Chicago City of Learning Celebrates Youth Summer Achievements, Launches Best Buy Challenge at
Destination: Chicago – Summer Showcase

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All summer long, thousands of young Chicagoans have been exploring their interests and discovering new ones through Chicago City of Learning (CCOL) and the thousands of on-site and online activities offered by CCOL’s 120 partner organizations.

On August 14 at Destination: Chicago - Summer Showcase, their achievements were not only on display but also earned them internships with luxury fashion brand Burberry and the Kennedy Center, as well as prizes like theatre and sports tickets and iPad Minis. The Kennedy Center awarded two year-long virtual residencies with its ARTSEDGE National Design Team; and the Burberry store in Chicago awarded three young women with an internship experience on Michigan Avenue.  In addition, Sir and Madame will sell a shirt designed by a young Chicagoan for two weeks; and Christopher Duquet Jewelry will turn a 3D prototype designed by another student into a silver charm necklace.

While more than 100,000 youngsters participated in Chicago City of Learning activities this summer, those who won experiences and prizes were those who had earned “digital badges,” which are awarded for every skill a youth achieved during the summer whether it be in computers or sports, the arts or science.  All who won badges were eligible for lotteries in which prize winners were chosen.

Whether or not they won a prize, there was much for the 700+ youth who attended the Showcase to enjoy during the day. The three-part event involved a Maker Party, where youth were offered engaging hands-on activities like 3D printing, aeronautics, mixed media and robotics to whet their appetites for CCOL-sponsored programs that go on throughout the year; a Gallery that displayed the fabric, art, robots and design works created by youth over the summer; and a Performance Series that featured spoken word, fashion design, dance and musical ensembles.

Participants were also treated to an appearance by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Blue Angel Lieutenant Phil Harper. While not a ‘badge earner’ Mayor Emanuel did accept the challenge of a young woman who suggested he join her in trying his hand at ‘collage.’

While Mayor Emanuel waxed eloquent on the process, for youth and their teachers, perhaps the most exciting news was the announcement of the Best Buy Challenge.  Recognizing the importance of CCOL’s year-round offerings of opportunities that make learning interesting and relevant, Best Buy has teamed with CCOL to offer a special two-part challenge.

The public or private schools – one elementary and one high school – that enroll the greatest percentage of their students in CCOL between now and October 31st will win a Best Buy Geek Squad Academy experience, and those youth who complete an on-line BestBuy Challenge will be eligible for a drawing that promises to provide the first and second place winners of each age group with a laptop and an iPad.

While the individual prizes are great for young Chicagoans, the Geek Squad Academy is spectacular. The program is designed to inspire a younger generation to get involved with technology. Geek Squad “Agents” and Best Buy “Blue Shirts” will teach the winning schools about technology through fun, interactive classes and activities such as robotics, 3D printing, and audio and video production.

Dr. Nichole Pinkard, founder of the Digital Youth Network at DePaul University, which coordinates CCOL, thanked Best Buy for its confidence in Chicago’s youth and CCOL. “With Chicago City of Learning, for the first time ever, young people in Chicago have a single entry point for discovery and learning 365 days a year anywhere and anytime. In our second year of operation, we are delighted that Best Buy understands the importance of providing youth with year-round opportunities that marry their personal interests with learning and technology.” 

“The Chicago City of Learning continues to provide quality learning opportunities and I congratulate all of our youth on the tremendous showcase of their work,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. "Their energy and curiosity reaffirms our efforts to transform the city into a safe campus to promote creativity and interactive learning. The Chicago City of Learning stands as a national model, replicated by cities across the United States."

Initiated in 2013, Chicago City of Learning (CCOL) is a year-round program that views all of Chicago as a classroom – 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 award participation and skill attainment 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 the skills they have developed.

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.

Destination: Chicago - Summer Showcase is presented by:
                                                Hive Chicago Learning Network
                                                Chicago City of Learning
                                And supported by:
                                                The Chicago Community Trust
                                                City of Chicago
                                                Digital Youth Network
                                                DePaul University
                                                John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
                                                MK Communications
                                                Mozilla Foundation

Community Organizations participating include:

Adler Planetarium
After School Matters
Art Institute Chicago
Best Buy's Geek Squad Academy
Center for College Access and Success
Chicago Architecture Foundation
Chicago Jazz Philharmonic
Chicago Lights
Chicago Park District
Ci3's Game Changer Chicago
Continuing Studies at SAIC
Curie High School
Digital Youth Network
The Field Museum
Free Spirit Media
Games for Change
Global Girl Media
Holy Family Adventures in Learning        
Intuit: Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art
Lawndale Christian Development Corporation
Lincoln Park Zoo
Mikva Challenge
National Veterans Art Museum
Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum
Project Exploration
Shedd Aquarium
South Chicago Art Center
STEAM Studio
Street-Level Youth Media
Sweet Water Foundation
TRACE: Teens Re-imagining Art, Community & Environment
True Star Foundation
YOUmedia at Chicago Public Library