Youth-Led Tech


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. We are also delivering a program in the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center. 


The conceptual model for this program is “youth-led tech”, which means teaching technology in the context of the needs & priorities of young people. Youth learn how to use free and inexpensive Web tools to make websites and use social media to build skills, generate revenue, and get jobs in the growing technology industry.

They also learn about all sorts of other jobs in tech— strategy, project management, design, and so on. At the end of the six-week program, all of the youth know how to set up a website, are exposed to sophisticated tech skills, and know how to find real customers & employers for their skills.

This intensive, six-week summer program (from 9 am - 5 pm; 6/27/16 - 8/5/16) meets youth where they’re at, in their neighborhoods, at their skill level, and takes them through a course of learning on simple & powerful Web-based tools. The program material— the websites and tools they made— revolve around their expressed needs and interests.

Youth-led Tech Study

Youth-Led Tech can enroll 300 youth in the 2016 summer program. If more than 300 eligible youth apply to the program this summer then a lottery will be used to choose which youth will be invited to attend. If a lottery occurs, all eligible applicants with parental consent and a completed application will be entered into the lottery. (Applicants who are 18 years old do not need to obtain parental consent.)

The Youth-Led Tech summer 2016 program is part of a study that is led by MDRC and funded by the MacArthur Foundation, in partnership with Get IN Chicago. All youth who apply to Youth-Led Tech and are eligible for the program will be included in the study, even if they are not selected for the program.

The study is trying to learn about the experiences of students in Youth-Led Tech and whether students who participate in the program have different experiences during the summer and in school from those who don’t participate.

As part of the study, researchers from MDRC will collect data about all eligible students who apply to Youth Led Tech, including data from the program application; student surveys; focus group discussions or interviews; student level data on school records from Chicago Public Schools such as grades, attendance, behavior, and disciplinary actions; and data from Illinois and Cook County juvenile and criminal justice agencies about arrests, court dispositions, and incarceration.


If you have questions about this study or would like to withdraw from the study please contact Cindy Redcross (Study Director) at MDRC at 1-855-907-6701 or




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
3415 W. 13th Place
Chicago, IL 60623

Firehouse Community Arts Center
2111 South Hamlin
Chicago, IL 60623


Dr. Elzie Young Community Center (YCC)
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


This program is fully funded by a grant from Get IN Chicago, whose mission is to identify, fund and rigorously evaluate evidence-based programs that lead to a sustainable reduction in violence for individuals and communities most affected by violence and poverty. Here's their blog post announcing their support for the program in 2016, and here's a snip:

Get IN Chicago logoLast week, the Get IN Chicago Board of Directors approved a renewal and expansion of Smart Chicago’s Youth-Led Tech for Summer 2016. This summer, the program will focus on Austin, North Lawndale, and Roseland – and more importantly, on our Get IN Chicago demographic: the most at-risk youth, such as those who are justice-involved or chronically truant. Along those lines, Smart Chicago will also offer the program at the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center.

Smart Chicago plans to reach 300 youth with Youth-Led Tech this summer. We are incredibly excited to support their work again! Our partnership is a perfect example of how Get IN Chicago is using innovation and cross-sector collaboration to create safer communities, brighter futures, and better opportunities for youth in our city.


See also our project page for #CivicSummer, a precursor to Youth-Led Tech that we helped run with other key partners. Info on Youth-Led Tech 2015 is here.

Please contact us with any questions.

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