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Englewood Youth Become Tech Savvy and Get A Piece of the Pi

A selected group of young men and women will spend it learning new languages, playing in traffic and giving one lucky organization a make-over.

Englewood Codes is a10-week Teamwork Englewood program that will teach students about basic HTML, CSS and JavaScript code—the languages that power the web.

During this summer-long program, teens will flex their creative muscles by building their own personal websites and competing in groups to makeover a website for one lucky organization in the community.

The personal websites will feature “PI”, better known as the Raspberry Pi, which is a tiny computer made for tech programming to act as a web server to host their sites. The participants will learn to how to program this mini mother board, which will be the hub where their personal websites reside.

Englewood Codes is distinctive for a couple of reasons. First, it’s one of the few opportunities Englewood youth have to learn the ropes of writing computer code. Second, it’s funded largely from contributions through Kickstarter, a crowdfunding website that’s at the heart of World Business Chicago’s Seed Chicago campaign.

Demond Drummer, Teamwork Englewood's tech organizer. During Seed Chicago Roundtable

Courtesy of World Business Chicago

After exceeding its fundraising goal of $5,500 in just four days, Demond Drummer, Teamwork’s tech organizer, successfully raised the ante to $10,000, which secured 15 more seats for young men and women interested in the 10-week program, bringing the total participants to 30.

LISC Chicago, Accion Chicago and World Business Chicago joined to identify Seed Chicago’s 11 inaugural efforts, which include small businesses and projects that spur economic growth at the neighborhood level. 

 “The best way Chicago can stay competitive is to grow the city’s tech talent from the neighborhoods,” said Drummer.

It’s been two years since Drummer first developed the concept and taught a summer program similar to Englewood Codes. His goal is to equip youth with a skill set that will potentially enable them to develop and create their own web applications. Additionally, After School Matters has signed on to help finance Englewood Codes.

In a study done by the Consortium on Chicago School Research at the University of Chicago,“70 percent of students do not use technology regularly to create something new and creative for school.”

The need, want and desire for technology is vital to the predominately African American community of Englewood, says Drummer, who spent the last several years teaching different software-based classes.

“This is an innovate way to finance projects,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel about Englewood Codes in early April during the Seed Roundtable. “Our most important assets are the people of the City of Chicago, investing in their education and skills will allow the city to grow.”

The hope is to provide the youth with a skill set that will make them more viable in life, college and the job market, says Juandalyn Holland, executive director of Teamwork Englewood.

“Our most important asset is the people of the City of Chicago, and we have to invest in their skills,” said Mayor Emanuel, speaking of Englewood Codes. “A stronger city is built on stronger neighborhoods.”

Englewood youth are being exposed to something different and outside the typical summer activities. Teamwork Englewood is excited about the Englewood Codes program as well as the residents.

“We work together to realize our shared vision of stronger schools, safer streets and ensuring we have the skills we need to compete in the new economy," said Drummer in the kickstarter introduction video.

Englewood Codes will kick off in June 2013 when participants will spend weeks learning web coding languages. The program will conclude with Demo Day in August 2013, where the youth will showcase their websites to their parents, community residents and backers. They will also walk away with a piece of Raspberry PI and a newly obtained skill set.

Englewood youth interested in Englewood Codes can visit teamworkenglewood.orgto complete an application.

Keywords: After School Matters, Demond Drummer, Englewood Codes, Technology

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