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DPI will more than double its summer reach with learners from middle school to mid-career to build computing skills and make meaningful connections with  Chicago’s tech community  


CHICAGO (June 26, 2024) — The Discovery Partners Institute, part of the University of Illinois System, has significantly expanded the reach of its programs in the Pritzker Tech Talent Labs, which focus on driving more equity into the region’s tech workforce.

DPI will more than double its summer reach to more than 425 participants across six different programs: Digital Scholars, for high school students and teachers; Discover Computing Ignite, for high school students and teachers; CS Educator Intensives, for high school teachers; Digital Bridge, for community college students; Summer Tech Interns, for college undergraduates; and the Tech Apprenticeship program, for adults with nontraditional tech backgrounds. Programs are primarily offered at DPI’s downtown offices and at the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Conviser Law Center. Program descriptions follow below.

“Our summer expansion at DPI reflects our ambitions to serve students and teachers across K-12, postsecondary and workforce so we can meet the needs of a variety of learners to orient them to technology pathways and careers,” said Mark Harris, director of the Pritzker Tech Talent Labs at DPI. “By expanding the reach of these programs, we are creating greater access for historically underrepresented groups in tech to pursue computing and data science fields and build smoother pathways into the region’s tech community.”

Together, these programs will engage more than 40 partners across education, government and industry. Program partners include: University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign’s Grainger College of Engineering and College of Liberal Arts & Sciences; University of Illinois Chicago’s CHANCE program; City Colleges of Chicago; Department of Family and Social Services/One Summer Chicago; Chicago Public Schools Career & Technical Education Work-Based Learning; Everyone Can (Code + Create) Chicago; Aspira of Illinois; Central States SER; Back of the Yards Neighborhood Council; SGA Youth & Family Services; Westside Heath Authority; Parker Dewey; and World Business Chicago’s ThinkChicago program.

Industry participants — composed of program funders, speakers and hosts of internships and apprenticeships — include: A Better Chicago, Amazon Web Services, Angi, Beyond Finance, Cameo, Chicago Scholars and Reach Pathways, CME Group Foundation, Crate & Barrel, Current, Discover Financial Services, Epic Games, EX3 Labs, Farmer’s Fridge, FinOps Foundation, GET Cities, GitHub, Google, Illinois Science & Technology Coalition, Illinois Ventures, Illinois Workforce and Education Research Collaborative, Microsoft, NetherRealm Studios, Project Syncere, Spotify, Synchrony, Tackle AI, TechNexus Venture Collaborative, UChicago Crime and Education Labs, United Airlines and University of Chicago. “Investing in local technical education development programs is essential for building a more equitable Chicago ecosystem,” said Jessica Holberg, Google’s technical education outreach and partnerships lead for Chicago. “By providing access to high-quality education, training and resources, Discovery Partners Institute is empowering individuals to acquire in-demand skills, bridging the digital divide and opening doors to rewarding careers in the tech industry. This not only fosters economic mobility but also drives innovation and strengthens our communities. Google is proud to partner with Discovery Partners Institute and we are thrilled to see its programming scale and expand across the full learning continuum.”

Since initially launching in 2020, these programs have reached more than 2,500 participants — 70% of whom self-identified as Black, Latinx or multiracial, and 39% of whom self-identified as women or nonbinary. PTTL’s goals are to significantly increase the numbers of Black, Latinx, women, first generation and individuals with nontraditional backgrounds in tech in pursuing pathways into computing and thriving in jobs in the region’s tech workforce.

A fitting example of this is Chinasa Nwosa, a recent graduate of CICS Northtown Academy in northwest Chicago, who completed the program in the Foundations of Computer Science track last summer and plans to continue the program this summer. “Digital Scholars has helped me build confidence coming from high school to prepare me for an extremely competitive environment at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign,” Nwosa said. “Building skills in computing creates opportunity in any field of work. I am eager to learn more to give me the flexibility to work on different problems and issues in the world, so I can help solve them.” This fall, he will attend The Grainger College of Engineering at Urbana-Champaign as a computer engineering major.

“We are excited to partner on this DPI/Grainger Engineering program and several other Grainger Engineering initiatives in Chicago to build tomorrow’s innovators,” said Brenna Conway, director of the Chicago programs and partnerships for The Grainger College of Engineering at Illinois. “Grainger Engineering’s community engagement efforts build relationships with Chicago’s talented students and make them part of our Illinois family from middle school through community college and engineering and computing degrees on our campus.”

“We are delighted to expand our relationships with the Discovery Partners Institute,” Chicago Department of Family and Support Services Commissioner Brandie Knazze said. “Tech skills are a critical gateway to success, and the Institute’s innovative ‘earn and learn’ Digital Scholars program will give more young adults from Chicago’s South and West sides both the opportunity and the skills they need to build successful careers.”

