Honoring Illinois Fifty for the Future

Four years ago Fred Hoch and I sat in an airport lounge talking about how many innovative, talented students are educated in Illinois but slip away to other regions after graduation. We created an initiative to identify and recognize the fifty brightest students graduating from area colleges and universities that would eventually become leaders of the local technology community. From that first year scouring the state for the best talent we could identify, the program has now matured and tonight we celebrated the 2010 recipients of the Fifty for the Future program, an initiative of our Illinois Technology Foundation.


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A huge thank you to CompTIA for $150k donation to CAAT

Last year we started a new high school focused on technology and entrepreneurship. CAAT is a public high school operated by private partnership with Chicago Public Schools, and we’re now recruiting our second freshman class. These are motivated kids from the inner city that seek a better quality education, one infused with mentorship and interaction from local technology leaders.

Funding for this school is dependent on the generous support of local companies, and two weeks ago we were able to announce a $150k donation from CompTIA, the global IT trade association based in the Chicago area. CompTIA’s donation is a challenge grant, with a call to other local companies and organizations to match and support their contribution to help solidify the future of CAAT.

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Students from Chicago Tech Academy reflect on their first months

Just over a year ago we came together to found the Chicago Academy of Advanced Technology, and the school became a reality for 150 freshmen in September. We drew kids from all across Chicago, there were no entry requirements, except a motivation to work hard and learn.

CAAT Students

This is a new kind of high school in the inner city of Chicago, where kids have a chance to develop an aptitude that will transform their lives. The volunteers and donors of the Chicago tech community are critical to the success of this school, and will soon discover more opportunities to engage with the students.

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Boy Soldier, a photo essay

In honor of Veteran’s Day, a captivating photo essay from the Denver Post that follows the enlistment, training, service and struggles of a young man joining the US Army. It’s easy to forget that the warriors we send to battle are often just other people’s kids, and how great their sacrifice could become. 

The United States military is full of heroic men and women that defend our country and liberate freedom around the world… people who choose to put their lives and families on hold in the name of service.

But sometimes it includes kids who simply have no alternative, who lack the family and skills or opportunity and direction in life to succeed. In the best cases, the military becomes the family, provides the skills and direction, and is the opportunity those kids need. 

Some battles are born of necessity, some lurch from the poor choices and failed policies of politicians. Regardless, the American warrior has been a force for good throughout our history, and deserves the support of a grateful nation today.

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The public & private partnership behind CAAT

… increasing the number of stakeholders in public education… giving private-sector leaders an opportunity to give back and play a role in public school education is a fundamental opportunity for systemic change.

A nice article on the evolution of CAAT, from and for the perspective of government tech leaders.

I hope to share some nice announcements about our new high school over the next couple of weeks, stay tuned!

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How do you see your life?

An interesting recent poll… People often use metaphors to describe their life… Which ONE of the following do you think best describes your life?

A Journey: 51%
A Battle: 11%
The Seasons: 10%
A Novel: 8%
A Race: 6%
A Live Performance, Like a Play: 5%
A Carousel: 4%
Other: 2%
Unsure: 2%

The responses above were provided to participants and are well-known life metaphors from Western culture. For example, life as a journey is from Homer’s Odyssey (and the Epic of Gilgamesh should also be credited as well). Life as a battle is Homer’s Iliad. Life as the seasons is from Ecclesiastes and ascribed to King Solomon. Life as a race is from St. Paul. And life as a performance or play is from The Bard – Shakespeare.

Fascinating that there is minimal difference by age, gender or region… statistically the same percentage of 25 year olds and 55 year olds both see their life as a battle (or a journey, or whatever).

But I wonder if it’s the SAME people with the SAME outlook on life as they age, or if there’s some greater social balance at play. What if the the metaphor people used to describe their life evolved over time, but on a broader social scale this was a zero sum game?

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Wacky… the number of smart ass remarks I wouldn’t have sent!

Philips Electronics releases The Rationalizer, a bracelet that monitors your emotional state while you are sitting at the computer, about to make an irrational trade, or hit send on that email destined to set off a flame war.  The lights intensify and turn a brighter red when your emotions flare, offering what it calls a “mirror of emotion” to warn you that it might be good to take a breather and calm down before making any irrational decisions.

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Keep Chicago 2016 alive… an open letter to the media and community on behalf of education

Chasing an Olympic vision brought together Chicago’s government, civic and corporate leaders in a way this town has rarely seen. It was an exciting, big idea for the city of Chicago.

There were questions about the real value of the Games, whether the city could afford them, or whether the current leaders could pull them off successfully.  But we heard how a generation of kids might benefit from the Olympic spirit, and how Chicago would build infrastructure to help our city and economy grow.

The amount of money, time and energy marshaled toward chasing the Olympics was unprecedented.  Major corporations stepped forward, local foundations donated money, and small shops proudly displayed their support for Chicago’s bid.

Refocus that effort toward meeting Chicago’s most pressing needs. Chicago 2016 should become an initiative for real education reform in Chicago. These same leaders should shift their focus and considerable heft toward creative ways to fix a failing system.  This is not a problem unique to Chicago, but Chicago could become a shining example for American education.

Make Chicago a world-class city by making our public education system actually work and align it with our city’s future. Instead of inspiring kids with the Games, let’s give generations of kids the skills to create and fill the jobs of their future. Let the infrastructure we build be a foundation to escape poverty and violence that traps many of Chicago’s families and limits Chicago’s economy and global competitiveness.

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