Kris Alford Launches KnowTern to Provide Underserved Students with Technology Needed to Succeed

“It’s not about you — it’s about those who came before you and those who will come after you.”

This is an SEO-wide mantra that SEO Career 2020 Intern, Kris Alford, embodies. Kris is a California native now studying business and finance at Fordham University. He launched his career in investment banking this summer with an internship at JPMorgan, but he can now add philanthropist and entrepreneur to his resume. This summer Kris founded Knowtern, an organization that provides students with the technology necessary for success in a remote learning environment.

  • What inspired you to launch this nonprofit?
    • When my university switched to remote learning, a people few reached out asking about resources they could tap to get new or better laptops. Around the same time, SEO was preparing for the virtual Summit, and I heard about so many students who were unable to attend due to inadequate tools, i.e., laptops and Wi-Fi. These were top students from great universities gearing up for internships at Fortune companies, however, they may not have had the resources many of their peers had to complete their internships. If students from this incredibly selective and high performing group struggled with the switch to remote learning, that means thousands of students went through the same issues… but without the support of a great program like SEO. It’s unacceptable that thousands of students would have to forfeit their degrees because of something as simple as lack of technology. So, I decided to create an organization to help these students and raise awareness around the issue.
  • What’s your ultimate goal?
    • In a perfect world, all students would have the access to essential tools and resources. A computer and Wi-Fi should not be a barrier to success for a person committed to pursuing an education. First, we are focusing on providing minority students with the tools and resources they need. Data shows that Black and Latinx students are at the highest risk of dropping out of college.
  • Did you have any challenges of your own with remote school/work?
    • The biggest challenge for me has been making sure my family and younger siblings have everything they need. My parents had me in high school and never married. As a result, my family comes from “both sides of the railroad tracks.” While my dad’s side is well-off, my mother’s side is a different story, so I’ve done everything I can to help my younger siblings with the life-changing switch to remote learning. My goal has always been to use my resources and experiences to help my younger siblings and give them everything they need to be happy and prosperous.
  • How did you get the funds to support others?
    • Most of our initial donations came from friends and family. I can’t thank them enough for believing in this cause and my organization’s ability to execute our vision. We also received a considerable donation from Tom O’Hern of Macerich. As we look to grow KnowTern, we’re looking to develop more company partnerships and tap into larger donation pools. Our goal is to help as many students as possible. As our current applicant pool of over 100 students shows, this is only the beginning of our journey. It’s heartbreaking to read the responses of our applicants and have to choose between a student who had to do their schoolwork from their phone and a student who shares a laptop with three other siblings.
  • Any updates on the number of scholarships given/students served?
    • Since June, we’ve received 178 applications, more than doubling our initial goal of 50 applications. KnowTern scholars are selected based on their level of need, the timing of need (i.e., currently going through summer internship/classes), and the danger of dropping out this coming semester. As we close out the first phase of our scholarship, we’ve been able to help 30 students through the various tiers of our scholarship. Our KnowTern scholars come from over 16 different schools. They are pursuing degrees in cellular and developmental molecular biology, accounting, marketing, sociology, and public health, among others.

To learn more about KnowTern visit,