The art of running a company is usually mastered on the fly by entrepreneurs who’ve cut their teeth in the workforce. But on Chicago’s north side, three groups of teenagers are managing their own high-tech businesses. The Rogers Park Webcreators — 16 students who speak 10 different languages between them — have taken on real-world clients, learned to use design tools and built professional websites. And they’ve earned money doing it.
It’s all part of a program created by Chicago nonprofit Lumity. The 32-year-old organization’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Career Readiness Program spearheads a variety of initiatives for at-risk youth in the Chicago area. For the Rogers Park Webcreators, Lumity created a seven-hour-a-week program that paid students $10/hour to build websites for local clients.
“It was key to get some funders for the program so we could pay the students. We wanted it to be a real job, not just an after-school club,” says Lumity’s Director of Career Readiness Jack Stonebraker. “This was the first job for most of these kids. Only two had ever worked anywhere before. Now, when they get their next jobs, they’ll be in a better position to go in the first day and start work.”