UTM Ripley Center awarded digital skills grant

The UT Martin Ripley Center received a two-year digital skills grant from the State of Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development valued at $343,640.

The UTM Ripley Center will use the grant to enhance its summer camps, teacher workshops programs and after-school computer coding camps.

Ripley Center Interim Director Jessica Cannon-Macklin said the grant will be used to enhance those programs.

“We did a coding camp last summer with Code Crew from Memphis,” she said. “We had a really good turnout, and the parents said they had never had anything like that in Lauderdale County before.”

Cannon-Macklin said Dr. Simpfronia Taylor, the director of grant and community programs at the UTM Ripley Center, read about the grant through the State of Tennessee and said that could be used to duplicate those programs.

“The teachers’ workshop is a new added feature,” Cannon-Macklin said. “The one we did last year was an introduction to coding camp, but now, we’re going to do a curriculum that is more in-depth this year.

“We’ll be working with robots and actually having the children come up with their own coding.”

The afterschool offerings of the coding camps are slated to begin in January and will be for middle school students.

“We feel excited to bring something unique and different to the rural counties,” Cannon-Macklin said. “It’s nice to offer some more technologically advanced camps and workshops for our area.”

The Digital Skills, Education, and Workforce Development grants program, funded by the American Rescue Plan, will distribute $17 million across digital skills, education and workforce development, including broadband infrastructure workforce development and higher education/adult educational entities.

The digital skills and education program will invest in evidence-based initiatives that focus on improving introductory-level and advanced digital skills. The goal of this program is to support skilling programs and access to advanced digital tools so that individuals can develop the technical proficiency required to navigate complex digital environments, participate in the digital economy, and drive innovation.

For more information about the UT Martin Ripley Center, visit www.utm.edu/academics/ripley-center.

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