Category: In the Community

College of Education Fellow Helping CPS Students Analyze Water Safety in Chicago

The Flint water crisis has generated conversations about the marginalization of low-income Americans at the hands of far-removed government officials. The flip side of this discourse is the opportunity to strengthen citizen scientists to investigate and advocate on issues of environmental degradation in their own communities.

At CPS North Grand High School, Mindy Chappell is exploring how lessons on the Flint water crisis foster student learning via autonomously generating research questions and hypotheses and collecting, analyzing and explaining data. As a Master Teaching Fellow with the UIC College of Education’s Project SEEEC (Science Education for Excellence and Equity in Chicago), she is engaged in a teacher inquiry project examining the practices that support her culturally relevant, cooperative, inquiry-based content-rich science class.

“You have all these buzzwords out there, but you need a method for how to do that in a classroom when you have to keep in mind curriculum and standards,” Chappell (below) said. “I’m pushing for higher-order thinking questions, not rote memorization. My students know that I want them to be able to think critically about a phenomenon and seek relevant explanations on their own.”

Before the Flint situation unfolded, Chappell’s students completed a case study which investigated differences between tap water and bottled water as part of their ecology unit. The original lesson called for students to classify a man-made abiotic factor (water bottles, cars, houses, paper, etc.) and create a research presentation on its environmental impact. The Flint crisis represented an opportunity for a real-world inquiry-based research on an issue that was relatively close to home for Chappell’s students.

After researching and discussing the Flint problem, students formulated their own research questions involving water. Some students focused on lead, but Chappell stressed students’ autonomy in generating their research questions was a key tactic in fostering critical thinking skills. Each project needed to connect back to the Flint crisis in some manner.

Students explored whether boiling water reduced or eliminated lead content, since boil orders are issued when communities face a water pollution problem. Other groups examined how an efficient water filter could be constructed. Another explored whether chemical inputs could remove lead content.

Evaluation of the projects targeted students’ ability to use claims and supporting evidence to explain what happened in their experiment. They also needed to provide a warrant, an explanation of why their supporting evidence is valid and how it supports their claim. Students needed to determine how limitations and unaccounted factors might have affected the validity and reliability of their data and influence the explanation of their results.

“It’s critical not to stop at the surface level such as, ‘My hypothesis is valid because the data shows it is,’” Chappell said. “If my students are going to be able to compete with students from other areas in citywide science fairs, they need to be able to explicitly explain how evidence led to their conclusion, any limitations to their research or experimental setup, any possible experimental errors, and be prepared to answer questions about alternative explanations of their data.”

Chappell says inquiry-based design methods strengthen student learning of scientific practices from asking questions and determining a purpose to collecting data to constructing explanations and the meanings of observations. She says students sometimes default to the expert in the room—the teacher—to hash out the tough answers on the whys and hows, but she avoids providing these to her students.

This science classroom on Chicago’s west side includes diverse learners, English language learners and students with individualized education plans. Chappell says this inquiry-based approach requires some modifications and accommodations, but teachers need to present diverse learners with the same opportunity to explore their own questions.

In investigating the Flint crisis, for example, she prepared three modified versions of the lesson, but only one group needed a modified version. All students began the inquiry investigation design phase similarly with Chappell providing scaffolds, modifications and accommodations only as needed. She says this strategy removes limitations on student questioning and does not stifle creativity with experimental design.

“Some people say, ‘These students can’t,’ but I want them to know they can,” Chappell said. “Will it be challenging? Yes. Will you want to quit? Yes. However, that’s where I come in. We all face challenges, but when you are done the beauty in all the hard work you put in overcoming will be so amazing, it will make those challenging experiences worth it.”

By Robert Schroeder

UIC Community Lends A Helping Hand

UIC Day of Service

Students from Alpha Psi Lambda help clean Oak Street Beach. Photo: Roberta Dupuis-Devlin

More than 300 students, faculty and alumni came together Saturday to give back to the community during the 7th annual UIC Day of Service.

Volunteers worked at 30 sites across the Chicago area, cleaning up beaches, framing a house, walking homeless animals and more.

