Good News!!! The Smart Chicago team is moving and now will be co-located with the City Digital Team at UI Labs. As such, our individual emails will be changing to:

Kyla Williams 

Sonja Marziano

Denise Linn     

Leslie Durr       

Our new mailing address is 1415 N. Cherry Avenue Chicago, IL 60642 and general phone number is 312.281.6900.

Please check our website at or follow us on twitter @smartchicago for more updates.

We appreciate your patience during this time of transition.

Youth-Led Tech Career Days 2016

This year the Youth-Led Tech program developed targeted Career Days and a Career Development Day. These two programs were designed and integrated into the 6-week technology curriculum to introduce youth to careers both technical and non technical, as well as assist them in beginning to think more strategically and concretely about how to secure employment.

The Youth-Led curriculum is fluid enough to allow for the inclusion of speakers three times during the six-week program and a full day with Dr. Phyllis West, PhD. Students were visited by several local professionals who shared their stories at each site in the community they selected.

Our Roseland Community sites were visited by Jeffrey Beckham the owner of Black Box Creative during the first Career Day held July 7, 2016.

Special guest is here at Dr. Elzie Young Community Center

David Wilkins owner of Rally Cap and Divine Designs visited with our Austin students.

RallyCap at career Day

Jazelle Smith rounded out the first wave of entrepreneurs for the first Career Day.

Jazelle Career Day

The second and third Career Days were held July 21st and July 28th.

Our special guest was Dr. Philips West _D

The second component to the workforce readiness program, “How to Develop a Career Plan 101” with Dr. Phyllis West, PhD focused on “developing a personalized career plan and an overview of strategies of successful people.”  The workshop introduced students to the fundamentals of career planning, helped identify their interests and career goals and learn the trends of the fastest growing careers in America.


Robert Friedman, Kyla Williams and the Hive Network at the Next OpenGov Hack Night!

hive_logo_chicago-e1400880053780At this week’s Chicago OpenGov Hack Night, Robert Friedman and Kyla Williams spoke about the Hive Learning Network and the collaborative projects that we’re launching with the Hive Learning Network.

Robert Friedman started the presentation off my talking about what the HIVE learning network is.

Over the last five years, Hive Chicago has emerged as a thriving network of 57 local member organizations across the city of Chicago – joined by dozens of local, national and international collaborating partners – to motivate, inspire and support Connected Learning experiences for thousands of young people who go to the museums, nonprofits, and cultural institutions that make up the network. Open Gov Hack night attendees will recognize Blue 1647, Civic Artworks, and Open Books— some of the members of Hive.

Connected Learning is an educational approach designed to make learning relevant to all populations, to real life and real work, and to the realities of the digital age, where the demand for learning never stops.

Friedman mentioned six moonshots that the Hive Chicago is currently aiming for. These include: Making connections between the Hive and CPS parents, youth engagement, building onramps to connected learning, transportation and a think tank.

Our Director of Operations Kyla Williams also presented and talked about some of our work, including Time to Tech, #CivicSummer, and the Hive Mapping Cooperative, and also how the civic tech community can get involved in the network.​

You can get more information about the Hive Network here.

Recap of #CivicSummer on Chicago Tonight

This evening Jacqui Cheng and I, along with a youth Kumari Mason from Free Spirit Media and Mickey Sharp from Mikva Challenge, did a segment  Chicago Tonight program about  our experimental #CivicSummer summer jobs program for teens focused on civics, media, and technology.

Here’s their take on the show and here’s an extended snip:

“I thought programmers were silent, awkward guys who sat in dark rooms and did nothing every day but write programs magically,” says Mickey Sharp, a junior at Lincoln Park High School. She was also part of Mikva Challenge’s summer program.

But after hearing guest lectures from tech entrepeneurs and professional programmers, Sharp learned about the people who create the web sites she visits every day.

“Now I know there are scripts you learn how to write to create these web pages,” she says. “It isn’t limited to a guy in a dark room playing Dungeons and Dragons…Now being a programmer seems like something I can do.”

Chicago High School for the Arts senior Kumari Mason was most impressed by several programmers leading the technology operations of President Obama’s re-election campaign.

“They had these piercings and they looked like real people. I thought they would have suits or something,” says Mason, who was also part of Free Spirit Media’s summer program. “I never thought they’d be working for President Obama.”

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why we get up in the morning.

civic-summer-badge.pngThe program, funded by Smart Chicago based on a grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, is largely run by two Chicago organizations focused on serving youth:

  • Mikva Challenge, which develops the next generation of civic leaders, activists, and policy-makers
  • Free Spirit Media, which provides education, access, and opportunity in media production

The Chicago Community Trust provides significant support for the program as well.

Mikva Challenge Youth using data to talk about health disparities in Chicago’s neighborhoods

This summer, Mikva Challenge and Smart Chicago Collaborative worked with a group of 140 kids and trained them to use the latest digital tools to organize themselves, amplify their voice, and take positive civic action. On the Mikva side, the work was divided into four different youth councils.

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