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Our Blog

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i.c.stars Success Stories: Get to know Matt and Jeremy

Matt Dickerson and Jeremy Nichols are two hardworking individuals that became involved in the i.c.stars program. This video highlights their key takeaways from their time as residents with i.c.stars, as well as their experiences as mobile developers with Solstice Mobile on the jobPrep application.

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Employer of the Month: Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago!

Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago became a first time i.c.stars employer on June 17, 2014.

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The Top Ten Reasons Why We Love Goodwill

Top Ten Countdown: Reasons We Love Goodwill

10. Mission for Workforce Development
Goodwill provides training, employment and supportive services for people with disabilities or disadvantages who seek greater independence. Their mission is over 90 years strong and it strengthens individuals, families and communities.

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A day in the life of an i.c.stars intern. By, Amber W

Amber shares some insights and experiences as she is finishing up her internship with i.c.stars as part of Cycle 31.

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A day in the life of an i.c.stars intern. By, Michael B

Michael shares some insights and experiences as he is days away from finishing up his internship with i.c.stars as part of Cycle 31.

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A day in the life of an i.c.stars intern. By, Stephanie H

Stephanie shares some insights and experiences as she is finishing up her internship with i.c.stars as part of Cycle 31.

skastrul's picture

Featured on Blue Sky Innovation

What a co-founder sees as the ‘primary driver of invention’

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A day in the life of an i.c.stars intern. By, Sabrina S

Sabrina shares a high level description of our 4 p.m high tea sessions and her experience as part of Cycle 31.
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A day in the life of an i.c.stars intern. By, Odias S

Odias shares some of his experiences as an i.c.stars intern currently on Cycle 31.
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A day in the life of an i.c.stars intern. By, Dianne P

Dianne shares some insights and experiences as she is in the middle of her internship with i.c.stars as part of Cycle 31.

tlevy1913's picture

The Top Ten Reasons Why We Love Year Up

Community involvement and collaboration is crucial for success on so many levels - from education and training to developing and expanding business opportunities. The good thing is that none of us are in it alone. And in the nonprofit community, there is an ecosystem of services and resources for the work we’re all doing that supports and invigorates us.

By working together, we’re able to address more issues in the community on local and national levels. Here at i.c.stars, we understand that collaboration is key, and we want to celebrate some of the great organizations that are affecting change on a massive scale. So today we’re highlighting Year Up.

Top Ten Countdown: Reasons We Love Year Up

10. Opportunity Divide:
Year Up does a magnificent job of really talking about the divide of opportunity in our country. You could call it the haves and the have-nots. You could call it the intellectual divide, but to be clear, it’s not about smarts, it’s about access to intellectual capital. Year Up labels it the “opportunity divide.” It’s a large chasm between the upper and middle classes and everybody else. Year Up addresses the issue of obtaining jobs in corporate America by teaching very marketable skills that help close the opportunity divide.

tlevy1913's picture

The Path To Being Solutions-Oriented vs. Problem-Solving

At i.c.stars, we’re actively providing solutions to problems that exist in our communities. One problem we’re facing today is that we have low-income adults within impoverished communities who need skills in order to find a job to care for themselves. Once adults enter our program, they begin to develop talents and learn leadership skills that they need to prosper in life. We’ve taken a solutions-building approach to a chronic problem.

Our program participants are resilient. They are used to problem-solving in order to meet the challenges they face in their lives. It’s a key character trait to their success in our program. Many times, when you’re in a rough situation, you don’t have time to come up with a long-lasting solution - you need a quick fix. How do we take individuals who are naturally prone to problem-solving, and put them on the path to being solutions-oriented? Our program connects interns with companies for project-based learning opportunities that provide that platform to take problem-solving to the next level.

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Are You Solving a Problem or Building a Solution?

Building solutions and problems solving may sound the same but there is a significant difference. They are both important responses to challenges but one is more in the moment and the other is about sustainability. In workforce development, solving a problem would be getting people into jobs. Building solutions would be to develop social financial and intellectual capital so that our alumni are change agents in the community using technology process and systems thinking to build real solutions in business and at home.