At the El Paseo Community Garden in the Pilsen neighborhood, volunteers spread fertilizer, piled woodchips and pulled weeds to transform the unused railroad space into a garden.

Freshman Anne Zheng volunteered at the site to take a break from studying.

“My favorite part was looking at everyone work together to help the community,” she said.

Gingko Garden-- DOS

Students from Campus Housing volunteer at Gingko Organic Gardens. Photo: Roberta Dupuis-Devlin

Celina Diaz, a senior in biochemistry, also volunteered at the garden.

“Since I’m approaching graduation soon, I thought that it’s time to do something,” she said. “There are a lot of good people here. It was nice interacting with the community and the people around here.”

Antonio and Paula Acevedo are the garden leads at the El Paseo Garden. Antonio Acevedo said having UIC students participate on the project was beneficial.

“We got so much done in four hours that would have taken us multiple days to do. [The students] are very helpful,” he said.

Diaz plans to continue to serve her community. “It felt good to do something and give back to the community and the people who are actually going to enjoy this place,” she said.

By Pearl Shin

Students Working To Eliminate Food Waste And Helping Local Nonprofit Groups

Food Waste

UIC Food Recovery Network members Jullie Han (left) and Jenny Bueno pick up food from UIC Dining Services chef Maurice Hill​ to deliver to nonprofit groups.

A student organization is working hard to eliminate food waste by collecting and redistributing leftovers to nonprofit groups.

The UIC Food Recovery Network acts as a liaison between those who donate and nonprofit organizations that need the chapter’s support, said organizer Jullie Han. Members collect at least one donation a week to help those in need.

Student organizers took to the cause in 2014, fundraising and creating partnerships between UIC Dining Services and La Casa Norte and Pacific Garden Mission, two homeless shelters in the Chicago area.

“Other than being a nonprofit organization, there aren’t many requirements for who we donate to,” said Han, a junior in communication. “We try to get the healthy food and the donations need to be kept fresh or frozen until distribution.”

Coordinators of the UIC chapter said a major component of food waste is the miscalculation of a product’s expiration date.

“Just because the foods look ugly or the banana is getting brown, even though it’s still perfectly good inside, they would just throw it out,” Han said.

Food Recovery Network organizers have joined with the UIC College of Cycling to reduce their carbon footprint even further. Instead of driving donations, they attach wagons to the back of bicycles and cycle them to La Casa Norte during warm weather months.

The UIC Food Recovery Network attempts conservation in all aspects of their mission to reduce food waste. Student organizers plan to increase these efforts by continuing to work with UIC Dining Services and establishing partnerships with some restaurants near campus.

Volunteers are vital to their plans.

“I think the main thing we need is growth. If every day we had a different volunteer or a donation from a different restaurant to a different community, we’d get there,” said Jenny Bueno, senior in Earth and environmental science.

Students interested in volunteering can email Han at 


Tiny Sensors Measure Air Quality Anywhere in the Community, at Work

Air quality sensor professors

UIC researcher Igor Paprotny (second from left), with research assistants (from left) Omid Mahdavipour, John Sabino and Dorsa Fahimi, displays the particulate-matter sensor.

Researchers in the College of Engineering and School of Public Health are collaborating on a project that can help crowd-source pollution data and make it easier to measure air quality.

Igor Paprotny, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, and Lisa Brosseau, professor of environmental and occupational health sciences, are working together to maximize the impact tiny sensors developed in Paprotny’s lab could have in the community and workplace.

Chicago has one of the highest asthma mortality rates in the U.S., and the incidence in children varies widely from one Chicago community to the next. But why?

It may relate to neighborhood air quality.

Paprotny plans to use the city as his laboratory and enlist community citizen-scientists to gather data with miniature personal sensors his research team is developing.

Paprotny leads the Air-Microfluidics Group, a research consortium that includes UIC, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Argonne National Laboratory, the University of California-Berkeley and a scientist from the U.S. EPA. The team is developing a particulate-matter sensor the size of a memory stick that could be connected to a cellphone to measure and transmit the wearer’s exposure in real time.

