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KU Medical Center donates computer lab to KCK Police Athletic League center

Students in KCK have faster internet access and expanded academic support thanks to new computer lab.

A room with no people features a row of desktop computers, along with foosball tables and a sign on the wall explains the computers are available through a partnership with KU Medical Center and KCK Police Athletic League
Computers from the University of Kansas Medical Center have a new home at the Police Athletic League facility in Kansas City, Kansas. Photos contributed by Kim Huyett.

Young people at the Police Athletic League (PAL) in Kansas City, Kansas, are working on homework assignments and improving their technology skills with computers that used to support faculty and staff at the University of Kansas Medical Center.

PAL, a non-profit well known for its athletics programs intended to provide positive interactions with its police officers, also provides mentoring and academic support to young people. During the COVID-19 pandemic, PAL volunteers recognized just how much computer resources were needed.

“During the pandemic, most of the inner-city youth that attended our programs at PAL were without computer or internet access,” said P.J. Locke, a police officer at PAL. “We noticed quickly that their education was being stalled, and kids were falling behind. We wanted to make sure kids had internet access and tutors on hand to keep their grades up.”

PAL put the word out for donations, receiving a few computers from community members, but not enough to meet the need. “We kept up the search and did our best to help the kids, but we were only 18 months into our nonprofit status, so we were still learning,” he said.

Kim Huyett, senior director for community relations and strategic partnerships at KU Medical Center, said part of her job is reaching out to the community to see how the university might be able to help its neighbors. She learned of PAL’s computer request after she toured the center and saw the need right away.

Two men stand together in a room with computers and foosball tables. A sign on the wall behind them reads KU Medical Center Computer Learning Lab. Working together in Kansas City, Kansas.
Jeff Fendorf (left), chief operating officer for PAL
KCK, and police officer P.J. Locke (right) accepted
KU Medical Center’s computer donations on
behalf of the students who visit PAL’s center for
both athletics and academic programs.

“This was in our neighborhood, close to the medical center,” Huyett said. “There’s a lot that KU Medical Center can do to move the needle, to improve the health in our area, but we can also create wealth-building pathways for residents of our neighborhood. With these pathways, they can go to trade school, college or other training to have more income, then stay in that neighborhood and build that neighborhood up.” 

Huyett saw the opportunity for KU Medical Center to help. “I started thinking: KU Medical Center has computers that are recycled. What if we just gave them to PAL?” Huyett said.

Securing the donation took nearly 18 months and hours of work from multiple departments on the KU Medical Center campus. Because computers can store sensitive information even after they have been scrubbed of data, technicians in Information Technology Services became integral to getting the computers to PAL.

Noel Field, associate director of customer support for information technology, said that the computers had to be scrubbed before donation to ensure that no security issues remained. “To reduce the risk of transferring sensitive data, our team erased all of the data on the hard drives using secure data-removal software,” Field said. “Then we reinstalled a consumer version of Windows 10.”

Locke said he appreciated KU Medical Center stepping up to help kids get computer access. “Having a computer lab and mentors to teach out of the classroom for these youth is life-changing,” Locke said. “Making sure education is valued is one of our main goals.”

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