Building All Digital Bridge

Organization Information:

Organization Name:
Korean American Communtiy Services
City & State:
Organization Website:
Organization's Mission Statement

KACS mission is to celebrate Korean American ethnicity and empower all members of the community by providing educational, legal, health, and social services, so that all may fulfill their needs and lead dignified, meaningful lives.

Submission Information

Impact Essay

Korean American Community Services (KACS) has been serving low-income and/or immigrant families in the Irving Park and Albany Park neighborhoods of Chicago as well as Korean Americans residing all over the Chicago metropolitan area since 1972. Since then, KACS has learned that education is the key to empowerment and has taken immense effort to provide the best, community-based education opportunities to families with very little resources. It has been shown that low-income, low-education households are digitally and socially isolated. As technology becomes a significant element in the economy, digital competency determines an individual’s ability to gain employment and become a contributing member of society. As a result, KACS’ digital literacy program offers our low-income families way to stay digitally connected to other people and importance sources of news and information. Providing digital literacy training, multimedia programs and other technology-related courses impacts the whole community surrounding KACS by equipping community members with necessary skills to navigate in a digital society. According to the 2000 Census, only 60% of adults in Albany Park have the age of 25 have graduated from high school and 21% of adults above the age of 25 have less than a 9th grade education. The average per capita income for working adults was $15,436 and many residents not in the workforce (33% of Albany Park residents and 26% of Irving Park residents) come to KACS looking for marketable skills-training. Digital training has become an important aspect of our community that empowers individuals to receive other kinds of educational training that would advance them in the workplace or in society. These technology opportunities are important for the young and old; our clients range in age from three—computer playtime in our preschool—and ninety. KACS’ digital literacy program offers not only open access to internet, but also training that increases marketable job-skills or academic success. After partnering with TechSoup, our digital literacy program has grown to serve over 5,000 people and our open labs has served over 11,000 clients who would otherwise have no access to computers. With the assistance of 57 volunteers, we were able to give personalized attention to unconfident clients since 2002. Our program gets more popular because it provides not only training in key application but also information on computing basics to adults many of whom have never used a computer before. For these adults, technology is intimidating but our program demonstrates that familiarity breeds ambition for digital skills. Mr. Choi (age 55) is just one story of many satisfied KACS clients. He began down the technology path as a basic computer program participant trying to marketable job-skills. In May 2009, he received computer certification in basic computing (IC3). This certification proves that he has a reliable and broad knowledge of Microsoft key application programs, such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook. As a newly established IC3 testing site, we provide more challenging opportunities to clients who want to see the extent of their capabilities. To employers, this may be enough to demonstrate digital competence, but it was not enough for Mr. Choi. Now, he is enrolled in an A+ certification preparation course with our support of course material and a refurbished computer to practice on. Over 400 people have taken certification preparation classes toward IC3 like Mr. Choi and as of May 2009, 14 out of 20 who took the test received IC3 certification since its beginning in January of 2009. While digital literacy equips older clients from communicating online with younger generations to IC3, our youth programs equip at-risk youth for academic and professional success. KACS’ youth programming has provided opportunities to youth in hardware and software training that opens up opportunities of higher learning at college and opportunities in technology-related fields. Application-based programs, such as IC3 certification courses, prepare students from college credits to internships and jobs where digital know-how is necessary in an office setting. Such courses also prepare students academically by building skills, knowledge and discipline for a foreseeable goal. Our hardware-focused programs, such as the Youth Community Technology Program (YCTP) which began in 2002, trained young people in computer maintenance and repair. Other multimedia programs, such as our Girls Get Digital (GGD) Program, provided opportunities for technical training in media software and art composition. The GGD program addresses the problem of the lack of women in technology by offering training and encouragement to gain self-confidence by producing creative projects in digital multimedia. A similar multimedia program, KACS Get Digital, provides fundamental training in multimedia with a focus on eco-consciousness. Youth create interactive websites that focus on a problem they see in their community that they want to address. All our youth programs provide valuable opportunities to low-income families by cultivating creativity, confidence and ambition to pursue technology related fields. Empowering the youth has often encouraged parents to become more involved with their children’s academic and professional goals while also motivating themselves for more technological training.

Submission Category
Stable and Secure Technology