Comcast, CHA & Jackie Joyner-Kersee Give Back
Imagine not having access to internet service when everything is contingent upon that which gives us access to everyday essentials.
Comcast and six-time Olympic medalist Jackie Joyner-Kersee recently announced the impact of Internet Essentials, the company’s comprehensive broadband adoption program, on the digital divide.
The Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) has partnered with the company to expand the program to as many as 91,000 HUD-assisted households in Chicago.
At a ceremony held on the near West Side, Comcast Senior Executive Vice President David L. Cohen, CHA CEO,Eugene Jones Jr., along with other key public officials, were on hand to donate 100 laptops to CHA residents.
The Chicago Defender was in attendance and had a chance to talk with East St. Louis native Joyner-Kersee on becoming the national spokesperson for this special program.
“With Comcast and Internet Essentials, we’re talking about the digital divide. If we’re not having access to the internet, we are actually falling behind. How can we bridge that gap? Just imagine, if you didn’t have your internet, what would you go through? So, people live like that every day,” she said.
“For me, it’s a way to have a level playing field and give us opportunities. You can have potential but you can also have opportunities in just being able to fill out a job application.”
Having established the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Foundation in 1988 — which provides youth, adults and families with assistance and various programming in her hometown — she later raised money to build The Jackie Joyner-Kersee Center in 2000.
Her incredible athletic career from her attendance at UCLA, where she was named one of the 15 greatest players in UCLA women’s basketball history, to being declared ‘The Greatest Female Athlete of the 20th Century’ by Sports Illustrated. Kersee’s philanthropic commitment to working with the youth a lifelong mission.
“I really try to meet young people where they are and share my story, but also telling them everyone has a story. You write your own story. Let your narrative be what you want it to be. Also, remember the people who help you,” she said.
“It keeps me grounded, me going back into the community. People remember me as Jackie Joyner before I became Jackie Joyner-Kersee, the Olympian champion and finding ways to give back.”
No one understands the challenges and the obstacles more than Joyner-Kersee, who was raised to seize opportunities through athletics to go beyond her circumstances — joining her brother on track and field. Those humble beginnings had a great deal of discipline, grind and the support of her family — not always the case for many who come to her community center.
She feels spreading the word of Comcast Internet Essentials is a way in providing the resources for families to afford the same services as other households.
“Having internet today versus as a little girl has shown me the progression. How a generation of yesterday is still strong but stronger from the standpoint in order to continue to move forward — you have to bridge that gap — if not back then without the internet you might have thought you were keeping up but really you weren’t, because it was already in motion. The progress of what people were doing to be able to have information readily available to you.”
When she’s not traveling around the country at speaking engagements, she continues to work with her staff and youth at the center where there’s a variety of programming. From the STEM and agricultural programs to athletics, Joyner-Kersee believes it’s important to expose students and seniors to new and fresh opportunities.
As she prepares for the center’s gala in October and settles back home from attending the Olympics in Brazil, Joyner-Kersee admits she was thoroughly pleased and proud of the young Olympians. “Allyson Felix is an athlete that my husband coached. I was glad to see Elaine Thompson win the double, 100 and the 200 meter from Jamaica. Usain Bolt always set it on fire and seeing our women gymnastics do extremely well,” Joyner-Kersee said. “I went to see the women’s basketball championship as well as the men’s championship. Volleyball— it was just really a great Olympics.”
It’s been 20 years since Joyner-Kersee won her last Olympic medal in the long jump but her brand is still strong and companies such as Comcast recognize her influence in the community.
She explains her formula to success. “I stress to each and everyone throughout my career — be consistent. I may not win all the time, but I’m always knocking at the door. The time is going to come when I knock and run through that door because of that consistency.”