tennessee State University to participate in a training with Apple. While there, the team became Apple certified teachers. and came back to SUSLA to host their own training at the campus.
That experience opened up the recent partnership for the Propel Center efforts, which is a gamechanger for SUSLA students. Given this opportunity, Williams said, “It helps build the digital divide between students and faculty at HBCU’s, the community, and the larger society.”