Steve Nahrup & Matthew Dickerson – “A Chance Meeting – A Chance Mentor”

i.c.stars intern Matthew Dickerson’s boldness prompted him to reach out and introduce himself to some people he’d seen around the i.c.stars office building on a few different occasions. So he struck up a conversation with Steve Nahrup, a Senior Account Manager at HelloWorld. They talked about Matt’s current project with Kraft. Later, Matt asked Steve if he could pick his brain over coffee. This led to a friendship, and ultimately, an invitation to High Tea. The opportunity that Matt created is significant because as I noted in my prior blog, I’m fighting to bring mentorship to the table at i.c.stars mentorship is critical to being able to build solutions in our personal and professional communities.

tlevy1913's picture

Fighting to Make a Dream a Reality

I’ve always considered myself as a sort of quasi-teacher, lending advice and mentorship to those who sought it out. I was a recruiter for many years, but I really wanted to do something with my life that meant something more, something that would create change. I pulled away from the corporate world and dove into education. Ultimately, I have a passion for curriculum design and development, for really digging deep into its different aspects, (especially math) and how curriculum affects our children. But I couldn’t really do that effectively if I didn’t know how classroom teachers are affected by the curriculum written for them on a day-to-day basis. It’s somewhat similar to being a consultant; you can’t consult about something if you’ve never done that particular job before.

Fighting to Bring Mentorship to the Table

As the Development Director at i.c.stars, I am fortunate to get to meet the leaders of many organizations - people who help solve problems in talent retention, hiring, and business development. This is not a typical role for many nonprofit development professionals. We are more traditionally thought of as fundraisers who seek donations for our charities. However, i.c.stars is not a charity. We are a not-for-profit with a cause.

The best gift our partner companies can offer us is their time. The first step in getting involved with i.c.stars is coming to High Tea. We have been fortunate to have many C-level executives attend High Tea. They are great leaders and great people who help our interns expand their network. These executives are key to opening the door to the people in their companies that will be directly managing our interns when they leave i.c.stars. The voice of direct managers is so important at our tea table because once our interns are hired, the next natural step in their career progression is management.

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Fighting to Define the Value of Content Marketing

Through i.c.stars’ work in the digital marketing space, we’re constantly striving to define the value of content marketing for our clients in terms that business-minded individuals can easily grasp and evaluate.

When we started 8 years ago, i.c.stars purchased Google Adwords for recruiting purposes, that resulted in what is called cost-per-click metrics. But we quickly discovered that a click is a marketing outcome, not a business outcome - and we weren’t receiving the data and feedback we needed to improve actual outcomes, e.g. people enrolled in the program. As the technology progressed, we learned to use Google Adwords for tracking cost-per-conversion.

skastrul's picture

Fighting For vs Loving For

Fighting and Loving for Change

The theme for our annual Stakeholders’ event this year, which was held on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, was “What is struggle? And how has this concept changed over time?” Our elders and ancestors were part of a struggle - part of the movement for civil rights, freedom or otherwise. All of the movements were seen as a struggle, and it was everyone’s struggle.

elannert's picture

Resolving to Make Metrics Meaningful

Metrics, metrics, metrics. As I look back on the whirlwind of a year that was 2013, I like to reflect on the momentous importance of metrics in our content marketing operations. We’ve been running this program for more than two years now, and we always knew that metrics were going to play a huge role. In 2013, we all spent a lot of energy trying different ways to find metrics, create dashboards and devise a way to handle answering simple questions like:

*What is the health of any given account?
*What is the health of our operation?
*When can we hire more people?
*How we are growing?

DebsCane's picture

Shining at i.c.stars

This will be my final post for the i.c.stars blog, as after 7 cycles as Training Program Manager, I have finally graduated with Cycle 29. Have I learned all there is to know from i.c.stars?

Amanda Hogan's picture

Developing 2014: Looking Ahead to a New Year of Connections and Innovation

i.c.stars is an environment that is electric with new ideas and high energy. As the interns prepare hit the market with all their skills and excitement, and the i.c.stars Social Enterprise brainstorms how to best stay ahead of the curve with their social media services, it’s hard to be complacent. As a member of the development team at i.c.stars, it’s exciting to be a part of putting together the agenda for i.c.stars 2014 events.

