With an innovative dual focus on employment skills development and community impact, a new approach to workforce training was launched, and a new organization was born.


i.c.stars works to activate a technology community of change agents to power social and economic freedom. Working with low-income young adults, providing them with employment opportunities and preparing them for community-based advocacy allows us to achieve our social purpose.


Building on their experiences in education and workforce development, the founders of i.c.stars developed a technology-based curriculum that combined project based training with a broader perspective on community impact and “bigger than you” sense of accountability.

Importantly, their outcomes were five times better than those reported by organizations in the field. Their students were not just more successful at getting and retaining jobs, they were also taking responsibility for lifting others in their communities, helping through various forms of civic engagement to attack the root causes of unemployment.


Since 1999, i.c.stars has been identifying, training, and jump-starting technology careers for low-income young adults who, although lacking access to education and employment, demonstrate extraordinary potential for success in the business world and for impact in their communities.

We believe that when young adults focus their talent on both technology services and community impact, their success in both increases significantly.

i.c.stars stands for, and stands behind, these unique individuals, knowing that their success will lift not only their own lives but all those whose lives they touch.

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Are you interested in joining the next group of interns, volunteering your time or donating your resources? There are many ways to get involved!


The concept for i.c. stars came about in 1998 from Sandee Kastrul and Leslie Beller. Sandee had seen one of her most talented students from her teaching years working for minimum wage as a housekeeper in a Chicago hotel. Her chance encounter made her wonder what she could do to make sure underprivileged workers could meet their fullest potential.

With the rise of the dotcoms and related jobs, information technology was selected as the focus for training. In addition, the resiliency and critical thinking skills from overcoming adversity was also a good match for the IT industry. The founders spent 18 months researching technology training programs across the United States, and in 2000, i.c. stars trained its first set of information technology students over a rigorous 12-week program that included business leadership and career readiness skills and job shadowing opportunities.

For the first eight years, i.c.stars was housed in the space of Chicago digital marketing firm CloserLook, which provided critical support during the early years. An early and ongoing partnership with the Society for Information Management (SIM) helped i.c.stars develop relationships with enterprise CIOs from Fortune 500 companies.


Without our supporters and sponsors, i.c.stars would not be where it is today. Joining the i.c.stars network increases your business value. Sponsors benefit from leadership and staff development opportunities, and connections across the i.c.stars network. Your involvement also helps shape the future IT workforce.

The early years