Community Technology Center

Organization Information:

Organization Name:
Knowledge Hook-Up
City & State:
Organization Website:
Organization's Mission Statement

The mission of Knowledge Hook-Up is to help the underserved, low-income residents of Chicago Southeast side neighborhoods have the opportunity to take advantage of the educational and economic improvements being offered by Informational Technology today.

Submission Information

Impact Essay

In neighborhoods throughout Chicago, parents use computers, there is a shop down the street to sell you a computer, another to fix your computer, another offering computer classes, and Kinko's are everywhere. In southeast Chicago, there's none of that. 60% of the 104,005 residents living here do not own a computer. Only 207 computers are available for public use. Of the 40% that do have a home computer, 20% have Internet access mostly using a dial-up service. DSL and Broadband did not become available in our area until 2006, and is still unaffordable for most of our residents. Chicago officials revealed plans for an ambitious wireless network that would be free for all in 2006. The goal was to make Internet access “broad and affordable” for residents and help heighten Chicago's appeal to businesses. On August 28, 2007, Chicago scrapped its plans to provide Wi-Fi wireless service throughout the City.

With the demise of the dominant steel manufacturing base that had sustained our community since the 1880’s, there has been a growth of problems typically associated with low-income areas. Crime, gangs, and drug activity continue to plague the community. The high school graduation rate is 13% below the State’s already low average and the drop-out and truancy rates are high above the State average. Only 5% of our African-American and Mexican students attend college.

Knowledge Hook-Up was founded by three women, all third generation residents of southeast Chicago, who believed that you shouldn’t have to move to live in a better neighborhood. They took their IT knowledge and set up a Community Technology Center to expand access to computers and offer free computer-skills training. Since 2006, Knowledge Hook-Up has served over 1,200 participants.

Microsoft Office has proven to be incredibly beneficial to Knowledge Hook-Up. These “real life tools” enable our residents to learn the technology used in today’s workplaces, and many of our participants have found employment by their ability to use Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook. This easy to learn software, made available to us by Tech Soup, and now augmented with Microsoft’s Office Online Career Center, is helping our residents find new opportunities to reach their full potential, which can only foster our community’s economic growth. Office is simple and useful, and has helped Knowledge Hook-Up instructors to explain the capabilities and benefits of a rapidly evolving technology to ordinary, non-technical people. The seamless integration of Excel into Word, or PowerPoint to E-mail has also made it easy for our students to understand as these programs work with each other so well.


The mission of Knowledge Hook-Up is to help the underserved, low-income residents of Chicago’s Southeast side neighborhoods have the opportunity to take advantage of the educational and economic improvements being offered by Information Technology today. Our programs are Basic Computer Literacy I & II, ESL, GED, Workplace Development (resumes, job searches, interviewing skills), Conversational English (computer-aided), Career Development (MS Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Access),and Computer Literacy for Developmentally Disabled residents. We use our laptops for on-site classes for parents and seniors at area schools and senior centers. Residents can also access Federal, State, and City government sites that now prefer this form communication. If they are unable to use a computer, we do it for them.

Knowledge Hook-Up is now a familiar face in the community and we have created an atmosphere in which new relationships are formed between people who were not previously connected. Participants visit Knowledge Hook-Up for reasons other than using computers. They meet people, make friends, and feel a sense of belonging. Eighty-eight percent of our participants visit on a regular basis and some consider it their home away from home. Knowledge Hook-Up is becoming an integral part of the social structure of our surrounding neighborhood often serving as a meeting place to learn more about the community.

This greater sense of community has engendered such positive feelings within participants that they have found ways to give something back to the community. They have started a Block Club using Knowledge Hook-Up as a meeting place and Microsoft Office to produce a monthly newsletter that is distributed throughout the neighborhood.

This newsletter includes information gathered from available websites (i.e. local crime reports, police reports, school information blogs, City sites, etc.), CAPS and other community meetings, safety issues, neighborhood block conditions, and manageable improvements that might be accomplished by our working together to decrease the violence, crime, and gang activity that now surrounds us. The Southeast Side Meddlers Club increases involvement in civic activities while developing a spirit of cooperation and social interaction that helps to improve the safety of our neighborhood. This year they have planned a neighborhood clean-up, a Block Party, a Back to School Kick-Off, and Day of the Dead celebration. The group hopes to have the newsletter online within a year.

The biggest impact our organization has made has been on the women and the disabled residents who attend our computer literacy classes. A majority of these women are immigrants, most with a remedial education. Accomplishing tasks on the computer has greatly contributed to their self-esteem and has encouraged them to accomplish even more either by themselves or with each other. Microsoft offers a variety of tools for disabled users. The on-screen keyboard used with a pointing device, the narrator text-to-speech utility and the magnifier to view enlarged portions of the monitor, have all greatly aided our developmentally disabled participants. They have quickly learned how to navigate a computer using these tools.


Knowledge Hook-Up believes that community empowerment can be accomplished through the initiative of local residents. As we continue to teach the benefits of computing for opportunities, convenience and communications, and as cell phones may make it possible for more of our residents to afford access, we hope that our small introduction to the usefulness of technology will be integrated into our participants’ daily lives. We thank Microsoft and Tech Soup for helping us to help our community to help itself.

Submission Category
Transformations to Maximize Impact
Project Image
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Supporting Work Files