“We are so grateful for DPI’s leadership in preparing the next generations of Chicagoans for computing and tech careers. Together we are creating a strong community that will help students see what is possible and embrace their education goals,” said Dr. Doris Espiritu, senior advisor and dean of City Colleges Computer Science and Engineering Program.

“World Business Chicago is deeply committed to bridging the gap for overlooked communities by creating pathways to tech careers through our ThinkChicago program,” said Trenton Dunn, Director of ThinkChicago, World Business Chicago. “As a national STEM talent attraction and retention initiative, ThinkChicago participants engage in project-based learning, make connections with Chicago companies and startups, and build community with fellow cohort members. We’re thrilled to partner with DPI once again, fostering true collaboration to create a more inclusive and diverse tech workforce.”


Summer 2024 Program Summaries:

Digital Scholars: Celebrating its fifth year, Digital Scholars is an intensive six-week long program for high school juniors and seniors and incoming college freshman to take college level courses in computer science, data science, electrical and computer engineering, and Swift/mobile app development. Students build college and career readiness skills and get immersed into Chicago tech with daily speakers and weekly workshops. The program is run in partnership with UIUC LAS, UIUC Grainger College of Engineering and UIC CHANCE. A majority of students receive a stipend for their participation through our partnership with the Department of Family & Support Services and One Summer Chicago Program and will earn micro credential badges. Lead funders include Apple, Amazon Web Services and Synchrony Foundation. The program will reach 126 students at the IIT Conviser Law Center from June 24-August 2. New this year will be the addition of approximately six high school teachers who will learn alongside students with the intention of delivering this content to their students during the academic year, reaching hundreds of additional students.

Discover Computing Ignite: Intro to Generative Artificial Intelligence (AI) Pilot: Between June 10-14 we piloted a new intensive workshop on Generative AI.  Approximately 30 rising 9th and 10th grade students had the opportunity to use human-centered design thinking and new AI-powered tools to create images, music, videos and more. The session also included six teachers who will incorporate this content into their classrooms during the school year. This pilot program is part of our year-round Discover Computing series funded by Google.

Teacher Intensives: New for summer 2024, the CS Educator Summer Intensives will support in-service teachers interested in deepening their understanding of computer science-based instruction and pedagogy while concurrently working with high school students. In the mornings teachers will learn CS-based content alongside high school students. In the afternoons teachers debrief and reflect upon their day of learning increasing their understanding of best practices in teaching computer science with a lens on pedagogy. The 2-week intensive sessions include data science and Swift/mobile app development. Approximately 28 teachers will take part in these sessions, who will utilize this content in their classrooms to reach hundreds of students during the school year.

Digital Bridge: Now in its fourth year, Digital Bridge offers in-person weekly workshops on-site at DPI and Chicago tech companies to help community college students build connections to local technologists, entrepreneurs, businesses, and civic leaders. The program represents a partnership between DPI, World Business Chicago’s ThinkChicago program, and City Colleges of Chicago.  Participating students are incoming first-and second-year City Colleges of Chicago students with an interest in computer science, computer engineering and related fields. The program meets on Fridays from June 21 to July 26 at DPI, Google, TechNexus and United Airlines. Students also complete a capstone project throughout the program.  There are 35 program participants representing all seven City Colleges.

Summer Tech Interns: New for summer 2024, we are launching a paid internship program for college freshmen and sophomores, largely targeting DPI program alumni and Chicago-based students looking to build their resume with real-world work experience and make connections with Chicago’s tech community. The 6-week program (June 24-August 6) will be highlighted by a series of micro-internship projects that will pair students/student teams with Chicago tech companies, non-profits and internal DPI projects. Students will spend two half-days on-site with their internship host and the other three days at DPI, where they will participate in a series of workshops, networking, and technical support on their projects.  Student stipends are provided by One Summer Chicago and additional project procurement and program support has been provided by Parker Dewey. Our initial cohort will include almost 30 students currently attending UIUC, UIC, City Colleges of Chicago, Loyola University Chicago, East-West University, and Northeastern Illinois University.

Tech Apprenticeship Program: Launched in 2022, DPI’s Tech Apprenticeship program prepares adults from nontraditional tech backgrounds for in-demand technology roles at corporate partners, advancing economic mobility and job readiness. The 12-month long, cohort-based program starts with a novel and thorough admissions and recruiting process to ensure candidates feel welcomed and supported. Then they take part in a 3-month, in-person training at DPI to build their technical, business, and human skills. Apprentices are then placed in cohorts at employer partners for the next 6-12 months to fill in-demand, technical roles and receive ongoing support and training from DPI. Our summer cohort launched in late May with 24 trainees, with additional 140 adults taking part in online and in-person training. Company participants to date have included SAP, John Deere, Zebra Technologies, and Oak Street Health.

Media interested in visiting sessions should contact Jen Uner, Summer programs are underway now; the closing ceremonies are Aug. 6.