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Our Blog

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Chicago Ideas profiles i.c.stars recruiter and alumnus: Rico Bryant, like many formerly incarcerated people, isn't defined by

Rico Bryant is the Recruitment Manager of i.c.stars, a technology-based workforce development program assisting low-income adults.

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To Capitalize is to Expand the Future

We just hosted our 16th annual Capitalize on Illinois event. Historically Capitalize has been focused on technology executives, what’s on their minds and how they see the future of their enterprises. We would discuss what they foresee coming down the pike, what they’re excited about, and what the challenges may be. This year, the theme for all of our events is Expand the Future and I think that’s a really powerful statement. Especially in the context of this event. When we say, “Capitalize on Illinois, Expand the Future,” it really is a call to action, and this year Capitalize was about immigration and how it impacts the way we conduct business.

So if you connect those three dots, capitalize on local - Illinois, expand the future opportunities, and immigration, we’ve got three pieces of a much larger puzzle that really pushes us into a global perspective.

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Speaking about Women...

March was an incredible and remarkable women’s history month. Of all the things I could say about this past month, I would say there were two things that stood out the most.

The first thing that struck me is that I had a lot of speaking engagements that were focused on women. In fact, there were many events celebrating women, which is great; I hope that momentum continues throughout the year and not just a month.

i.c.stars Partners with Chicago Ideas for Roundtable on Hiring Formerly Incarcerated Individuals

February 22, 2017

i.c.stars partnered with Chicago Ideas on a roundtable discsussion on hiring formerly incarcerated individuals.

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Women's History: 2017 The Year We Did Everything That They Said We Couldn't Do.

In honor of Women’s History Month, we have a special guest today with us, Toriana Williams, of Cycle 35. To start Tori, would you mind sharing a little about your cycle and why it was so great?

Sure Sandee. Speaking from my experience, what made Cycle 35 so great was really about the people. We had a diverse group of people coming from different walks of life. No matter their background you are all sharing the same space without really knowing what is about to transpire, but we were there. We were willing to put in work and learn something completely different that would become a force in both our professional and personal lives.

i.c.stars |* Alumni Launch Entrepreneurial Social and Technology Ventures

i.c.stars Alumni Launch Entrepreneurial Social and Technology Ventures
Entrepreneurs and tech founders are latest in a long line of i.c.stars graduates driving innovation in Chicago

The Chicago Community Trust Features i.c.stars and alumna

March 14, 2017

The Chicago Community Trust highlights i.c.stars and an alumna in: A Jobs Program Creating Tech Stars and Community Leaders.

eshots' Founder Hosts "High Tea" with Chicago Tech Interns from i.c. stars

March 8, 2017

eshots’ CEO Craig Steensma gives presentation and Q&A with i.c. stars interns.

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Growth, Transformation and Realization

I recently visited our first expansion city, for the first day of Cycle 1 in Columbus Ohio. Cristhian Romero (Cycle 15), joined me and was an amazing asset to the whole experience. Since that trip I’ve been reflecting on what it means to grow up. When Leslie and I started i.c.stars I was 29 years old and she was a year or two younger than that. Fast forward two decades and I’ve grown up. I think that in your twenties you are always challenging yourself. it’s a constant process of starting, learning and doing new things. It’s always hard and it should be hard, because that means that you are growing.

i.c.stars president and alumni among 10 Chicago Black folks in tech to be proud of

February 28, 2017

i.c.stars president Sandee Kastrul and alumni Dominic Liddell and Tiffany Mikell among ‘10 Chicago Black folks in tech to be proud of’, according to Medium.com

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Kumbaya My People

In a recent post I shared that i.c.stars was working on an effort to improve cultural competency within organizations. We recently held what we are calling “Cultural Competency 101,” with an organization’s leadership team.

Most folks within larger organizations have attended “diversity and sensitivity” trainings, And most people have some feelings about what the training is going to be like and it’s not usually one of excitement. As you can imagine the group may not have been thrilled to allocate more time to the subject. We knew this could be a challenge and we had come prepared.

Becoming an Agent of Change

Becoming an Agent of Change

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The Hero's Journey - Portraits of Unity

Sometimes we feel like we’re trapped in the same narrative over and over again, as if things are happening to us and as if we are unable to break out of this “trapezoid.” Quite frankly being in this state is boring, and more importantly, it’s limiting. It doesn’t help us feel more empowered or help us lead. We all really just want to be empowered as managers and as leaders. We want to be empowered to recognize when we have choice and when we have the power manage our circumstances.

i.c.stars Receives PayPal Gives Grant for Its Technology, Business & Leadership Skills Training Program, Chicago

Chicago—December 20, 2016 Inner-City Computer Stars Foundation (i.c.stars), an organization that expands opportunities for underserved young adults, announced today that it has been awarded a $5,00

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Learning to Stand as a Team

We opened our Columbus office over the summer, and they recently came to Chicago for the Train the Trainers program. And, the basic skeleton of our Train the Trainers is to use Team Week, the 40 hours of curriculum that i.c.stars has built around team building, trust, cross-cultural communications, learning and management styles and diversity inclusion. And, there was something profoundly humbling and exciting about sitting at the table with 20 people that all work for i.c.stars.

