Community-based program provides coding, computer skills and professional development to acutely high-risk youth in neighborhoods hit hardest by poverty and violence 

Chicago – September 8, 2016 Violence historically spikes during the summer months, but in Chicago, hundreds of kids were indoors, logged onto computers and learning to code. For the second year, Get IN Chicago, with additional support provided by Microsoft and CRT Labs, funded Smart Chicago Collaborative’s Youth-Led Tech, a technology mentoring program for acutely high-risk youth ages 13-18 in three Chicago neighborhoods: Austin, North Lawndale and Roseland. New to the program this year, all participants took part in a research study to determine the impact of the program on their summer and school experiences.

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Students pose at the 2016 graduation celebration in Austin

Youth-Led Tech was created to help teens develop technology and workforce skills, taught in the context of the needs and priorities of young people. Participants learn how to use free and inexpensive web tools to create and design websites; leverage social media to build skills and enhance communications; and find potential employees in order to get jobs in the growing technology industry.

“We support Youth Led Tech because it is an ideal way for youth to spend their summer building skills the labor market will be demanding for years to come – whether they enter the job market or launch their own ventures,” said Toni Irving, Executive Director of Get IN Chicago.  “Smart Chicago has been able to demystify coding for our young people and open possibilities for them previously unimagined. Between last year and this year, from Roseland to the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center there are now over 200 at risk youth trained and armed with laptops, ready to have impact.”

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Photo credit: Angel Rodriguez

An implementation and process evaluation of the program is being conducted by MDRC, a nonpartisan social policy research organization. In addition to looking at pre/post survey data for changes among Youth-Led Tech participants on factors such as future orientation and self-esteem, MDRC will also collect and analyze qualitative and quantitative data to learn how the program operates on the ground. The evaluation is funded by the MacArthur Foundation.

Smart Chicago is compiling a full list of final youth projects to showcase on their website, but here is a sample:

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About Get IN Chicago

Get IN Chicago provides counsel to funder and community-based organizations working to reduce youth violence and address the underlying, systemic issues that lead to youth violence. Get IN Chicago also studies and funds antiviolence initiatives focused on acutely high-risk youth, those who are at heightened risk for becoming victims or perpetrators of violence. To date, Get IN Chicago has awarded more than $29 million to support work across the city.

About Youth-Led Tech

Youth-Led Tech is a summer coding program by Smart Chicago Collaborative that helps teens develop technology and workforce skills, taught in the context of the needs and priorities of young people. During the six-week course, teens learn how to use free and inexpensive web tools to make websites and how to use social media to build skills, make money, and get jobs in the growing technology industry. The program serves acutely at-risk youth in Austin, North Lawndale, and Roseland, as well as young people in the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center.

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