HOPE Technology and Education Center

Hope TEC 1Equipping Residents with Technology Skills

by Julie Collier, Executive Director HOPE TEC, Chicago Hope Presbyterian Church

How do you empower people living in of one Chicago’s most disadvantaged communities? For Julie Collier, the answer was to develop a program that equips residents with the computer and job readiness skills needed to compete in the city’s technology-driven workforce.

Rev. Leslie Sanders, senior pastor of Chicago’s Hope Presbyterian Church, recognized the socioeconomic disparities that exist between those who have and those who don’t have access and skills to take advantage of digital resources.

Hoping to narrow the digital divide, Rev. Sanders incorporated HOPE Technology and Education Center as a not-for-profit entity separate from the church and asked Collier, a Chicago native, to lead the organization.

As executive director of HOPE TEC, Collier established a technology center in a multipurpose room inside the Church. She created a wireless infrastructure with a technology and job readiness education curriculum in a laptop environment. She has provided free computer training and job services in Chicago’s Englewood community to adults and children six years and older for the last two years.

Hope TEC 2“Sometimes it’s a challenge to get people to embrace digital technology, but I’m passionate about helping them to excel,” said Collier who previously managed desktop and infrastructure projects for IBM.

HOPE TEC offers basic computer training and advance classes in Microsoft Office Suite applications along with training for certification.

“Our ultimate goal is to increase computer literacy and access so all residents can participate fully in the city’s economic, political and social life,” said Collier who also serves as HOPE TEC lead instructor.

Earlier this year, Collier was awarded a Youth Violence Prevention grant that allowed HOPE TEC to expand the scope of its youth training. The program uses computer exercises to teach elementary and high school student’s strategies to stay calm and walk away before a dispute becomes violent.Social and recreational activities – from dance and sewing to basketball and boat excursions – are key parts of the violence prevention program.

Students who completed the seventh-month program received a free laptop computer.

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