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By Etelka Lehoczky At Amundsen High School on Chicago’s North Side, there are a few things no student is ever without: jeans worn with just the right attitude; a bulging backpack; and, the most important item of all – a cell phone. The importance of phones in teens’ lives inspired a unique exercise at Amundsen on a recent day in May. The challenge: Design a smartphone app. Divided into groups of 4-6, students sought to envision apps and plan ways to develop them.blue-shirts Guiding the teens were volunteers from global IT firm Tata Consultancy Services (TCS). How did a multinational company with over 350,000 employees come into the lives of kids at a neighborhood high school? It’s thanks to Chicago-area nonprofit Lumity.

By Etelka Lehoczky At first it may seem like an ordinary April day at Waukegan’s Greenbelt Cultural Center, just outside of Chicago, but in the big ballroom the air is humming. At tables all around the room, small groups of teenagers are hard at work – murmuring, laughing and capturing ideas on laptops.” [caption id="attachment_695" align="alignright" width="300"]Forsythe staff team up with Waukegan High School students to build business case for a mock smartphone app. Forsythe staff team up with Waukegan High School students to build business case for a mock smartphone app.[/caption] The teens have been brought together thanks to a complex partnership – and some creative thinking – by three innovative Chicago organizations. The kids attend Waukegan High School, a culturally diverse institution with more than 4,000 students. They’re being aided by employees of Forsythe Technology, Inc., a privately held, employee-owned company based in Skokie, Ill. Then there’s the fulcrum: Chicago-area nonprofit Lumity, which organized the event as part of its STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Career Readiness Program. After 32 years in operation, Lumity is shifting its mission to focus on providing transformational experiences for at-risk youth that prepare them for lifelong STEM careers. The exercise today is to conceive and create a business case for a mock smartphone app. As the teens work through their designs they must think creatively, assess one another’s ideas and hone their presentation skills. And they’re clearly having a great time doing it.

Bryant Wallace has been a long-time partner and volunteer for the Lumity STEM career readiness program. He spent a lot of time with the participants of the Summer Youth Employment Program in 2014 and supported teams in the STEM Saturdays program in 2015. Just last month, he shared his story for the largest STEM Talk audience to date. Wallace shakes hands with honors students.

CDW was one of the first companies to host a career site visit when Lumity began its STEM Career Readiness Program more than two years ago. Last week, they opened their doors again to host students from Von Steuben Metropolitan Science Center. The experience blew everyone away. Students, teachers and volunteers were amazed by the day’s events. Students develop app concepts to solve problems