Instrumentation currently used to measure particulate air pollution “is about the size of a toaster or a desktop computer,” Paprotny said.

air sensor

Paprotny’s team is developing a sensor the size of a memory stick that could be connected to a cellphone to measure and transmit the wearer’s exposure to hazards in the air.

Particulate air pollution consists of tiny particles and droplets of acids, organic chemicals, metals, soil or dust. The size of the particles is linked to their potential for causing health problems, according to the EPA, and smaller is worse. Particles under 10 microns — about one-eighth the width of a human hair — can pass through the throat, enter the lungs and cause serious adverse health effects.


When particles get really small — below 2.5 microns — “they are even more dangerous,” Paprotny said.

“They get very deep into our lungs, and we really don’t have a natural way to get rid of them,” he said. “Our immune system cannot handle them because they are too big, but they are still small enough to enter deep into our respiratory system.”

The EPA has lowered the allowable exposure limit several times, but more data is needed.

The sensor that the consortium is developing will offer not just portability, but improved accuracy and lower cost.

“Our sensor is currently the only miniature sensor that actually weighs the particles and reports the concentration as a mass,” Paprotny said.

The devices are projected to cost about $20 each to manufacture in quantity — and many will be needed.

“We’re in discussions to potentially work with Chicago environmental organizations and hope eventually to recruit citizen-scientists to wear the sensors,” Paprotny said. “With mobile sensors across the city, we can build a map of pollution and gather data.”


Industrial hygienist Lisa Brosseau says the tiny sensors could “revolutionize” her field.

Brosseau, an industrial hygienist, said Paprotny’s sensors could “revolutionize” her field, which involves recognizing and controlling exposure to hazardous materials in the workplace.

In the past, workplace hazards were measured through a cumbersome device worn by the user. Then, the data needed to be analyzed manually.

“The microsensors that Igor and others are working on are really exciting because they’re tiny and have a built-in pump so you don’t need all of the paraphernalia that you used to,” Brosseau said. “You can just stick it to your lapel.”

Brosseau suggested creating wearable sensors, such as adding them to necklaces or earrings.

These sensors capture data immediately, she said.

“It contributes to the idea of citizen science,” she said. “We can potentially give tools to people in the workplace and tell them — with immediate feedback — what they’re exposed to. They don’t have to wait two weeks to have results.”

With faster results, researchers can investigate the connection between particulate exposure and health effects by collecting data on blood pressure, symptoms and more.

“It’s immediate epidemiology,” Brosseau said. “That would really revolutionize our world.”

The sensor could help individuals make healthy choices, Paprotny said.

“A portable sensor attached to a cellphone could enable all of us to scan the air around us and determine if it’s safe to go out,” he said. “We expect air around us to be clean, and it is not always the case.”


— Christy Levy contributed to this report

‘UIC ENGAGE’ Providing Student Tutors To Nearby Chicago Public Schools, Churches


Students from UIC’s 15 colleges are volunteering their time to tutor students in nearby elementary schools. “Youth who live in communities with low college-going rates can advance academically and personally by working with UIC students,” says Alfred Tatum (center), dean of the UIC College of Education and creator of UIC ENGAGE. Photo: Jenny Fontaine

Students throughout UIC are volunteering after-school hours to teach math and writing to elementary students in neighborhoods near UIC.

These aren’t student teachers working toward an education degree. These tutors are students from any of UIC’s 15 colleges, volunteering in a one-semester pilot program called UIC ENGAGE. “Youth who live in communities with low college-going rates can advance academically and personally by working with UIC students,” said Alfred Tatum, dean of the UIC College of Education and creator of UIC ENGAGE.

“We want our students to know that their presence in the community will have a significant impact on the lives of others. This pilot is part of UIC’s long-term commitment to expand college access and promote the well-being of the neighborhoods around UIC,” Tatum said.

“As a child with working parents, I didn’t have any resources to find a tutor when I needed help, nor did I have an older sibling as a role model,” said Janess Borromeo, who is studying to be a nurse-practitioner specializing in gerontology . “UIC ENGAGE is a great program to help kids who lack extra resources, as well as providing role models they can look up to.”