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A Look Back at a Shiny 2013

So, it’s 2014 and we’ve just come off the holidays and the commencement of Cycle 29. They are hitting the marketplace with all of their skills and the art of their transformation as they wrap up what has been an amazing process. The other great thing about commencement is that the definition of the word, even though it happens at the end of something, is “a beginning.” It is not an end. And although they commence during their fourth month of the thousand-hour training that they’ve completed, this time is really their “fourth quarter.”

skastrul's picture

Courage for Change

You may remember my series on “(T)hugs for Change,” as part of that series I recently sat down for a candid conversation with Roy Singham, CEO and founder of Thoughtworks. Roy is one of those people - another inspirational “t(hug),” whose dedication and energy permeates every room he walks into, making his passion contagious. I thoroughly enjoyed learning about what Roy believes is needed to make true change happen in the tech community, with the hope that it will be the catalyst to social change worldwide. This is part one of three. I would like to express my gratitude to Roy for his generous gift of Thought leadership.

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Effective Digital Content Strategy is Rooted In Gratitude

It wouldn’t be November if we didn’t eat turkey, lament about the rapidly dipping temperatures, and most importantly, express our thankfulness. As content creators, we also think of gratitude as a celebration of the benefit of what one has received or will receive when it comes to creating an effective strategy.

DebsCane's picture

Give to Get: A legacy of gratitude

Gratitude doesn’t stop at the realization that people have made a difference in your life. It’s being able to express that to them in a way that goes beyond a simple thank you - a way that is authentic, genuine, and attempts to give back as much as the person has given you.

Developing Memorable Experiences - Pop Rocks, Tea and 3D Glasses

I love this time of year because it really encourages each of us to be mindful of the gifts we give and receive on a daily basis. To me, “gift giving and gratitude” means that we are always looking for something that will spark a memory in someone. Why? Because a memory leaves a great, emotional impression.

skastrul's picture

Defining Gratitude

Gratitude is the grace in which we acknowledge nourishment.

bdunagan's picture

The Makings of A Revolutionary in Education

This is part II of the conversation with Mr. Anthony James about the social responsibility that teachers have as educators. Mr. James shares a bit more about his background in education and how educators are helping to shape the lives of their pupils.

I picked you as my “Thug for Change” because you really made a big change in my life via education. You made me realize that I could do it if I just had certain tools, and if I had somebody patient enough to push me along so I wouldn’t just give up. Are there any things that you’re doing to prepare students for the challenges that they have in front of them?

Amanda Hogan's picture

A Trip Through the New TechBash!

This year, TechBash will look a little different than it has in previous years. The important things will stay the same - the great networking opportunities, hob-nobbing with the i.c.stars community, and of course, the open bar. However, this year the CIOs will be coming out to socialize and support i.c.stars as celebrities!

The event will kick off with a “Step and Repeat” just after check-in. For those of you who haven’t been on the red carpet recently, step and repeat is the setup where photographers are lined up behind a red rope to get a shot of the celebrities walking down the red carpet. Practice your winning smile, and be ready to be caught by the paparazzi as you walk the red carpet into the event! Photos will be available after the event upon request, and select shots will be featured on the i.cstars website.

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Experiencing CUSP: The Design of Everything

Sandee Kastrul and Deborah Cane on Experiencing CUSP: Bagpipes, Food Allergies and Serendipity.

Every fall, the auditorium at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago is transformed into an interesting human chemistry experiment. The CUSP conference, curated and produced by Multiple Chicago, a design strategy firm, brings diverse designers together to talk about their latest projects and their most original thinking. The experience of CUSP is unlike any other; the randomness, the unexpected feelings, the networking, the amazing speakers, the way it makes you think about everything differently. Sandee and I are so grateful to know Dave Mason, one of the curators, who generously provides us the opportunity to attend the most thought-provoking conference we go to all year.

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: