UIC CHANCE expands Digital Scholars program

2019 UIC CHANCE program students during class time.
UIC CHANCE program students, Class of 2019, take advantage of computer science class time. (Photo: UIC CHANCE program)

The University of Illinois Chicago CHANCE program will expand its Digital Scholars program to support and develop promising and diverse tech talent in Illinois, in partnership with the Discovery Partners Institute, or DPI.

Digital Scholars, now in its second year, is an intensive, free, five-week-long summer program for high school and community college students, and incoming UIC freshmen. It will run June 28-July 30.

Students can take one of two college-level computer science courses (CS100 and CS111) for credit, along with new offerings in mobile app development and data science.

The program also provides meaningful connections to the Chicago tech community and builds college- and career-readiness through guest speakers and weekly workshops. One hundred students are expected to enroll, more than doubling the program’s size from 2020.

“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 Digital Scholars, 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.”

As part of its Community Education Initiative, Apple is providing hardware, scholarships, and professional learning and support for the program. Using Apple’s Everyone Can Code curriculum, students participating in the new mobile app track will design a working prototype of their own app.

“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.”

The 2020 inaugural Digital Scholars program served 35 students, 75% of whom were Black or Latinx, 60% were from Chicago Public Schools, and 35% were female.

Previous program speakers included leaders from across the Chicago tech community, including: 1871, 2112, Apple, Argonne National Laboratory, Cameo, Chicago Ventures, CME Group, DataMade, Discover Financial, GoLogic, Hyde Park Angels, i.c. Stars, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Motorola Solutions, NORC at the University of Chicago, P33, Relativity, TechStars, and World Business Chicago. Additional sponsors of the Digital Scholars program include 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: dpi.uillinois.edu/DigitalScholars21 or contact Kay Monelle at kaym@uic.edu or 312-355-5025. Interested students are encouraged to apply now before the May 15th priority deadline.

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