“UIC ENGAGE allows me to help children in need. Being able to help kids achieve their goals is very rewarding,” said Sakai Parker, a third-year pre-nursing student.

The neighborhoods were chosen for proximity to UIC and their need for greater academic resources. The UIC students travel by bus to meet the elementary students in two schools and three churches for two hours — one hour for math, one hour for writing — on alternating days, Monday through Thursday.

The participating schools are Smyth Elementary in Little Italy and Haines Elementary in Chinatown. The churches include Faith Community Church, Greater Open Door Baptist Church and Greater Galilee Missionary Baptist Church in North Lawndale.

A community liaison in each neighborhood provides support throughout the semester.

The UIC students receive resource manuals for the teaching of math and writing, six hours of training and technological support throughout the semester. Those who complete a semester of tutoring will receive a UIC Experience certificate and recognition at a luncheon with UIC Chancellor Michael Amiridis.

By: Jeffron Boynés


40 Years of Leadership at LARES


Jesus “Chuy” Garia (from left), Leonard Ramirez, Ada Lopez and Jose Lopez speak at a panel discussion during the LARES 40th Anniversary Conference at UIC. —Photo: Roberta Dupuis-Devlin

LARES (Latin American Recruitment and Educational Services) is marking its 40th anniversary year, and a panel on March 7th took a look at where it’s been and where it’s going.

Moderator Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, a Cook County commissioner and former mayoral candidate, noted that one of the organization’s first actions was to mount a 1975 march by 500 people protesting the Chicago Public Schools’ initial delay in building what became Benito Juarez High School.

Panelists, speaking at Student Center East, were former LARES director Leonard Ramirez; Ada Lopez, former University of Illinois trustee; and Jose Lopez, executive director of the Puerto Rican Cultural Center.

Ramirez, who had a staff of two when he took over LARES in 1980, said it does “behind-the-scenes” work on behalf of undocumented students and provides support for students who get no federal or state aid.

“UIC should be a truly institution of learning,” Ramirez said. “Universities are among the most segregated institutions.”

As a former university trustee, Ada Lopez said, “One of the things I learned was how disconnected the board was from those in the front lines. There was a gap between the trustees and the programs.”

She said that “programs like LARES are not only successful, but they add value that has never been acknowledged. LARES has been an ambassador for diversity.

“The principles that drive LARES are sound, more relevant than they have ever been. We have to protect what we have and build on it.”

During Q & A, Jose Lopez said that in Humboldt Park, “social capital of the community is brought together. You engage parents, teachers are intellectually challenged.”

The community has 11 schools, Lopez said. “We’re working to get our students into the best colleges,” he said.

An audience member asked, “What is the difference who the next president is?”

“It has to be a Democrat,” replied Ada Lopez.

“Which one?” asked Garcia.

“We’ll let others answer that one,” Lopez said.


Exelon Powers Growing UIC Student Internships, Full-Time Jobs After College

Cesar Bueno

Cesar Bueno, (BS ’16)

Meet Cesar Bueno (BS ’16) and Sri Vadrevu (BS ’17). They’re two of 18 UIC engineering students who interned with an Exelon Corporation subsidiary and added to the more than 75 UIC engineering students who were hired by the Fortune 500 company within the past four years for an internship or full-time employment.

Recruiting program specialist Kyle Wiersbe, who coordinates Exelon’s college-level internship program, says there are reasons the number is growing. “UIC is right in our backyard, and it’s prioritizing the same initiatives. So, it’s been a natural step to combine efforts in establishing inroads to career opportunities.” The inroad for Bueno was field experience in energy delivery at ComEd’s downtown office. For Vadrevu, it was troubleshooting systems and facilitating alarm software at Exelon Generation’s power plant in Morris, Illinois.

To get to these places, both students took advantage of the College’s resources to polish the skills that would help them get their feet in the door. Bueno connected with peers in the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE). “Some of the members recommended visiting the Engineering Career Center,” says Bueno. “I’m glad I did. The staff there helped me shape my résumé and practice interview skills.”

