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Summer program will help build a more diverse student pipeline into computing, engineering and data science fields

 (CHICAGO) – The Discovery Partners Institute (DPI) and University of Illinois Chicago (UIC’s) CHANCE program, in partnership with University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), today announced the expansion of its Digital Scholars Program to support and develop promising and diverse tech talent in Illinois.

Digital Scholars, now in its third year, is an intensive, free, five-week summer program for high school students and incoming UIC freshmen. It will run in-person at DPI’s Chicago offices and on the UIC Campus from June 21-July 22.

Students are participating in one of five learning tracks: two college-level computer science courses (CS100 and CS111) for credit at UIC, along with Swift/mobile app development, data science, and electrical and computer engineering. The data science and electrical and computer engineering courses will be run in partnership with UIUC’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and The Grainger College of Engineering, respectively.

The program will also provide meaningful connections to the Chicago tech community and build college and career readiness through daily guest speakers and weekly workshops. More than 75 students are enrolled. The program will also serve an additional 150 students through enrichment workshops held in partnership with One Summer Chicago’s Everyone Can Code initiative and the Chicago Pre-College Science & Engineering Program (CHIS&E). 

“Despite Illinois being a top producer of computer science talent, too few of these graduates are Black or Latinx,” said Kay Monelle, associate director of high school programs at DPI. “By expanding the reach of Digital Scholars, we are creating greater access for historically underrepresented groups in tech to pursue computing and data science fields and spur innovation and equity in our tech sector.”

As part of its Community Education Initiative, Apple is providing hardware and professional learning support for the program. Using Apple’s Everyone Can Code curriculum, students participating in the mobile app track will design a working prototype of their own app. Other funders and innovation partners will lead workshop sessions for students including Amazon, World Business Chicago, Future Founders, and TechNexus, a first-of-its-kind Venture Collaborative that combines capital investment, incubation, and collaboration to provide an untapped advantage for Chicago’s tech ecosystem and inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs.

“We are thrilled to continue expanding the Digital Scholars program to offer more students exposure and learning opportunities in the dynamic field of computer and data science,” said Kendal Parker, director of the UIC CHANCE program. “This is just the beginning of a larger goal we all share to build a homegrown tech workforce that is more reflective of our population as a whole.”

“Amazon and AWS are excited to join students participating in the Digital Scholars Program as they explore career pathways in tech, build skills in computing, and prepare them to interview successfully for jobs and internships in their fields,” said Sarah Glavin, head of community engagement at Amazon. 

One-hundred and fifteen students have participated in the program to date.  Thirty former Digital Scholars are now majoring in CS or computer engineering at UIC.  Approximately 70% of students were Black or Latinx, 60% were from Chicago Public Schools, and 35% were female.

Previous program speakers have included leaders from across the Chicago tech community, representing: 1871, Amazon, Apple, Cameo, Chicago Ventures, CME Group, DataMade, Discover Financial, Future Founders, LinkedIn, M. Harris & Co, Microsoft, Motorola Solutions, Narrative Science, NeatherRealm Studios, Relativity, TechStars, and World Business Chicago. Additional supporters of the Digital Scholars program include the U.S. Department of Education, Grant Thornton, LLP, and The William Everett Group.

Computer science education is foundational in today’s economy, essential for problem-solving and innovation, and for the economic mobility of workers. Computing-related jobs make up roughly half of all STEM jobs in Illinois—three times more than any other STEM field. Computing also represents the top source of new wages in the economy. The COVID-19 crisis has illuminated the need for and resiliency of these jobs.

For more information visit: or contact Kay Monelle at

About DPI

The Discovery Partners Institute empowers people to jumpstart their tech careers or companies in Chicago. Led by the University of Illinois System in partnership with top research universities, it does three things: Train people for high-demand tech jobs; conduct applied R&D; and support Chicago’s tech community. With state investment and a new innovation district in development, DPI has the resources to attract, develop, and leverage the most ambitious people and companies the region has to offer — and keep them here.



In July 2004, the UIC CHANCE Program was established to provide access to students in varying communities across Chicago and nearby suburbs to assist them with the tools required to apply and succeed on the UIC campus and in the dynamic world around them. This includes a comprehensive program not only for students but their families as well. In today’s ever-changing environment, the UIC CHANCE Program continues to recruit and retain academically qualified underrepresented student candidates and equip them with enrichment and learning skills. The UIC CHANCE Program recognizes the importance of providing a gateway to resources and professional services that will enable them to persist and graduate, as well as prevail as leaders in their various professions, fueling the pipeline of Chicago talent and a local and global economy.