"Partnerships are what makes a program like this work," said Triumph Scholars program coordinator Aubrey Swett.
Swett spoke at the Feb. 28th dedication of a new computer lab at the Clinton L. Thomas Jr. Community Center near Strickland Heights housing project in Pembroke.
An elaborate collaboration of resources -- that included a university, the public schools, two foundations, several businesses, a local tribal non-profit, a religious group and community volunteers came together to construct a lab in one of the poorest neighborhoods of Pembroke.
"One thing we would like to emphasize is that people near and far care about our children," said Gene Brayboy, project co-director and director of UNCP's Office of Sponsored Research and Programs. "A lot of work went into this project and a lot of people are excited about it."
The lab consists of 15 Gateway networkded computers and connected to the Internet. Fifty-eight fourth and fifth-graders from Pembroke Elementary School are enrolled in the Triumph College Preparatory program that will ultimately serve 270 students.
Working for UNCP's Office of Sponsored Research and Programs, Swett formed the alliances that created the after-school, college preparatory program.
- Power Up, a public/private, non-profit organization that is dedicated to coming to the aid of America's children by "bridging the digital divide," provided the computer hardware, software and networking.
- The Public Schools of Robeson County provided the cabling and installation for the local area network (LAN).
- Time Warner/AOL provided Internet access and American Online e-mail accounts.
- Burnt Swamp Baptist Association won the grant for the project from Z. Smith Reynolds foundation.
- Lumbee Regional Development Association (LRDA) and the Pembroke Housing Authority made the community building at Strickland Heights available.
- The project was designed and administered by the Kenan Institute at UNC-Chapel Hill.
- UNCP provided grant assistance, coordination and data cabling.
- Volunteers Ronald Hunt provided the lab tables and Tommy Swett installed them.
- Pembroke Hardware provided electrical hardware and installation.
Photo Caption: At the dedication: Rev. Tim Chavis, moderator of the Burnt Swamp Baptist Association, Gene Brayboy, director of UNCP's Office of Sponsored Research and Programs, Lucille Locklear of First Bank in Pembroke, James Hardin, director of Lumbee Regional Development Association and Aubrey Swett, coordinator of the Triumph Scholars program.
What are the kids doing with their new computers?
"We go to Encarta and get homework help said Tyler Locklear, 11, and a fifth grader at Pembroke Elementary School. "On the Internet, I go to sites like Nickelodeon."
"I am using the Internet to do a report on Australia," said Erin Worriax, 10. "The most amazing thing about Australia is the animals. They are unique to Australia."
The school children were on hand for the dedication as was the Rev. Tim Chavis, moderator of the Burnt Swamp Baptist Association.
"Our association is honored to be a partner with the university in making this project happen," Rev. Chavis said. "Children are an important part of our mission."
"This is a home-grown effort," Swett said. "Volunteers built the work stations with materials supplied by Pembroke Hardware."
The lab will find other uses when the Triumph Scholars are not there, Swett said.
"We are also working with Pembroke Boys and Girls Club, which uses this building," he said. "Residents here at Strickland Heights and the surrounding neighborhood will also be involved."
Swett was still building partnerships as the event drew to a close. He was discussing with Lucille Locklear of First Bank how her employees could volunteer at the center.
For more information, contact Aubrey Swett at 910.521.6494.