<< back to releases

Contact: Natasha Norris
312-822-0505 | agency@mkcpr.com



(September 24, 2015) CHICAGO — On Saturday, September 19, at the Back to School Jam nearly 40 of Chicago City of Learning’s partner organizations united at Jones College Prep to offer a taste of the on-site and online programs that they offer young people year-round.  More than 1,200 youth and family members took advantage of this free opportunity to discover something new, deepen existing interests and embark upon pathways toward college and careers.

“The goal of Chicago City of Learning is to connect youth to the rich learning opportunities that our great city has to offer, so that they can discover and pursue what they love to do,” said Sybil Madison-Boyd of Digital Youth Network, which runs CCOL.  “The Back to School Jam provided hundreds of families with an introduction to CCOL, but we want them to remember that our website is a resource they can utilize anytime. Youth, and the adults who care about them, can find and get started on whatever they enjoy 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, 365 days per year.”

At ChicagoCityofLearning.org youth 4-24 (and the caring adults in their lives) can search for hundreds of online activities, as well as free and affordable in-person programs that meet every interest.  Representative of what’s happening citywide, the Back to School Jam included everything from robotics and coding to photography and social advocacy, from history and nature conservancy to architecture and design.  The multi-part event featured a Maker Party featuring hands-on activities, a Gallery showcasing student work, and a Performance Series celebrating the successes of aspiring singers, writers, dancers, musicians and fashion designers.

Just as any young Chicagoan can do after setting up a free CCOL account and completing online activities and/or in-person programs, event attendees earned digital badges by exploring different activities.  Each badge claimed served as another chance to win the grand prize.  Taking home a brand new iPad Mini, which he plans to use for school, Lake View’s Alex Hernandez, 15, had a hard time choosing his favorite part of the day.  “I love STEM, so all the technology was awesome.  But so was the Teen Lounge…  Everything … I liked doing everything!”    

New this year, Teen Lounges fostered peer support and offered mentorship to 13 to 19-year-olds.  One participant of the Open Mic Mixer lounge was chosen to present an original poem on stage.  With passion and rhythm, 14-year-old Damiante of Chi-Arts in the Ukrainian Village shared her work, speaking the last three words resolutely: “I am poetry.”

In the Maker Party, after completing NASA’s Mars Rover Challenge, Naiya (5) and Niven Pearson, Jr. (6) of Bronzeville each exclaimed, “I’m an astronaut!” while holding up photos of themselves suited up “in space.”

As software engineer James Bray of Lincoln Park watched his sons (7, 10 and 12) build robots and program games, he explained, “I became interested in science and math at an early age, and I exposed them to basic coding at home. We are enjoying finding ways to expand upon that here.”

CCOL partner organizations participating in the Back to School Jam included: Access Living, Adler Planetarium, After School Matters, Argonne National Laboratory, Chicago Academy of Sciences and its Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, Chicago Architecture Foundation, Chicago Botanic Garden, CodeCreate Technology Education, Columbia College Chicago, CSTEMBE, Digital Youth Network, Donda’s House, Inc., Forest Preserve of Cook County, Free Spirit Media, Games for Change, GEAR UP, Holy Family Adventures in Learning, IMPACT Family Center, Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art, Microsoft, Mikva Challenge, NASA Glenn Research Center, Open Books, PROject(US), Scenarios USA, Scientists for Tomorrow, Tasteful Manners, The Anti-Cruelty Society, The Center for College Access and Success at NEIU, The Field Museum of Natural History, The Happiness Club, The Wishcraft Workshop, TRACE at Chicago Park District, TRIO Upward Bound Math and Science, True Star Foundation, Young Author Playlist and YOUmedia at Chicago Public Library.

Initiated in 2013, Chicago City of Learning (CCOL) is a year-round program that views all of Chicago as a campus – with endless opportunities to learn new skills, discover passions and build pathways to further education and careers.  CCOL has gathered more than 120 organizations together under its banner to offer connected learning opportunities to youth from 4 – 24 and acknowledge the acquisition of specific dispositions, knowledge, and skills through digital badges.  Badges offered through CCOL recognize learning across programs in the initiative – whether at a park, museum, library, or online course – giving learners a digital portfolio that communicates their accomplishments. 

CCOL is led by the City of Chicago and Digital Youth Network at DePaul University; it continues to be supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and is sponsored by Best Buy and Comcast.   For more information on Chicago City of Learning, visit www.ChicagoCityofLearning.org, email ccol@mkcpr.com or call 312.822.0505.