Evanston Township High School technology club partners with New Orleans community groups


Daily file photo by Adnaan Zaffer

Evanston Township High School’s branch of the after-school program Youth Technology Corps is raising funds for a service trip to New Orleans. Program leaders and a few students will establish new branches of the STEM and community service club in a local school and church.

Marissa Page, Assistant City Editor

An Evanston Township High School club dedicated to refurbishing and donating used computers to people in need is raising money for a community service trip to New Orleans on the heels of Hurricane Katrina’s 10th anniversary.

The ETHS chapter of Youth Technology Corps, which in the past has donated devices to senior centers, cultural community centers and families throughout the community, expressed its desire to expand the club’s impact to ETHS YTC leaders earlier this year.

David Finkel, YTC’s founder and president, said although the organization primarily serves low-income-area schools, the ETHS chapter bridges the gap between involved students from different socioeconomic backgrounds.

“There is a mixture of kids in this program working together and really helping to cross some of the cultural divide within the Evanston community,” Finkel said. “We’re not only teaching them about technology and community service but also giving them reason to work together and learn from each other for a common cause.”

YTC, which has chapters in four Chicago-area high schools, was founded in the late 1990s. The after-school clubs collect donated computers and train students on repairs. The students then distribute the refurbished computers to community centers such as schools and churches, as well as individuals in need.

“This project comes from a tradition at YTC of reaching out to our local communities and then past our local communities,” said Margo Scholl, ETHS YTC’s program coordinator.

Inspired by the Morton East High School’s YTC branch, which for the past 12 years has delivered refurbished computers to and established programs at schools and community centers in Durango, Mexico, ETHS’ chapter decided to reach out to community organizers in the New Orleans area about expanding their program there.

“Kids in all of our clubs, through the Morton East relationship, have donated over 1,000 computers to communities in Durango,” Finkel said. “The Evanston group wanted to start their own similar initiative… Our conversation led to the approaching 10-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and the decision to try and help out in New Orleans came about.”

Finkel, who has traveled to New Orleans in the past, connected ETHS YTC with local community organizer Amina DaDa, who works at the Center for Ethical Living and Social Justice Renewal, an organization that looks to provide reasonably-priced food and housing to those still struggling to recuperate from Katrina’s damage. DaDa connected the group with the Adinkra NOLA, a school in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward, and the Christian Unity Baptist Church.

“We’re expecting to bring 10 to 15 refurbished, certified computers, several YTC group leaders and three or four kids from the Evanston club,” Finkel said. “We’ll sit down with two groups … and teach them over three days the basics of not just refurbishing computers but how to connect with their community.”

The group launched an online fundraising platform with goals to raise money not only for the trip to New Orleans but to generate materials for the new YTC clubs and also generate further funding for ETHS’ YTC chapter. The group is raising money in increments with an initial fundraising goal of $8,350.

“Half the money raised will sponsor the New Orleans partnership and the other half will directly support the ETHS club’s many activities benefitting the Evanston community,” Finkel said in a news release.

Scholl said the potential partnership in New Orleans is just a first step in the wide-reaching community service ETHS YTC wants to engage in.

“This kind of work is the backbone of YTC,” Scholl said. “It’s STEM but it’s also community service… We’re helping at home, but now these kids want to look at helping the wider world.”

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