Sri Vadrevu

Sri Vadrevu (BS ’17).

Vadrevu, who recently completed his second internship with Exelon Generation after landing his first during his freshman year through the College’s Guaranteed Paid Internship Program, took a more varied approach, talking to staff and faculty and taking guidance from his Engineering 100 class and the College’s Freshman Engineering Success Program. “I feel like a lot of other universities downplay communication and leadership skills,” he says. But Vadrevu believes UIC’s focus on skills outside the classroom, as well as inside, has helped transform him into a more confident and motivated prospective employee—one who Exelon would hire.

“We find UIC students are prepared, savvy, and hard-working. We’re happy to provide opportunities for them to grow as engineers,” says Scot Greenlee, Exelon Nuclear Generation’s senior vice president for engineering and technical services who has served since 2011 on the College of Engineering Advisory Board.

From the students’ points of view, nothing beats having engineering experience on a résumé. “Working at Exelon has been an invaluable experience. I loved the teamwork atmosphere and directly applying what I’ve learned in school,” says Vadrevu. To Bueno, the experience was inspiring. “Whether it’s planning a job or making sure customers get power again after a storm,” he says, “you really are powering lives here.”


Homeless To Benefit From New Database

Under a new $100,000 grant, the University of Illinois at Chicago department of emergency medicine, in partnership with All Chicago, a non-profit agency that provides resources and strategies to address homelessness, will develop a process for hospitals and clinics to share data with homeless service providers.

“Chronic homelessness is a huge risk factor for a host of disease and medical conditions, including diabetes, heart disease and cancer, but it’s also the single biggest risk factor for a significantly reduced lifespan,” says Steve Brown, director of preventive emergency medicine in the University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System and principal investigator on the grant.

People who face chronic homelessness live, on average, 27 years less than the average American, Brown said, but often don’t report that information to emergency room staff.

“If we don’t know who carries this risk factor when they come into the emergency department, we can’t do our best to provide linkage to services — most importantly, getting these patients into permanent support housing,” he said.

The grant, from AcademyHealth and the federal Office of the National Coordinator, will allow Brown and UI Health’s information services department to work with All Chicago technicians to develop a way to embed a patient’s housing status into the electronic medical record. They will cross-reference patients already in the hospital’s medical records with the database of Chicago’s Homeless Management Information System, which tracks Chicagoans who are currently homeless, at risk of becoming homeless, or were formerly homeless, and the services they receive. The HMIS database is managed by All Chicago and used by more than 250 agencies and city departments.

Linking homeless patients to services to get them into housing not only improves their health, but also reduces costs for the healthcare system, Brown said.

“Homeless patients are the most expensive to treat because they are at such greater risk for so many health problems and diseases,” he said. “If we can work on their number-one health risk factor – homelessness – we have a much better chance of preventing chronic diseases and reducing overall health care costs.”

AcademyHealth is a leading national organization serving the fields of health services and policy research. The Office of the National Coordinator is the government agency responsible for the oversight and adoption of electronic medical records by healthcare organizations.

By Sharon Parmet




Black History Month Celebrated at UIC


Exact spot on Dexter Avenue where Rosa Parks waited for the bus in Montgomery, Alabama, on December 1, 1955. After Parks refused to sit in the back of the bus, she was arrested. The event sparked the beginning of the bus strikes and the civil rights movement. (Photo: The George F. Landegger Collection of Alabama Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith’s America, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.)

The University of Illinois at Chicago’s Black History Month commemorates the culture and contributions of Africans and African Americans with the theme, “Celebrating More Than a Month…Celebrating a Movement.”

Events of note include talks by Sharon Cooper (Feb. 4), sister of Sandra Bland, and Jonathan Butler (Feb. 18), who held a hunger strike amidst the recent protest at the University of Missouri.

Admission is free and open to the public, unless otherwise noted. A complete schedule of events is available online.

For more information on Black History Month programs, call (312) 413-5070.

