June 30, 2016 02:38 PM

For Immediate Release
Contact: Marilyn Katz / / 312-822-0505

CHICAGO, IL (June 30, 2016) – Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced today the extensive menu of interest-based activities that are available to young Chicagoans this summer. Collaborating for the third year under the banner of Chicago City of Learning more than 140 organizations are offering more than 5000 on-site and on-line activities. Activities completed will earn youth digital badges (like the girl and boy scout badges of yore) increasingly recognized by schools and some employment programs and make youth eligible to win prizes throughout the summer.

“During the summer, each of us has a role in keeping our children safe and engaged, which is why this summer the city is increasing our investments to provide new learning and working opportunities that will help youth build skills, explore the city, and discover their full potential,” said Mayor Emanuel. “We are encouraging families and youth to take advantage of new opportunities to engage in learning this summer, so that students are prepared to hit the ground running on the first day of school this fall.”

Launched by Mayor Emanuel in the summer of 2013 and now a year-round partnership led by  DePaul University’s Digital Youth Network (DYN), Chicago City of Learning has the full participation of the City’s leading youth-serving agencies, including  the  Chicago Park District, Chicago Public Library, Chicago Public Schools, Museums in the Park, DCASE and the Chicago Housing Authority – each entity offering activities where youth can have fun, engage in learning, earn badges and discover new skills and interests.  Whether it’s through reading books, visiting museums, engaging in sports, or a Young Authors program, all are urging young people this summer to “Explore Chicago, Discover Your Future!”

One program that will expand this summer is CCOL’s “mobile maker labs,” operated by DYN and sponsored by Best Buy and the Chicago Housing Authority, in which two vans that are fully equipped with computers and mentors visit parks throughout the city – particularly focusing on places where computer access and coding, design and making programs are in short supply.  Equipped with 30 computers, trained mentors and wireless connectivity, they will allow young people to explore a range of interests, including coding, fashion, photography, game design, video production, and much more.  Pinkard explains that the mobile labs will give youth the opportunity to play games, learn coding and explore particular interests they develop through exposure to the world through the internet.

“We talk about food deserts, but after three years we’ve also identified ‘digital deserts’, where young people have scant opportunities to master the digital skills and literacy needed for college and career,” says De Paul professor Dr. Nichole Pinkard, who founded and leads the Digital Youth Network. “Our young people consume lots of technology; our goal is to have them create using technology as well. “

In addition to the Mobile Maker Lab program, DYN also runs programs such as Digital Divas, Minecraft Camp, and Hour of Code for schools throughout the city during the year.

“At CHA we’ve termed this the Year of the Youth and I am delighted that working with CCOL and the Mayor we are able to expand the opportunities available to youth in under-served areas,” said Chicago Housing Authority CEO Eugene Jones Jr. “With Mobile Maker Labs and extensive summer programs offered through CHA this summer, we will reach thousands of youth at hundreds of locations across Chicago. Today’s youth are the leaders of tomorrow, and we must provide them with the opportunity to see the broader world and attain the skills they need to succeed.”

This is the second year of van sponsorship for Best Buy, which is dedicated to helping teens develop the technology skills that will inspire future education and career choices.  In addition to the Mobile Maker Labs, Best Buy operates eight Teen Tech Centers around the country, including one at Little Black Pearl on Chicago’s south side, and hosts Geek Squad Academy workshops countrywide.

Whether at a park, library, museum, online or on site in hundreds of locations citywide, all youth who participate in CCOL’s summer programming at will be eligible to win prizes weekly – and CPS students are competing to win the grand prize at the schools with the most participation. 

Chicago City of Learning (CCOL) is the largest effort in the country designed to connect youth to robust out-of-school learning and help them keep track of that learning - the skills and knowledge developed - using digital portfolios. Approximately 70,000 youth have digital portfolios on Chicago City of Learning - this is in large part due to a partnership with Chicago Public Schools: Every Chicago Public School student has an account waiting on But whether a CPS student or not, all youth 4-24 can participate. CCOL is led by the City of Chicago and Digital Youth Network at DePaul University, and it is supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and Best Buy.