Cross digital boundaries on Chicago’s toughest roads

Dan O’Neil, the fearless, brave-haired leader of Smart Chicago, told me last week he used to talk on the phone with his parents and the probation officer, asking “Can we have a kid? This one? ” Juvenile court probation officers referred their charges to Youth-Led Tech. And once young people start participating, most of them are hooked: more than 90% of the 140 attendees completed the six-week program.

At the same time, Smart Chicago found church basements and community tech centers in target neighborhoods that have WiFi and can be used as meeting places – and here, it’s important is to point out that Connect ChicagoAnother Smart Chicago program, has made sure that there are more than 250 places in Chicago (libraries, community centers, public housing, etc.) where everyone can use computers for free. It also pays 1,200 city residents to provide part-time help with skills and digital access in those places. “All we do, we try to do with real people in real neighborhoods,” says O’Neil.

Smart Chicago found instructors for Youth-Led Tech via Facebook, Twitter and email – instructors are people from these neighborhoods and from different backgrounds who don’t necessarily have to. Technical training. Dan O’Neil said, “We have hired a group of miracles.” Here is their picture. Talk about inclusion: the instructors are actually Chicago’s representatives. “We are changing all of these people’s lives,” said O’Neil. “These people are in the tech industry right now.”

For an executive, Dan O’Neil places great emphasis on the menu. The program fed these 140 children two meals a day for the six weeks of the program, at five locations. This is no easy task – Smart Chicago wants to utilize local and food resources have learned a lot along the way on the real problems of the food desert in Chicago: “Industry giants and newbies like Peapod or Instacart cannot access these needy neighborhoods. Those, that [neighborhood] organizations are trying to fill those gaps. . . Smart Chicago said.

The 170 hours of study is rigorous and based on learning WordPress. “I just like WordPress,” said O’Neil, “because it’s super simple and we know young people will be able to set up a website using it. And for the more advanced young people, they can approach the program and really learn. Young people are empowered to imagine and build their own websites. They must complete several hours of financial knowledge training. You can view the schedule by day, by hour here.

The program also features socio-emotional learning elements – circle of peace, restorative justice – and power talks in the city of Chicago. And this is where Dan O’Neil’s attention to food: O’Neil says the number one message he wants to send to young people on the show is, “” We love you and we never will. let you go. “” He emphasized. “It’s more important than anything,” he said. “You can learn WordPress, that’s fine, but we will never let you go.”

Microsoft has offered Smart Chicago a laptop discount to everyone who has completed the course and institution. Graduation to bring them out. The company’s money is coming back as well To Chicago.


Technology Led by Youth, Austin. Image credit: Daniel X. O’Neil Although programs like Youth-Led Tech won’t close the digital gap on their own – because we’re not currently fixing the access cost portion of this issue by through national policy Require availability in cities of fiber optic network wholesale low cost for competing ISPs – there are many lessons to learn from Smart Chicago’s work over the summer. For starters, without the persistent and substantial support of the Chicago Community Trust and the MacArthur Foundation, there would be no Smart Chicago. Nationwide community organizations need to support intermediaries that can reach out deeply into the neighborhood and work with communities, not with the community. Second, instructors can and should come from all walks of life.

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