Digital Learning Environments: Chicago Youth Centers ABC Polk Bros in North Lawndale

Note: this is part of a series of posts in our Connect Chicago program where we describe in detail digital skills learning environments throughout the city.

Chicago Youth Centers ABC Polk Bros at 3415 W. 13th Pl. Chicago IL 60623 is a bustling place with meeting rooms, a gym, a stage, a computer center, a community garden, and a world of joy inside and out.

Chicago Youth Centers ABC Polk Bros.

Here’s how they describe themselves:

The mission of Chicago Youth Centers (CYC) is to empower children and teens to recognize and experience their possibility and promise. Chicago Youth Centers (CYC) is proud to be part of this community. Named after one of its largest supporters, the Polk Bros. Foundation, CYC – ABC Polk Bros. Youth Center was one of the original three centers to form CYC in 1956. Well-trained youth-development specialists give individual support to nearly 400 children and teens each year to help them reach their potential, academically, socially and professionally. The center also runs a food pantry on the first Saturday of each month in partnership with New St. John Missionary Baptist Church. CYC gives members the tools, support and guidance they need to reach their full potential through the following age-specific programs: Early Childhood EducationSchool-Age Child DevelopmentTeen Leadership Development, and Summer Fun.

The Early Childhood program is of special interest to those of us at Smart Chicago, since we created and run the Chicago Early Learning portal.

Chicago Early Learning!

Here’s their detail page, and an excerpt:

CYC ABC Early Childhood mission is to invest in youth in underserved communities in Chicago to help them discover and realize their full potential. Our program specialty is in the area of science. Children enrolled in our program will participate in a Green Living Recycling Project to protect the environment. Children will utilize their school readiness skills in all areas inclusive of math, science and literacy as they embark on creating and implementing a recycling station in their classroom community. Children will learn about how packaging waste, including glass, aluminum, plastics, metals and paperboard contribute significantly to annual waste totals, along with yard trimmings. Children will learn recycling involves taking materials that would normally be discarded as waste and giving them a new life. Children will use their problem solving skills to create their own toys and inventions through recycling. Family Engagement in the program supports the involvement of parents and community partnerships toward achieving the school readiness outcomes.

The Smart Chicago Youth-Led Tech program is run from a basement office that is cool and inviting when the hot summer sun is shining bright.

Youth-Led Tech, Summer 2015, North Lawndale

The 24 youth in our program gather around three tables and a bench. We have plenty of outlets and room for our daily breakfast and lunch deliveries. Each of the participants have their own brand-new laptop, which are secured each night in a cabinet we had delivered to the site. We try to be as self-sufficient as possible while using as few of the resources at the location as we can. The gym is a huge resource— the kids love it and they’re able to use it after their morning lesson and right before lunch.

Gym Time, Youth-Led Tech, Summer 2015, North Lawndale

There’s also a stage for performances.

Gym Time, Youth-Led Tech, Summer 2015, North Lawndale

Breakfast and lunch is delivered daily and any extra is shared with other programs in this busy facility.


There is a long, lush garden in the lot just to the east of the center, and some of the youth love to roam it over their breaks.

Garden at Chicago Youth Centers ABC Polk Bros.Gym Time, Youth-Led Tech, Summer 2015, North LawndaleGym Time, Youth-Led Tech, Summer 2015, North Lawndale

Chicago Youth Centers ABC Polk Bros provides a rich and diverse learning environment for digital skills in Chicago.

Bonus: here’s a video I took of my visit: