Apple Is Building Two New Educational Facilities to Advance Racial Equality in the U.S.

Apple REJI Propel Center 1 Credit: Apple
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Yesterday, CBS This Morning teased an interview with Tim Cook in which the Apple CEO would be making a “big announcement” concerning not an Apple product, but a new initiative from the company.

While the clip of the interview showed Cook responding to questions on the events that occurred at the U.S. Capitol last week, CBS host Gayle King made it clear that this wasn’t the main purpose of the interview, which had already been scheduled with Apple long before those events occurred.

In fact, the interview had been arranged because Apple wanted to share a big announcement, and the current political issues were set aside as Cook had agreed to answer other questions.

That said, the questions posed by King weren’t entirely out of context with the overall tone of Apple’s announcement, which it turns out is a major expansion of its Racial Equity and Justice Initiative into several new projects.

While Apple has always been one of the biggest forces in promoting social justice among big tech companies, last June it formalized its efforts in a whole new way, committing $100 million to a new formal Racial Equity and Justice Initiative (REJI).

The move by Apple, which came in the midst of massive protests against racism in the United States, was described by Cook as a way to “challenge the systemic barriers to opportunity that exist for communities of color and particularly for the black community,” and become a force for good by focusing on representation, inclusion, and accountability across everything that Apple does, from its supply chain to its developer programs to its retail stores.

In unveiling the new REJI program last year, Cook also added that Apple would be expanding its work in historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), community colleges, STEM education, and underserved students, although at the time he didn’t share any details about exactly what form that would take.

The Propel Center: An HBCU Education Hub

As 2021 begins, however, Apple is now ready to share the details on exactly what that $100 million investment is going to do to help Apple promote racial equality, and this is what Cook’s CBS This Morning announcement was all about.

We are all accountable to the urgent work of building a more just, more equitable world — and these new projects send a clear signal of Apple’s enduring commitment. We’re launching REJI’s latest initiatives with partners across a broad range of industries and backgrounds — from students to teachers, developers to entrepreneurs, and community organizers to justice advocates — working together to empower communities that have borne the brunt of racism and discrimination for far too long. We are honored to help bring this vision to bear, and to match our words and actions to the values of equity and inclusion we have always prized at Apple.

Tim Cook

Specifically, Apple has announced plans to construct the Propel Center, a new “global innovation and learning hub” for the entire community of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) that it hopes will help to provide more career opportunities for students at those campuses across the U.S.

To build the Propel Center, Apple will be working in partnership with Ed Farm, an organization that works to promote innovation and educational equity that is behind the concept. Apple and Ed Farm have already been working together for some time to bring coding, creativity, and career opportunities to three dozen HBCUs throughout the U.S.

In addition to the Propel Center, Apple will continue supporting HBCUs through new Innovation Grants to bolster their engineering programs, specifically focused on developing new silicon and hardware engineering curriculums, which Apple will also be supporting with experts from its own team.

In partnership with the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, Apple is also offering 100 new scholarships for underrepresented communities, which will not only include financial support, but also mentorship and career development experience at Apple.

Apple Developer Academy

The second major initiative that Apple announced is plans to open its first U.S.-based Apple Developer Academy later this year, which will be located in Detroit in order to benefit the Black entrepreneur and developer community.

The new academy will be launched in collaboration with Michigan State University, however, the courses offered will be open to anybody in Detroit, regardless of their academic background or previous experience; a 30-day introductory program will be offered for those who are considering careers in development, while an intensive year-long program will help aspiring developers — even those with zero coding experience — start their own iOS app projects and even start their own businesses.

Apple expects its new Developer Academy to have room for close to 1,000 students per year, and the curriculum will cover everything from raw coding and design to marketing and business and professional skills.

Apple also plans to host its first Entrepreneur Camp for Black Founders and Developers online next month that will offer personal one-on-one code-level guidance from Apple engineers along with mentorship from Apple leaders.

Other Initiatives

In addition, Apple will be continuing to invest even more in the venture capital and banking spaces to help Black and Brown entrepreneurs overcome systemic barriers that have traditionally prevented them from getting the funding they need.

Apple plans to invest $10 million with New York-based venture capital firm Harlem Capital to fund its plans to invest in 1,000 companies with diverse founders over the next 20 years, plus $25 million in Siebert Williams Shank’s Clear Vision Impact Fund, which focuses on offering funding to minority-owned small and medium-sized business that operate in underserved markets.

Outside the business and coding world, Apple has also announced a contribution of an unspecified amount to The King Center, which celebrates the legacy and teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Further, Dr. King’s daughter who serves as the CEO of The King Center, will also call on young people to give back to their communities as part of Apple’s “Challenge for Change” series that provides conversation guides on issues related to race and inequality.

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