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What Managers Could Learn From Teachers

In my previous post I shared my perspective on diversity, inclusion and cultural competency. Cultural competency is borrowed from the educational space, where school teachers have to have a level of cultural competency because their classrooms are constantly changing. What was once a pretty homogenous classroom, in this day and age, has become very diverse, and the teacher has to be able to adapt to reach all of the different learners and not expect the learner to adapt to one way of thinking.

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Diversity: There are Levels

Early on in the i.c.stars’ journey, we found out that diversity in the workplace was mostly charitable. That meant that diversity in the workplace was a nice to have. As a society our thinking has come a long way since then. In part I give thanks to large tech organizations like Facebook and Google for really saying that challenges with acquiring and retaining diverse talent is pain point.

As Volunteer Tech Tutors, i.c.stars’ Interns Put Their Leadership Skills into Practice in North Lawndale

Chicago—November 7, 2016 For more than five years, the young adult participants of i.c.stars have served as volunteer technology tutors at New Age Services Corporation, a substance use and abuse re

Enterprise Next

Enterprise Next is a lean startup training program for aspiring entrepreneurs who are graduates of i.c.stars.

ChicagoInno highlights i.c.stars graduate at Thoughtworks, Named Top Company for Women in Tech

October 16, 2016

ChicagoInno highlights i.c.stars graduate at Thoughtworks, recently named a Top Company for Women in Tech.

'Diverse talent is crucial to a company’s success' – i.c.stars leader

October 5, 2016

New i.c.stars Columbus Executive Director featured by Columbus Business First

Crains op-ed, Closing the Opportunity Gap, cites i.c.stars

September 30, 2016

Crains op-ed, Closing the Opportunity Gap one Business at a Time and authored by Impact Engine CEO, cites i.c.stars as a way to ‘invest in building talent pool’.

i.c.stars Gets $100K From Walmart to Expand its Youth Tech Program to More Cities

September 9, 2016

ChicagoInno covers i.c.stars Walmart Foundation expansion grant.

$100,000 Grant from the Walmart Foundation Supports i.c.stars Technology Training and Geographic Expansion

Chicago—September 7, 2016 Leading workforce development nonprofit Inner-City Computer Stars Foundation, known as i.c.stars, received a $100,000 grant from the Walmart Foundation to support the grow

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The Evolution of the C-Suite, Part 4

Part 4 of a 4-Part Series with Sandee Kastrul & Anna Frazzetto The C-Suite and the Future

Sandee: My closing question is, what do you think the future workforce should be prepared for?

i.c.stars President & Co-Founder Sandee Kastrul Awarded Prestigious Chicago Community Trust Fellowship

Chicago—August 24, 2016 The Chicago Community Trust selected Inner-City Computer Stars Foundation (i.c.stars) President and Co-founder Sandee Kastrul as one of eight Trust Fellows of 2015.

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The Evolution of the C-Suite, Part 3

Part 3 of a 4-Part Series with Sandee Kastrul & Anna Frazzetto “How the C-Suite Combats Disruption”

Sandee: How do job combinations within the C-Suite of a larger organization combat disruption from the new perceived threat of startups?

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The Evolution of the C-Suite: Part 2

Part 2 of a 4-Part Series with Sandee Kastrul & Anna Frazzetto “The C-Suite - From the Peak to the Reality”

Sandee: So who will be left? Going from the peak level to a realistic level, what is the makeup of the C-Suite? Maybe the answer lies in our ability to do just that when the lines get fuzzy. If we’re holding to our silos and our expertise, we may become extinct. But if we are building the capacity to work with people who think and see differently than we do, then we’re securing our seat.

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The Evolution of the C-Suite: Part 1

Part 1 of a 4-Part Series with Sandee Kastrul & Anna Frazzetto “Introducing the Chief Digital Officer”

Sandee: First, let me start by thanking you, Anna. Thank you for being such an amazing speaker and sharing your insights with the audience at CXO Disrupt 2016, and with our larger audience through this conversation. I know our readers can’t wait to get deeper insights from you. So to kick off the conversation, would you share what you see as the most important thing to know - the biggest insight about how things are changing right in front of us in the C-Suite?

TheMetropreneur.com Features i.c.stars Expansion to Columbus

July 27, 2016

TheMetropreneur.com writes about the launch of i.c.stars Columbus—its advocates, supporters and partners, and its home: Rev1Ventures.

A Measurable Impact

Initial placement rate:
Industry retention rate:
College attendance rate:
Alumni actively engaged in their communities:
Average 12-month earnings before program:
Average 12-month earnings after program: