Police Athletic League (PAL) youth in Kansas City, Kansas are doing homework and improving their tech skills on the computers that once supported faculty and staff at the University of Kansas Medical Center.
PAL, a non-profit organization well known for its athletic programs intended to provide positive interactions with its police officers, also provides mentorship and academic support to youth. During the COVID-19 pandemic, PAL volunteers realized how much IT resources were needed.
“During the pandemic, most of the inner-city youth who attended our programs at the PAL were without computers or internet access,” said PJ Locke, a PAL police officer. “We quickly noticed that their education had stalled and that the kids were falling behind. We wanted to make sure the kids had internet access and tutors on hand to keep their grades up.”
PAL has spread the word for donations, getting some computers from community members, but not enough to fill the need. “We kept researching and doing our best to help the kids, but we were only 18 months into our nonprofit status, so we were still learning,” she said.
Kim Huyett, senior director for community relations and strategic partnerships at KU Medical Center, said part of her job is to reach out to the community to see how the university might be able to help its neighbors. She learned of PAL’s computer requirement after visiting the center and immediately saw the need.
Jeff Fendorf (left), chief operating officer of PAL KCK, and police officer PJ Locke (right) accepted computer donations from KU Medical Center on behalf of students who visit downtown PAL for both programs athletics and academics.
“This was in our neighborhood, near the medical center,” Huyett said. “There is a lot KU Medical Center can do to move the needle, to improve health in our area, but we can also create wealth-building pathways for the residents of our neighborhood. With these pathways, they can attend business school, college, or other training for more income, then stay in that neighborhood and rebuild that neighborhood.
Huyett saw an opportunity to help KU Medical Center. “I started thinking: KU Medical Center has computers that are recycled. What if we only give them to PAL? Huyett said.
Securing the donation took nearly 18 months and man-hours from multiple departments on the KU Medical Center campus. Because computers can store confidential information even after they’ve been scrubbed of data, IT service engineers became an integral part of moving computers to the PAL.
Noel Field, associate director of customer support for information technology, said the computers needed to be cleaned prior to donation to ensure no safety issues remained. “To reduce the risk of sensitive data being transferred, our team erased all data on the hard drives using secure data removal software,” Field said. “So we reinstalled a consumer version of Windows 10.”
Locke said he appreciated that KU Medical Center stepped up to help children access computers. “Having a computer lab and mentors to teach outside the classroom is life-changing for these young people,” Locke said. “Ensuring that education is enjoyed is one of our main goals.”