Alvyn first encountered ICA through a One Earth Film Festival board member when his church began hosting the film festival in 2016. Alvyn works with Leave No Veteran Behind, an educational debt relief program for Veterans, and creates close partnerships with local organizations to bring greater resources into the community. Through a partnership with his Church, Windsor Park Lutheran, Leave No Veteran Behind has run summer programming for youth, run a community garden, and provided education on sustainable practices. Currently, the Church is working with CSLN, the Smart Chicago Collective, and Connect Chicago to expand Wi-Fi access in the neighborhood and apply technology to bridge the gaps in service provided by the government. Alvyn resides in Southshore, Chicago, where he moved after his retirement from nearly 23 years in the Army and Army Reserves.
Have you seen intergenerational relationships or helped foster that in any way?
Yes! Working with the Windsor Park Lutheran Church community garden and the technology areas we are now bringing in youth from the community to work with adults in the Church to do a range of activities from gardening to community service in the food pantry. Also, the Church has about five to six people who are either in the education field or are retired educators at the elementary, high school, and college level. They help with student’s assignments, so there has been a lot of intergenerational engagement that way.
Do you have any stories specifically about the TechGirlz program, perhaps an individual who has now learned to do something or has become more passionate about technology?
So, we have one young lady, she and her grandmother came to the program but they came very late. We had almost decided to close and then they came and walked through the doors and we decided to continue the programming for her. Now, she is now able to use the mapping utility called OpenStreetMap to track different areas in the city based on different types of features that are in those areas. Whether it would be where community gardens are or where libraries are, she is able to layouts of those particular systems through the mapping software. In another program, this young lady learned how to use Arduino programming, which allows you to build circuits. She has become professional in being able to program a circuit to do different functions like control light, create sound, and make movement happen. Now she goes and tries to search for other locations where “TechGirlz” host sites are. So, she started doing it here and she now has taken it on herself to go on and see where other opportunities are for her to continue to learn different types of technology skills.
Does that make you feel more hopeful about the state of sustainability in continuing with future generations?
Yes, I believe so, because for the youth, technology isn’t something that they have to adapt to, in order to make a change. They are already a part of technology and technology is a part of them. This adds to their capacity to make sustainable decisions and to impact change in a sustainable way with greater impact.
What has been your personal highpoint with CSLN and working with CSLN?
There have been several different high points! I would say probably the biggest one has been our capacity to reach into different communities. CSLN is at the grassroots but also has the capacity to reach decision-makers in order to influence change that way. It is a space that we operate in that is able to impact change at both levels. But I think more and more now, especially with our Nourish Community event, we are able to connect with many different people who are making change at the community level and interact with organizations that are making meaningful and long-lasting change happen in their communities.
For example, you have We Keep You Rollin’, down in Altgeld Gardens, and you have Boxville in Bronzeville. These people and these organizations are able to make what CSLN does a whole lot more impactful at the community-level and at the individual-level. The chance to engage with these people and what they are doing, while also being able to share or assist in their work, is where my connection with CSLN has been the most impactful.