Drake State Awarded $2.4 million Federal Grant to Connect Minority Communities to High-Speed Internet

July 27, 2022

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – Drake State Community & Technical College received a $2.4 million grant award as part of the U.S. Department of Commerce and National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s (NTIA), Connecting Minority Communities Pilot (CMCP) program, to help eliminate historical broadband and computer access inequities in and around Madison County, Alabama. Drake State applied for the competitive federal grant, along with more than 200 universities and colleges across the United States.

Drake State prepares working adults, college, and high school students for careers in the Madison County/Huntsville area. Drake was one of the first five universities and the first Historically Black College and University (HBCU) to be awarded a CMCP grant by the federal government.

Drake State will use the federal funding to implement a computer and broadband access program that includes: 

  • furnishing Drake students, including high school students who are dually enrolled at the College, with access to enabled laptops; 
  • increasing at-home broadband access for Drake State students and their family members by providing home wireless broadband kits to those eligible families within a 15-mile radius of the college campus; and
  • creating a mobile cyber-lab learning bus. 

Drake State will also partner with two other universities, Alabama A&M University to implement secure, online student access to learning, teaching, and research resources, such as the library, mental health services, or information on food assistance, and Western Governors University to expand access to a National Security Agency (NSA) and U.S. Department of Homeland Security certified cyber defense degree program in cybersecurity.

“We are incredibly proud to win this significant award from the U.S. Department of Commerce. Drake State will use the federal funds to address long-standing digital inequities by offering laptops with broadband internet services to each and every Drake State student, and additional connectivity to their families,” said Dr. Patricia G. Sims, president. “This technology will help eliminate the digital divide for our community and open doors to learning, connect working adults and students to employers, and provide economic and career mobility for Drake State’s students.

In acknowledging the award, Dr. Sims extended a personal, heartfelt thank you to the Governor and Lt. Governor for their continued support of Drake’s students, and appreciation for Drake’s partners, Alabama A&M and Western Governors University. “We are so grateful for your partnership and support for Drake State’s students.” 

Dr. Sims continued, “It’s never too late to pursue your dreams and find your career path at Drake State.” https://www.drakestate.edu/future-students

"I was proud to partner with Drake State in securing the federal funds necessary to expand Internet access to underserved communities," Lieutenant Governor Will Ainsworth said.  "These efforts will also expand the available workforce in the computer science, cybersecurity, and cyberdefense industries, which have become such an important part of Alabama's economy."

“All of us in the Alabama Community College System family are celebrating the good news that Drake State Community and Technical College was chosen as one of the first five grantees for the NTIA Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Program,” said Dr. Vicky Ohlson, Alabama Community College System Vice Chancellor of Instruction, Research, and Development. “We could not be more proud of Drake State’s leadership, faculty, and staff for their hard work in developing a winning project proposal.  The work that will be accomplished by Drake with the help of this funding will expand access to critical broadband technology and services to many more students and other residents in the College’s anchor community.  It will remove barriers to higher education, training, and employment that have historically been insurmountable for those who need those opportunities the most.  We are looking forward with great excitement to see how Drake’s project changes individual lives and strengthens the information technology workforce in the Huntsville-Madison County area.”

Other notable federal grants recently awarded to Drake State to expand opportunities for students include:

  • In August 2020, NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC), awarded a cooperative agreement notice (CAN) to Drake State to assist in 3D printing technologies research and train additive manufacturing technicians. 
  • In August 2021, NASA MSFC awarded another CAN to Drake State to advance research in 3D printing of polymer structures. Research results and deliverables will help prepare for and sustain future lunar and Martian missions. 
  • In September of 2021, Drake State received a three-year grant from NASA’s Minority University Research and Education Program (MUREP) to increase the number of engineering education and career opportunities for underrepresented minorities.