Becoming an Agent of Change

Becoming an Agent of Change

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Becoming an Agent of Change
In this interview, Cycle 3 alumnus Chris Lewis and i.c.stars Co-Founder Leslie Beller reflect on i.c.stars’ impact and design.

Chris, tell me about the role of i.c.stars in your professional journey.
It’s from i.c.stars I truly learned about developing not only technical skills, but the soft skills that are required to solve problems…In many of my roles during my career, I was the only person of color. Because of this, I worked insanely hard not so much for the respect of management, but for my colleagues. There were times that I failed, and failed hard, but people could count on me taking in the lessons of my mistakes and giving my best effort.

Tell me about your current role and proud moments at work.
I’m currently at Rush University Medical Center. My title is Associate Infrastructure Engineer. I get to touch many things - some days it may be scripting, most days’ technical support of many things (OS’, printers, PCs) and other days acting as a lead technician for the academic facility.

One proud moment was when one of the Associate Vice Provosts noted that they were so impressed with my work that they sent notices to all of my upper management. Another proud moment was that I spent my first three months helping the College of Nursing move over to our Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI). This was really cool, because I basically walked in the door with essentially no technical knowledge…now I’ve become a resource for other techs when they are experiencing issues with VDI.

Leslie, what do you recall most about Chris?
When I think of the people I’m most inspired by, it is their level of humility and will. Not giving up and being humble. Chris’ perseverance through the program and his vision around social justice were an inspiration for me while I too was learning to lead.

And what about working with Leslie, and her influence?
Leslie provided that environment of understanding and social awareness that armed us with the lessons to look at things from different perspectives. To me, that’s golden.

Leslie, can you talk about the design of i.c.stars.
There was a balance between being a social justice organization and being a corporate pathway. In the early cohorts, we were really testing a new idea, new business model…

And your current role seems to be a continuation of some of these ideas?
[MHA Labs] emerged as a nonprofit out of a movement of people who believe that young people have extraordinary 21st century leadership skills, but that we have no systemic way to make talents transparent to youth and the larger community; we work from local grassroots to Washington to find the means to discover and build talent. Similar to i.c.stars, [we work] at getting large scale entities to recognize values and assets of low income young people.

Chris, how did i.c.stars prepare you for leadership?
Working late nights and building with colleagues at i.c. stars instilled that motivation and drive in me that force me to preserver and persist when others gave up. i.c.stars also instilled in me the ideology of becoming an agent of change.

Leslie, any final thoughts about Chris?
He is quiet and fierce…I believe in his capacity to make change.

A Measurable Impact

Initial placement rate:
90%
Industry retention rate:
81%
College attendance rate:
55%
Alumni actively engaged in their communities:
72%
Average 12-month earnings before program:
$9,846
Average 12-month earnings after program:
$57,240