Detroit — Dean Hendricks, a passionate entrepreneur, started his mission to address a critical social issue — the digital divide among underprivileged students. As the founder and director of the Hendricks Foundation, the Detroit resident aimed to provide students with access to computers, empowering them to bridge the gap in educational opportunities.
The foundation was created when he realized the lack of access certain communities faced.
“What inspired me to do this was when I realized that there were a lot of students that didn't have access to computers. And I wanted to find a solution for that. In 2021, it just so happened that I was able to meet a couple in an elevator and they had a computer with them. They were just going to toss it out,” the 26-year-old said. “I decided that I couldn't let that happen. I told him about my history with computers and how many years I've been doing computer repair, which at the time was around 14 years. That was when the Hendricks Foundation was born.”
Hendricks understood the limitations and challenges faced by those without this essential tool in the digital age. It wasn't until later in his life that he acquired his first computer, which ignited his passion for technology and computer repair. This personal journey laid the foundation for his future endeavors in creating the organization.
“My background with computers goes into my childhood when I didn't have a computer growing up. I would take some of the broken computers that were in my neighborhood after breaking a few of them, I was able to finally fix one. I broke three until I was finally able to fix one once then once I fixed it.Yeah, so once I fixed that one computer, it was over. That was my start in the field of information technology and computer repair.”
The mission of the Hendricks Foundation is clear — to refurbish used computers and place them in the hands of students who need them the most. Its efforts are centered in Detroit, Boston and Jamaica and it conducts computer repair classes for students, enabling them to learn valuable skills while providing them with the opportunity to take the computers home. Additionally, the foundation donates computers to students in need and sells repaired computers at affordable prices to less fortunate students.
The impact of the Hendricks Foundation has been far-reaching. By upcycling used computers, the foundation keeps them away from landfills, significantly reducing environmental harm caused by e-waste. Moreover, extending the lifespan of these computers makes technology more accessible and affordable for students who may not have otherwise had the opportunity to own one.
Hendricks measures the success of his initiative through individual stories of transformation. The smile on a student's face when they receive their computer and the subsequent positive impact on their life and community are the real markers of success for the Hendricks Foundation. One such story involved a student who was able to improve their academic performance and aspirations for a career in information technology after receiving a computer.
Looking to the future, the foundation aims to expand its reach to more cities and states across the nation, as well as to every country in the Caribbean. Hendricks also has aspirations to extend the foundation's initiatives to African countries.
To scale their impact, the foundation plans to collaborate with government agencies and engage with state authorities to promote digital inclusion and equal access to education.
Hendricks and the foundation’s stand is an example of entrepreneurship and innovation with a strong social mission in shaping a brighter future for generations to come.
Cynthia Lee is a Detroit-based journalist.
Edited by Nykeya Woods