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 2016 Innovations

 Youth-Led Tech 2016 is in the books, however the work that was done in partnership with the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center  (JTDC) and Nancy B. Jefferson School is still resonating. This being my first year with Smart Chicago and performing in my role as Youth-Led Tech Project Coordinator was everything I thought it would be; innovating, engaging, inspiring and fulfilling. We undertook a groundbreaking opportunity working with 50 youth students at JTDC. Over the course of several months and numerous meetings, Smart Chicago received the nod to present Youth-Led Tech at JTDC, and Chicago Public Schools (CPS) granted approval for the Youth-Led Tech program to provide the .5 credits high school students needed towards their graduation requirement. JTDC residents without a high school diploma or GED are required to attend school during their stay.

Access and Skills

The JTDC program presented unique challenges due to the high security levels in the facility. These challenges were overcome with the development of a modulated curriculum on a closed platform which allowed the JTDC students to experience the technology training and develop their websites in a nearly identical format as the community students. The six week curriculum was modified to three weeks for this pilot to meet the specific needs of this population. During each of the three week sessions we served two cohorts of students.

Students who successfully completed the program were awarded certificates of completion at a graduation held in their honor where they presented their websites to proud family members, friends, JTDC staff members, and teachers. Similar to the community program youth were also provided with an earned learning incentive of keeping the laptop used during the program. Students completing the Youth-Led Tech program and are released on or before 12/31/2016, can contact Smart Chicago to retrieve the laptop and be formally connected to other programming as a recidivism prevention opportunity.

“Smart Chicago is committed to providing ongoing opportunities to support and connect our youth to services that will provide increase access to resources, especially those that touch tech in an effort to sustain and improve the quality of their lives. JTDC students, although currently involved in the juvenile justice, are bright, innovative, and full of potential. The Youth-Led Tech JTDC program pilot proved that if challenged to learn, make better decisions, increased access to technology and tools, and inspiring hope through redemptive opportunities, many of these youth have the ability to be positively contributing community members. We all should want that.” Kyla Williams, Interim Executive Director, Smart Chicago Collaborative

Creative Career Day

Along with the intensive technology training the students at JTDC/NBJ also participated in the 7th Annual Creative Career Day event. This event is a one day opportunity for the students to interact with the Arts and Culture community to visualize employment opportunities in those sectors. This year the event was expanded to include traditional and non-traditional business and tech occupations. Students had the privilege to hear from over 19 organizations and and interact with nearly 40 professionals.

The impact of both programs can be seen in the comments from the presenters as well as the students:

“…thanks so much for this wonderful opportunity to reach out to youth.  It is an important event and I look forward to next year.”  Dr. Lorri Glass, Governor’s State University

“I truly appreciate the opportunities this summer with your programs, they definitely made an impact on my life and I was honored. David Wilkins, RallyCap

“It was the best one ever!” “I could see myself doing that.” “The people had real stories about their life.” Student Comment

Statements like these are part of the reasons why Smart Chicago strives to innovate around solutions and make data driven decisions. Due to the noted success of the program, JTDC administration has requested programming for the Fall 2016/Winter 2017. Youth-Led Tech staff are currently working on a proposal to support meeting that request. 

Teamwork, Makes the Dream Work!

Smart Chicago Thanks the Youth-Led Tech Instructors

Successful implementation of any program or project takes a huge amount of effort, energy and commitment. The success of the 2016 Youth-Led Tech program had plenty of each from the 40 carefully selected Lead Instructors, Assistant Instructors and Floaters. The Youth-Led Tech curriculum is carefully crafted to teach technology in the context of the needs and priorities of young people. The curriculum is a step-by-step daily guide to ensure the integrity of the model, but also allows for the exchange of ideas from both the students and the instructors.

The instructors who were selected for Youth-Led tech 2016 represented a variety of educational and professional experience and backgrounds including film production, mentoring, college professors and of course technology! This year’s iteration was revised and edited by Dr. Phyllis West, Ph.D to include modules on Workforce Development, which introduced students to the fundamentals of career planning, helped identify their interests and learn the trends of the fastest growing careers in America, including entrepreneurship.


Black Enterprise Magazine cited Youth-Led Tech as a “summer program (that) puts kids on a positive trajectory.”

Here’s a look at the 2016 Youth-Led Tech instructors.

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.


Youth-Led Tech Locations

Youth-led Tech Summer 2016 is a technology mentoring program for youth ages 13-18 in three Chicago neighborhoods: Austin, North Lawndale, and Roseland. If the youth is 12 and will turn 13 by 8/5/16, they are also eligible to apply.  Visit Youth-led Tech for more information about the program.

We are happy to announce our community location partners for summer 2016!


Austin Community Center
501 N. Central Avenue
Chicago, IL 60644

New Kingdom Church
5213 W. Potomac
Chicago, IL 60651

Sankofa Cultural Arts & Business Center
5820 W. Chicago Avenue
Chicago, IL 60651

North Lawndale

Better Boys Foundation
1512 S. Pulaski
Chicago, IL 60623

Chicago Youth Centers/ABC Polk Bros (Second Year)
3415 W. 13th Place
Chicago, IL 60623

Firehouse Community Arts Center
2111 South Hamlin
Chicago, IL 60623


Dr. Elzie Young Community Center (YCC) (Second Year)
9400 South Perry Avenue
Chicago, IL 60620

New Life Church
11026 S. Indiana
Chicago, IL 60628

Youth Peace Center
420 W. 111th Street
Chicago, IL 60620

We are still recruiting for Youth Applicants!  The deadline to apply is Friday, June 17th.

If the youth is:

  • Between the ages of 13-18 or will turn age 13 by 8/5/16
  • A resident of the City of Chicago
  • Resides in either the Austin, North Lawndale, or Roseland communities
  • Interested in Tech
  • Wants to be in a safe, nurturing, learning environment
  • Needs help with building up social and workforce development skills

Then Apply Here

It’s going to be an amazing summer!!!

For further questions email or call 312-565-2933.