Mapping Success: Clemson part of a high-tech effort to break the cycle of poverty

Clemson University
Paul Alongi
January 28, 2019

IN THE SUMMER OF 2018 on the edge of the North Charleston neighborhood of Chicora-Cherokee, Clemson School of Computing doctoral student Olivia Nche-Eyabi asked a classroom full of elementary-age children from the neighborhood what she would need to draw a square.

A few students responded with baffled looks until she made a drawing motion with her hand.

“A pen!” one of the students said.

On a big, wall-mounted monitor, the students watched as Nche-Eyabi dragged the “pen down” command into their computer program.

The session, part of a broader effort to break the cycle of poverty in the Chicora-Cherokee neighborhood, was part of a five-week summer camp called Coding for Kids, designed to introduce coding and computing to children in a neighborhood with one of the highest concentrations of child poverty in South Carolina.

THE NEIGHBORHOOD of about 5,000 residents covers about 2 square miles. Despite challenges that make it difficult for people to emerge from poverty, Chicora-Cherokee has some assets that other high-poverty communities don’t. One is the setting of Nche-Eyabi’s class: the Clemson University Zucker Family Graduate Education Center, a $21.5 million educational facility on the banks of the Cooper River. Another is Metanoia, a nonprofit organization that has invested in the community’s people, institutions and homes for the past 16 years. Third, Chicora-Cherokee has two thriving companies in its own backyard — Boeing and Blackbaud — that believe in making a positive difference.

Working together, they’re offering programs designed to help the neighborhood’s children build confidence and skills in science, technology, engineering and math — STEM — which employers say are in high demand and crucial to the future workforce.

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