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Digital Scholars and Digital Bridge programs will serve 165 students with college-level courses and workshops to build interest in tech and computing pathways, and make meaningful connections to Chicago’s tech community

June 27, 2023 (CHICAGO) —The Discovery Partners Institute, part of the University of Illinois System, will serve a record number of high school and community college students this summer.

The programming is provided through the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, The Grainger College of Engineering, and the University of Illinois Chicago, in partnership with Apple, AWS, One Summer Chicago, Synchrony, Wilbur Wright College and World Business Chicago’s ThinkChicago program.

Approximately 115 students will participate in DPI’s Digital Scholars program, a free, intensive, six-week program for high school students and incoming college freshmen to Illinois institutions. Now in its fourth year, Digital Scholars will take place in-person at DPI’s Chicago offices and on the UIC campus from June 26-Aug. 4. Students will participate in one of five learning tracks, including college-level courses in computer science, data science, electrical and computer engineering, and Swift mobile app development.

Daily guest speakers and weekly workshops will help students build meaningful connections to the Chicago tech community and build college and career readiness. Many students will receive a stipend for their participation in the program through DPI’s partnership with One Summer Chicago.

The Digital Bridge program, now in its third year, offers in-person weekly workshops on-site at DPI and Chicago tech companies to help students build connections to local technologists, entrepreneurs, businesses and civic leaders. Participating students are incoming first-and second-year City Colleges of Chicago students with an interest in computer science, computer engineering and related fields.

World Business Chicago’s ThinkChicago program and Wilbur Wright College, one of the City Colleges of Chicago, are partnering with DPI to help organize the Digital Bridge sessions, which will feature leaders from sectors across the Chicago tech community. Approximately 50 students are enrolled from across the City Colleges of Chicago. The program meets on Fridays from June 23 to July 28.

Both Digital Scholars and Digital Bridge seek to create a stronger and more inclusive pathway of students into Illinois four-year institutions to pursue and complete computer science, data science, and engineering degrees.

“Despite Illinois being a top producer of computer science talent, too few of these graduates are Black or Latinx,” said Mark Harris, director of community education at DPI. “By expanding the reach of our Digital Scholars and Digital Bridge summer programs, we are creating greater access for historically underrepresented groups in tech to pursue computing and data science fields and build smoother pathways into technology careers.”

“Increasing opportunities and highlighting educational pathways for students interested in careers in computer science and engineering is critical to a vibrant future for the State of Illinois,” said Brenna Conway, director of the Chicago program and partnerships for The Grainger College of Engineering at UIUC. “It is important for the next generation to see the connections between their interests, their communities and potential solutions to the problems of today and tomorrow.

“We are excited to be a part of this effort to provide more accessible and inclusive pathways into engineering and computing careers. We look forward to seeing Digital Scholar and Digital Bridge participants pursuing degrees through the University of Illinois and returning to the city as a part of the City Scholars program or as future instructors for Digital Scholar courses.”

“We are very excited about the DPI-LAS partnership to continue to offer the Data Science: Discovery course, which was initially developed to give every Urbana-Champaign undergraduate the opportunity to have a great introduction to data science. In collaboration with the DPI, we’ve been able to develop Discovery even further and provide promising high school students with a great introduction to data science as part of the Digital Scholars program. We look forward to seeing the ways these students will utilize their learnings to further their educational and career pursuits,” said Matt Ando, Associate Dean for Life and Physical Sciences, College of Arts and Sciences at UIUC.

“Through this incredible partnership and program, we are empowering the next generation of computer scientists and engineers of color and women. Supporting diverse groups as they fulfill their education goals makes our hearts soar and we remain incredibly grateful to our partners for their steadfast support in this mission,” said Doris Espiritu, senior advisor to provost and dean of the Computer Science and Engineering programs at City Colleges of Chicago.

“ThinkChicago’s mission is rooted in helping Chicago grow as a tech talent hub that prioritizes accessibility, equity and inclusion in its strategies for talent attraction and retention. Programs like Digital Bridge and Digital Scholars help close the tech gap and empower students to make meaningful connections with companies in Chicago early in their careers. We are excited to see the start of the second year of partnership with DPI and to have witnessed the evolution and growth of the program,” said Beatriz Kauffman, ThinkChicago Program Manager, World Business Chicago.

At Apple, we believe education can be truly transformative, creating opportunity and propelling learners toward brighter futures. We are so proud to support these students as they gain skills and insight to succeed in the workforce of today and tomorrow, and we cant wait to see where their journey leads them,” said Stacy Erb, Apples director of Community Education Initiative. 

As part of its Community Education Initiative, Apple is providing hardware and professional learning support for the Digital Scholars program. Using Apples Everyone Can Code resources, students participating in the mobile app track will design a working prototype of their own app. Other supporters and innovation partners will host workshop sessions for students including 1871, AWS, CoinFlip, Future Founders, Google, mHUB, Synchrony, and TeamWorking by TechNexus.

Together these programs will engage more than 60 speakers from across the tech community. Expected speakers include representatives from: Apple, AWS, Cisco, CME Group, CoinFlip, COMMUNITYx, Dialexa, Discover Financial, EX3 Labs, Google, Kavi Global, M. Harris & Co, mHUB, Microsoft, Motorola Solutions, NeatherRealm Studios, UChicago Crime Lab and Weston Game Lab, Psyonix, Synchrony, Vivid Seats, VIZIO, We Hear You LLC and World Business Chicago.

Computing is the top source of new wages in the United States, and computer science accounts for the majority of new STEM jobs, according to However, Black and Latinx populations currently make up just 12-14% of Chicago’s tech workforce overall, an inequity driven largely by inadequate and uneven access to high quality computer science education opportunities.

These programs build on DPI’s suite of offerings for K-12 and community college students as part of its Pritzker Tech Talent Labs Community Education Unit. This includes the Digital Explorers program for middle school students; Discover Computing, run in partnership with Wright College and Google, for ninth and tenth graders; the CS Teacher Endorsement, led by UIUC’s College of Education; and other teacher professional development programs to support high-quality computer science instruction.

These programs have reached 125 teachers and more than 800 students to date – 75% of which self-identified as Black or Latinx, and 38% of which self-identified as women or nonbinary.

Contact DPI’s Community Education Unit for more information.