Schedule highlights:

Monday, Feb. 1 “Racial Resurrections: Remembering Transatlantic Slavery in Contemporary France.” Lecture by Crystal Fleming, assistant professor of sociology at Stony Brook University. 1 – 3 p.m. UIC Richard J. Daley Library, Conference Room, 801 S. Morgan St.

Tuesday, Feb. 2 Opening Reception Trivia Night. Black History Month kick-off event features trivia celebrating the achievements and contributions of African Americans. 4 – 6 p.m. UIC Student Center East, Illinois Room, 750 S. Halsted St.

Wednesday, Feb. 3 UIC African American Cultural Center Open House. Visit the center’s library, gallery and office to learn about its resources and programs. Noon – 2 p.m. UIC African American Cultural Center Library, Addams Hall, 830 S. Halsted St.

Thursday, Feb. 4 “A Choreography of Contagion.” West campus opening for exhibition featuring images from private institutions, health journals and popular media that explore how people of African descent have been represented in public health campaigns. Presented by UIC’s African American Cultural Center in collaboration with the UIC School of Public Health’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion. 10 – 11:30 a.m. UIC School of Public Health, Activity Room (SPHPI 160), 1603 W. Taylor St.

Thursday, Feb. 4 “Beyond the Headlines: My Sister’s Story.” Sharon Cooper, sister of Sandra Bland, discusses the life and legacy of her sister as well as developments in the legal case. 5 – 7 p.m. UIC Student Center East, Illinois Room, 750 S. Halsted St.

Friday, Feb. 5 “Hoop It Up Basketball Tournament.” Game between UIC faculty/staff, students and alumni. 5 – 9 p.m. UIC Student Recreation Facility, 737 S. Halsted St.

Tuesday, Feb. 9 “Let’s Talk: Taking Care of Ourselves While We Heal Our Community.” Interactive discussion with UIC Counseling Center about maintaining mental, physical and emotional wellness during a time of racial unrest. 4 – 5:30 p.m. UIC African American Cultural Center Library, Addams Hall, 830 S. Halsted St.

Wednesday, Feb. 10 “We Been Doin’ It: Black Women in Social Movement.” Panel discussion on the role and impact of women in social justice movements. 4:30 – 6:30 p.m. UIC Student Center East, Room 603, 750 S. Halsted St.

Thursday, Feb. 11 “Color of Expression: A Night of Student Art in Honor of Black History Month.” Art exhibit featuring original works of art by students in the health professions. 5 – 7 p.m. UIC School of Public Health, Activity Room (SPHPI 160), 1603 W. Taylor St.

Friday, Feb. 12 Heritage Ball presented by the UIC Black Student Union. 5:30 – 10 p.m. UIC Student Center East, Illinois Room, 750 S. Halsted St.

Monday, Feb. 15 “Keepin’ It 100.” The Collegiate 100 hosts a visit day for prospective students to connect with the campus and learn more about college admissions and retention. 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. Check-in at UIC Visitors Center, Student Services Building, 1200 W. Harrison St.

Wednesday, Feb. 17 Black Tech Forum. Tech industry leaders discuss their career journeys and the trials and triumphs of research, manufacturing and marketing. 4:30 – 6:30 p.m. UIC Student Services Building, conference room C, 1200 W. Harrison St.

Thursday, Feb. 18 “Beyond the Headlines: The Hunger Strike at the University of Missouri.” Talk by Jonathan Butler, graduate student at the University of Missouri, whose hunger strike was at the center of a protest over acts of discrimination on the campus in Columbia, Missouri. 5:30 – 7 p.m. UIC Student Center East, Illinois Room, 750 S. Halsted St.

Monday, Feb. 22 “Looking for Moms Mabley: The Life and Times of a Comic Persona.” Talk by Cynthia Blair, UIC associate professor of African American studies and history. 4 – 6 p.m. UIC Institute for the Humanities, Stevenson Hall, lower level, 701 S. Morgan St.

Tuesday, Feb. 23 “White Scripts and Black Supermen: Black Masculinities in Comic Books.” Screening and discussion. 3 – 5 p.m. UIC Latino Cultural Center, Lecture Center B2, 803 S. Morgan St.

