Wired for opportunity: North Charleston site has computers, free classes
North Charleston job seekers received a boost Wednesday when community leaders officially opened the Midland Park Community Center and Computer Lab, which features 18 computers and a variety of free skills classes.
Harry Crissy, Clemson Extension regional community and economic development agent for the tri-county area, said the facility is the response to years-old demands from neighborhood residents, many of whom turned out and filled two of Crissy's class sign-up sheets by the end of the day.
"We're creating opportunities for people in these communities to step up in society, and I think they appreciate it, just judging from the sign-up sheets today," Crissy said.
Rhonda Jerome, who represents the area on the North Charleston City Council and has an office in the modular building, said it was "heartwarming" to see the immediate interest in the lab space.
"This is my baby," Jerome said. "I feel like I've given birth."
Clemson and ECPI, a for-profit college, donated the used Dell computers; local techies with the S.C. Linux Users Group and SCLabs installed the computers; Teleco Communications installed the cable; Comcast Cable provided the high-speed Internet access; the nearby New Covenant Church of God leased the land; and local businessman Bill Wiley gifted the building.
"Everybody's got a little bit in it." Jerome said.
The lab at 7349 Stall Road is the second such facility to open in a low-income area of North Charleston -- the first opened in the Chicora/Cherokee neighborhood in May 2009 -- and Crissy has plans for more.
The Midlands facility is open Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Classes, taught by Crissy and volunteers, will cover basic Internet, email and Microsoft Office skills as well as entrepreneurship and budgeting.
"This is demand-driven," Crissy said. "If we see a need for more, we'll add more."