ABOVE PHOTO: State Rep. W. Curtis Thomas, founder of the Edwina Baker Cyber Learning Center (L to R) thanks Dr. Betsey Surplus, professor at Lincoln University’s Graduate School of Education whose team of students developed the curriculum for the center and Lincoln University President Dr. Robert R. Jennings for their support of the program.
(Photo credit: Multitek Photo)
Pre-school students navigated the state-of-the-art computer equipment with ease while adults looked on in amazement during the grand opening ceremonies for the new Edwina Baker Cyber Learning Center at the Mt. Tabor AME Church in North Philadelphia. Founded and supported by State Rep. W. Curtis Thomas, the mission of the center is to increase school readiness and critical thinking skills of 2 to 6 year-olds from low- to moderate-income families in North Philadelphia using state-of-the-art multimedia technology.
The late Edwina Baker began her career as a teacher in the Philadelphia Public School system. Understanding the importance of getting a good start, Baker was one of the founders of Philadelphia’s Get Set Program for pre-school children and was manager for the area east of Broad Street. She met and hired a young W. Curtis Thomas as one of the Get Set teachers in the 1970s and became his mentor on many levels.
One of the primary goals of the center is to educate pre-school students in computer literacy using an interactive, hands-on approach to learning. The computer-based learning activities are based on the Pennsylvania State Academic Standards for Pre-K children (0-5 years). The curriculum was developed by faculty and students from Lincoln University and the technology plan was developed by Multitek, a local minority technology firm.
“Our technology is on the cutting edge and we utilize the Montessori teaching style,” explained Ralph Easley, project manager and CEO of Multitek. “The program is based on the latest technology available — from cloud computing to collaborative learning and single sign on with Google Docs. The whole idea is to get the children exposed to it as soon as possible so they can make a smooth transition from where they are now to the higher level of education.”
Easley and his team collaborated with the University of Penn to research the latest technology and reached out to Lincoln University’s School of Education for help with the curriculum. “Lincoln University is the premier institution for African American educators,” said Easley. “It was a natural fit and they supported the concept right away. Dr. Betsey Surplus, who headed the team of students from Lincoln, is the lead elementary education professor at Lincoln University’s Graduate School of Education at 3020 Market Street.”
The newly-installed President of Lincoln University, Dr. Robert R. Jennings, also attended the opening and fully supports the concept of the cyber learning center. “I am simply honored that Lincoln University has played a part in helping to make this happen,” said Jennings, beaming with pride. “I commit that we’re going to continue to play a part, and I want that to be a major part because these are young people that I’m hopeful one day are going to be on the campus of Lincoln University trying to pursue a degree, and if not on campus, through our online programs that we will launch this summer.”
The room was packed with preschoolers and their parents, a delegation of family and friends of the late Edwina Baker for whom the center is named and supportive Mt. Tabor and community members. Baker’s son, Brian Roberts, spoke on behalf of the family. “I’m overwhelmed and quite appreciative of Brother Curtis’ hard work and efforts to finally get this cyber center established. It’s all a blessing from God! I know she’s up there smiling down upon all of her friends and family right now. She’s just smiling!”
Baker’s friends circulated a pledge form asking people to pledge financial support for the center. In addition to pledging Lincoln’s continued involvement, Jennings was the first to pledge $500 of his personal funds to help support the center. Mary Suttles, a friend of Baker’s who represented Councilperson Cindy Bass at the opening, also pledged $200 of her own funds to support the endeavor. Others who wish to support the center can send their donation to: Mt. Tabor CEED, Inc., c/o Edwina Baker Cyber Learning Center, 961 N. 7th Street, Phila., PA 19123. Make checks payable to: Mt. Tabor CEED, Inc. for: Edwina Baker Cyber Learning Center.