Thursday, Feb. 25 “Show Stoppers.” Student showcase of art, singing, dancing and spoken word. Art exhibit 11 a.m. – 8 p.m.; Talent showcase 6 – 8 p.m. UIC Student Center East, Illinois Room, 750 S. Halsted St.

Thursday, Feb. 25 Screening of excerpts from “Through a Lens Darkly: Black Photographers and the Emergence of a People” and Q&A with filmmaker Thomas Allen Harris. 12:30 – 2 p.m. Gallery 400, 400 S. Peoria St.

Thursday, Feb. 25 “Book of the Family Tree.” Lecture by filmmaker Thomas Allen Harris, who will discuss his project “Digital Diaspora Family Reunion” and explore issues of identity and representation with a focus on how African Americans have used the camera in the fight for civil rights. 4:30 – 6 p.m. Gallery 400, 400 S. Peoria St.

Monday, Feb. 29 Black History Makers Award Ceremony. 9th annual event honoring the contributions of UIC alumni, faculty, staff and students. 4 – 6 p.m. UIC Student Center East, East Terrace, 750 S. Halsted St.

By Brian Flood

“Manufacturing Connect” Driving Mentorships For STEM Students In The Austin Community

Picture Individuals, left to right: Back: Mentee Diamond -Sophmore with UIC Engineering Mentor Lorena;UIC NSBE Mentor Beni next to Mentee Antolin and Beni’s Mentee Christian (both Sophomores); Mentee Shallom with NSBE President and Mentor Matt. Front UIC-SWE Engineering Student Jen with Mentee Kenyanna; UIC Education Mentor Nira with Mentee Amber.

Picture Individuals, left to right: Back: Mentee Diamond -Sophmore with UIC Engineering Mentor Lorena;UIC NSBE Mentor Beni next to Mentee Antolin and Beni’s Mentee Christian (both Sophomores); Mentee Shallom with NSBE President and Mentor Matt. Front UIC-SWE Engineering Student Jen with Mentee Kenyanna; UIC Education Mentor Nira with Mentee Amber.

Manufacturing Connect is a nationally recognized initiative of the Chicago Manufacturing Renaissance Council (MRC).   The program’s main goal is to prepare students for a successful STEM college experience and career success through NIMS (National Institute of Metalworking Skills) certification in manufacturing. The program serves students at the Austin Multiplex, 231 N. Pine, on Chicago’s west side.

Manufacturing Connect represents a partnership between Chicago Public Schools, local manufacturers, the Chicago Teachers’ Union, and the Austin community. Manufacturing Connect is recognized as promising practice for career pathway education and training linked to in-demand careers in advanced manufacturing, engineering, and related fields.

Since 2007, Manufacturing Connect has prepared high school students for the workforce and college. In 2014, through a grant from the Department of Labor, the mentoring program was added.

This program model is a site-based STEM-Business Mentoring Program, providing 1-on-1 meetings with students and caring adult mentors who meet once or twice a month for an hour, over the period of a year. Mentors transparently share their life experiences as a means of helping students navigate the world and plan their future. A partnership with Junior Achievement provides for soft skills sessions, establishing several trainings to empower our youth who have been fortunate to secure mentoring partnerships with UIC’s  National Society of Black Engineers, the UIC- Caterpillar Aurora (Engineering/ focused Site-based Program at Caterpillar), Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago (Business Focus Site-based Program at the Federal Reserve) and Austin Multiplex (a variety of Community members mentor at Austin Multiplex).

Manufacturing Connect is grateful for the many opportunities with the families, students, schools and businesses in the Austin community and around Chicago. Together, we are empowering Chicago’s youth and, in turn, working towards the greatness of our world around us. Our desire is to provide over 100 Manufacturing Connect Students with a wonderful caring mentor.

To learn more about becoming a mentor at Manufacturing Connect, feel free to contact Leslye Long, Assistant Director and Mentoring Coordinator, at or 773-534-6326 .

By Leslye Long