New Computer Support Labs at the Y help bridge Chicago’s digital divide
Jorge Mora, Community IT Help Desk Specialist at the YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago, grew up just blocks away from the Rauner Family YMCA. As a kid, he learned everything he could about computers and how to fix them, becoming his family’s go-to person for any tech-related questions.
“Coming from a low-income, bilingual household, I took up fixing computers because we didn’t have the resources to get new devices or pay for IT help,” Mora said. “Eventually, that hobby became a career, and here we are today.”
Now, Mora helps families just like his learn how to use computers and smartphones through the YMCA of Metro Chicago’s new Computer Support Labs, which opened recently at the Rauner Family, Kelly Hall, and South Side YMCAs.
Community members can use these labs at no cost to apply to jobs, register for a COVID-19 vaccination appointment, or access resources like unemployment insurance, RTA bus passes, and more. The Y’s Computer Support Labs also bridge the digital divide by providing free computer training and IT assistance.
Part of our Association’s Chicago Connected Initiative, the YMCA of Metro Chicago’s new computer labs add an in-person component to our digital access and literacy efforts, which began with connecting Chicago Public Schools (CPS) families to no-cost, high-speed internet and operating a bilingual Community IT Help Desk phone line. To date, the Chicago Connected Initiative has helped 1,850 households sign up for free internet and answered 315 inquiries from 165 unique callers.
Ana Lopez, a Chicago resident who called our help desk looking for assistance with Zoom, reflected on the impact of our community-driven IT support.
“The skills I have learned have served me greatly because now, especially in this time when everything is done through computers and the telephone, I have been able to communicate with other people through the applications that I now know how to use,” Lopez said. “I am very happy because I can now call my native country. If I had known how to use [these applications] before, I would have been able to talk to my brother before he died. I would like to thank the YMCA and Chicago Connected for the great help that they have given me.”
Mora looks forward to providing essential tech services to community members like Lopez and expanding the Chicago Connected Initiative’s reach by providing in-person support.
“With help available both in-person and over the phone, I hope that more and more people ask us tech-related questions about services they’re qualified and eligible for,” Mora said. “I began translating legal documents for my parents from the early age of six, so I’ve seen how important it is to know what resources are available to you. Now I’m able to assist a lot more people at a much greater capacity, thanks to the Y’s Chicago Connected Initiative. It’s really come full circle.”
To contact our Community IT Help Desk, call (312) 440-2416. For Computer Support Lab locations and hours, refer to the chart below:
|YMCA CENTER||CENTER ADDRESS||HOURS OF OPERATION|
|Kelly Hall YMCA||824 N Hamlin Ave, Chicago, IL 60651||Mon, 6‐8 pm & Tues/Weds, 10 am‐1 pm|
|Rauner YMCA||2700 S Western Ave, Chicago, IL 60608||Tues, 8 am‐1 pm / Thurs, 2 pm‐7 pm (Spanish-language support available)|
|South Side YMCA||6330 S Stony Is Ave, Chicago, IL 60637||Wed, 12‐2 pm / Thurs, 10 am‐2 pm / Fri, 2‐6 pm|