The Chicago Housing Authority cut the ribbon on the first of seven new technology centers Wednesday morning on the South Side, with the rest planned to open around the city over the next two years.
The Dearborn Homes Technology Center, located near 29th and State Street, is equipped with 28 computers and will provide CHA residents, both children and adults, with the chance to learn computer and web-browsing skills through weekly instructor-led classes.
“When you consider four out of every 10 Chicagoans face barriers to broadband access, you realize the importance of this lab and importance of this day,” said CHA CEO Charles Woodyard.
Besides offering classes, the lab will also give residents access to resume critiques and the freedom to explore new job opportunities.
“So many jobs now require applications online,” said Marcel Bright, chief of staff for Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd). “We find out about jobs in the alderman’s office and we share them with the residents and the first thing they say is, ‘I don’t have a computer.’ This center alleviates that.”
57-year-old Milton Reed, who has lived in the Dearborn Homes for 12 years, said he is excited to finally have internet access in a convenient location.
“I had to ride my bike three-and-a-half miles to a library just to use a computer,” Reed said. “Now I can just walk over here and use one.”
Funding for the lab was made possible through grants from the city of Chicago and Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.
John Tolva, the city’s chief technology officer, said a portion of the grant money is being used to train CHA residents to become instructors at the tech center.
“What I believe is truly special about this project is not only the computers in the new center, but that residents of Dearborn Homes will run the center themselves,” Tolva said.
Sharon Bryant, a former Dearborn resident who went through the training program a year ago, said she is excited to work in the lab and give back to her community.
“As a resident, I was given the opportunity to participate in a CHA summer youth program and completed several online courses that TEC Services hosted and received certificates,” Bryant said. “I am very excited about working in this particular technology center with Dearborn residents and helping them to succeed.”
CHA commissioner Deverra Beverly, who fervently pushed for the computer lab, is excited to see the organization’s plan in motion.
“I think it’s one of the most awesome things you could ever see,” Beverly said. “And what makes it so, so awesome is what you see here is going to be in all developments.”