When the COVID-19 pandemic forced the city of Chicago to close its public schools earlier this year, more than 100,000 Chicago Public School students were without the internet access they needed for remote learning.
Kenneth C. Griffin, founder, CEO and co-chief investment officer of hedge fund manager Citadel LLC, was among donors who stepped up with contributions — $7.5 million in Mr. Griffin's case — to create and fund Chicago Connected, a multiyear, public-private partnership that will provide free internet access to all CPS students in their homes.
Kids First Chicago is the educational non-profit working to provide reliable internet services for students and their families over the next four years through the Chicago Connected project.
"We talked with hundreds of families and heard that unstable or unavailable access to the internet was pushing our most vulnerable students even further behind," said Daniel Anello, CEO of Kids First Chicago, in an email from the charity. "We knew that digital inequities were going to deepen already wide achievement gaps if we didn't act quickly."
During a July 25 news conference announcing the new digital program, Chicago Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot thanked Mr. Griffin for his generous donation, noting "Ken has been a passionate supporter of education, upward mobility and access in the city of Chicago for three decades."
Mr. Griffin said in a news release from the mayor's office: "With ongoing (internet) access, every student and their family — regardless of economic circumstance — will be better positioned to pursue a brighter future. I hope Chicago will inspire other communities around the country to come together to eliminate the digital divide."
Citadel manages $33 billion in multistrategy hedge funds.