The George Bernard Shaw quote “Some people see things as they are and ask, why? I dream things that never were and ask, why not?” infuses David’s dream, “Imagine a world where young people use the promise of technology to bring opportunity and hope to themselves, their community and the world. It is time to pass the Torch to a new generation!” As its founder and president, David gives vision and passion to Youth Technology Corps.
YTC President & Founder
“Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation …” John F. Kennedy’s 1961 inaugural address inspired David Finkel, beginning a lifelong desire to make a difference. After an undergraduate degree in Philosophy from the U of I, Chicago (1968) he taught in Chicago Public Schools until June 1973, the last three years teaching English at Lane Tech High School.
Starting in 1970, Mr. Finkel volunteered in Chicago area civic and government causes, serving on the board of the Independent Voters of Illinois, among others. He was a “grass-roots” political/community organizer who ran several local and statewide races for public office serving Illinois State Government in several positions including Manager of Chicago and north half of IL State Government Real Estate (owned and leased).
In the late 70’s, David turned his attention to building personal assets. Focusing on national real estate trends and entrepreneurial strengths, he became president of a company developing a 113-unit condominium in suburban Washington D.C. in 1981. By 1986, Mr. Finkel’s companies and partnerships had acquired more than $40 million in real estate assets in six states and employed 130 people.
David became acquainted with the Center for Excellence in Education (CEE); an international education program for gifted teenagers based in Northern Virginia in 1986. He has helped CEE in many ways including chaperoning American students to India (1987) and serving on the Advisory Board for one of its programs.
The 1986 Tax Law changes and Savings & Loan crisis led to a failure of his companies. By 1989, David returned to Chicago. Absorbing the lessons of his successes and failures he used his experience in deal-making, business, politics and education to develop a complex system, an integrated, adaptable, local model for change with a global reach. David has spent 30 years developing, testing and improving this system, known as Youth Technology Corps.
We are now connected to the rest of the world. With a global pandemic and its political and economic crises, helping struggling communities, their schools and youth is daunting. Yet, with the acceleration of knowledge, especially of complex systems and the digital revolution, many individual problems have working solutions. The key is turning the multiple solutions into a single, affordable, integrated one. The idea starts with self-sustaining technology centers (clubs) where youth learn technology by serving their community including donating refurbished technology and teaching others before starting their careers. The club becomes an information and communication hub for a community, an engine for growth as the youth provide a valuable service to others. And the idea grows as successful clubs bring help to other communities to start their own club.
The vision: YTC clubs become a self-supporting, ever-growing interconnected web of formerly struggling communities across the planet. This concept forms the philosophical basis for the Youth Technology Corps (YTC).
Starting with teens and technology, YTC begins at the crossroads of change in society. The first prototype computer program started at the Cambodian Association of Illinois in 1995 with a simple thought: Teens can learn about technology by rebuilding discarded computers that they donate to their community. That first program has become the Youth Technology Corps, after-school programs in Chicago communities and just ready to spread. YTC started bringing computers to Durango, Mexico in 2000 expanding to two-way exchanges in 2004. YTC has held annual 1-week over-night computer camps. In the process of learning to work with and on computers, YTC students have donated thousands of computers and taught classes in Chicago, New Orleans, North Carolina, Missouri, Galveston and Durango, Mexico. In 2018, YTC youth began learning and then teaching robotics. And by the summer of 2020, two months after total school shutdowns, YTC students were teaching robotics hands-on, virtually, to other youth.
YTC’s basic principles: 1. Regardless of how little you have, when you help someone else, you are not poor; 2. You can learn valuable skills through helping others; 3. Giving youth the opportunity to help with the solution helps both community and youth, reducing cost; and 4. Emerging technologies make rapid, dramatic progress possible. The goal: Use these tools to give youth a future and connect people so their collective creativity can find new solutions to old problems.