“Youth-Led Tech” Summer Program Delivers Digital Skills

Smart Chicago summer program builds tech job skills for south and west side teens Tweet This

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This summer, Chicago teens are connecting with an opportunity to learn cutting-edge tech skills—the skills that matter most to them.

Smart Chicago has created “Youth-Led Tech | Summer 2015,” a technology mentoring program in five Chicago neighborhoods: Austin, Englewood, Humboldt Park, North Lawndale, and Roseland. The program is open to youth between 13 and 18 years old who have an interest in technology: no experience required.

“The conceptual model for this program is ‘youth-led tech’, which means teaching technology in the context of the needs & priorities of young people,” says Daniel X. O’Neil, executive director of Smart Chicago.

The mission of Smart Chicago is to improve lives through technology. This funder collaborative housed at The Chicago Community Trust believes that it’s critical to provide people with the skills to use technology to genuinely transform their lives.

Participants will learn to use free and inexpensive Web tools to make websites, as well as explore game design and app development. The course also equips teens to use social media to build skills, generate revenue and secure jobs in the growing technology industry.

“At the end of the six-week program, all of the youth will know how to set up a website, will be exposed to sophisticated tech skills, and know how to find real customers and employers for their skills,” O’Neil explains.

Each neighborhood session will include 30 students, participating six hours each weekday for six weeks. In addition to coding skills, youth in the program receive four hours of financial literacy education. The program provides free lunch, plus free Ventra cards to reduce the hurdle of transportation. Finally, every student who completes the program receives a free Google Chromebook laptop to sustain their tech competencies after class is out.

Youth-Led Tech is funded through 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.

Find more details about the program at