Community Students Develop Upward and Onward in New Program



By Marcia Faye
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A group of 34 rising 10th graders from the Chicago Public Schools and Chicago charter schools systems were welcomed to Mies Campus on June 24 as the inaugural cohort of the DevUp Scholars Program. Representing Dunbar Vocational High School, Gary Comer College Prep, Kenwood Academy, Perspectives/IIT Math and Science Academy, and Ryan Banks Academy, the students will participate in STEM enrichment activities every month beginning this summer through their high school graduation.  

Part of Illinois Tech’s The Chicago Difference community transformation and scholarship initiative, which provides students with educational opportunities and mentorship from their pre-college years through their alumni experience, DevUp uniquely engages young students, says Natalie Polacek, assistant director of pre-college programs.

“In partnership with the Kaplan Institute, DevUp uses the lens of social justice through STEM entrepreneurship, guiding students to be innovative STEM leaders in their communities,” she says about the three-year program. “To achieve these outcomes, DevUp will create opportunities for students to participate in interactive, hands-on activities in entrepreneurship, computing, engineering, and the lab sciences annually (STEM enrichment); engage in college readiness initiatives, including guidance on high school coursework, SAT preparation, college application support, comparing financial aid packages, and, if applicable, participation in dual-enrollment courses (college readiness); and build relationships with college student mentors at Illinois Tech who are majoring in STEM fields and share their backgrounds (leadership and mentorship).”

The inaugural cohort met from noon until 3 p.m. in The Pitch at the Ed Kaplan Family Institute for Innovation and Tech Entrepreneurship, where they joined in icebreaker activities and received their DevUp T-shirts. Polacek notes that additional funding to the DevUp Scholars Program would allow for future cohorts as well as further expand Illinois Tech’s commitment to educational equality.

For this first cohort, a special opportunity awaits those who are admitted into a degree-seeking undergraduate program at Illinois Tech at the completion of their time as a DevUp Scholar: a guaranteed tuition scholarship of $25,000 and a housing scholarship of $5,000 annually.

Photo: Students from inaugural cohort of the DevUp Scholars Program on Mies Campus