Special Guest Post
by Matt Hancock (@mwhancock)
Executive Director of Chicago Tech Academy
It’s no surprise to us that TechNexus was named to the Forbes list of Top 10 Incubators in America. After all, ChiTech was one of the startups incubated there! We were so privileged to have been profiled, as well, by Forbes in the new article, “Gunshots to Google: Teaching Entrepreneurship to Chicago’s Inner City.”
The article, while a major milestone for the school, is really a testament to what Chicago’s tech community can do when it puts its mind to something. In particular, TechNexus and the many start-ups incubated there, should be proud of what they’ve helped create. One of the experiences that compelled Colao to call the resulting article his “favorite piece yet,” was seeing ChiTech students in action at TechNexus, with ChiTech Board Chairman Terry Howerton. In fact, that’s how he opens the article:
Seated at a conference table are seven high school students from nearby Chicago Tech Academy, brainstorming about health-related business ideas (treating diabetes, long waits in the ER and so on) with Terry Howerton, a local entrepreneur who cofounded the school in 2009… Teens at Chicago Tech Academy face unique challenges, but for those spending their morning here at TechNexus, understanding business models isn’t one of them.
In just two years, ChiTech has outperformed 96% and 89% of Chicago high schools—in terms of the percentage of students making expected gains—in reading and math, respectively. Many of our students are making 2 – 5 times the gains of the average Chicago high school student. These results would not be possible without our fantastic team of teachers and awesome instructional leadership.
Academics are just the beginning. Swing by ChiTech on any given day, and you’ll see students developing websites in HTML and CSS, others will be practicing their pitches in our NFTE/Future Founders Entrepreneurship classes; you might see our 10th graders
Pop your head into a classroom, and you’re likely to see one of Chicago’s tech executives, entrepreneurs or professionals presenting, working on a ChiTech Labs project with a team of students, or figuring out how to use technology to solve serious social issues in the city.
Hang around after-school and you might see students meeting with their mentors. Through Generation Tech mentoring, we’ve matched more than 50 of our students with tech entrepreneurs, executives and professionals from around Chicago. Together, they’re tackling tech challenges, providing advice about college and careers, helping out with a sticky situation, or just hanging out and having fun. By the time they graduate, all our students will be matched up with a mentor.
You’ll also pick up on the professional environment, where you’ll see a collaborative, team-based environment, and super-flat organizational structure. While you’ll feel at home in this tech-startup environment, it is unlike the type of high school culture you or I probably experienced. The principal’s office has been converted to “conference room A,” and the reserved parking spots have been replaced by “rock star” parking spots–set aside for staff members recognized, by their peers, for excellence.
At the end of the day, it’s this culture that we’re building, modeled after successful startups like those incubated at TechNexus, that has made ChiTech such a great school. It’s this culture that has allowed us to attract such a talented staff, to tap into the team’s creativity, and that has allowed such exciting partnerships between the school and Chicago’s tech community to take hold.
ChiTech is your startup high school because of the countless hours you’ve spent mentoring members of the school’s leadership team and staff, providing input into the curricula, class projects and field experiences, and rolling up your sleeves and getting involved in the lives of these young people.
Through your inspiration, example and connections our students are learning to turn their big dreams into big things that can change the world.
Please, check out the Forbes article, “Gunshots to Google: Teaching Entrepreneurship To Chicago's Inner City.” I know you’ll be proud. (And if you Tweet about it, use “#gunshotstogoogle”.)
Oh, and we can always use more help. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me to talk about opportunities to connect with our kids and support ChiTech, Chicago’s startup high school.