Comcast’s Partnership with Emerald South Brings WiFi Hubs Across the South Side

For 10 years, Jennifer Maddox ran Future Ties, an after-school program at Woodlawn’s Parkway Gardens.

As the former security guard at the apartment complex, which has more than 1,000 school-aged children, Maddox said she believes the students need “a safe space.” . . feel comfortable and socialize and have a space to do homework, without being afraid.

While the program is “rewarding and fulfilling,” Maddox said one thing remained a problem: Internet connectivity.

It was a problem exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, when students at the complex could not access the internet to attend virtual classes or hand in homework.

But a new partnership between Emerald South Economic Development Collaborative and Comcast will help provide connectivity.

Last week, Emerald South and Comcast announced the launch of the South Side Connectivity Collaborative, an initiative focused on Internet access in South Side areas.

“We know connectivity is essential,” said Ghian Foreman, CEO of Emerald South. “COVID has really exposed the lack of broadband connectivity. “

The South Side Connectivity Collaborative will place 11 “lift zones” or high capacity Wi-Fi services around Woodlawn, Bronzeville, Grand Boulevard and Washington Park.

“With all the distance education and the lack of homework happening in the country, it’s an opportunity for the kids to go do homework, do research, that sort of thing,” said Jack Segal. , Comcast vice president of communications for the Chicago area.

He added that the Lift Zones will also provide opportunities for adults who need to access internet services for things like job hunting.

Already, lifting zones have been installed at the KLEO Community Family Life Center, 119 E. Garfield Blvd. and Bright Star Community Outreach, 735 East 44th St.

Other lift areas will be at locations like the Bronzeville Black Star Project, 3509 S. Martin Luther King Drive; Washington Park tie should be normal, 239 E. 51st St .; and Future Ties at 6418 S. Martin Luther King Drive.

Segal expects all lifting areas to be installed within the next two months.

For Romel Murphy, Executive Director of Equality Should Be Normal, the initiative is vital to ensuring the success of South Side students.

The Equality Center in Washington Park helps more than 100 people a week, including high school students, through pantries, mental health services, tutoring, and technology training.

“There is so much information that we in the black community don’t know,” Murphy said, “but all the information is on your phone or on the web, so you need the internet to be able to access it. , and you can learn so much.

As part of the initiative, Comcast will also donate a total of $ 60,000 to Collaborative participants to support programs such as digital literacy training, and each organization will receive 10 laptops for public use.

Cheyanne M. Daniels is a reporter for the Sun-Times via Report for America, a non-profit journalism program that aims to strengthen the newspaper’s coverage of communities on the South Side and West Side.

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