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

Chicago—March 23, 2017 i.c.stars today announced that three of its alumni started new programs in March, reinforcing the Chicago-based non-profit’s role in helping fuel the Chicago makers boom. Cylk Jackson, winner of i.c.stars’ Enterprise Next (Enext) lean startup challenge, was accepted into Code2040’s Entrepreneur in Residence program at Chicago tech and entrepreneurship center1871; Tiffany Mikell was accepted into 1871’s Wi-STEM – a curriculum-based program that connects women to capital, community, and technology resources – to develop her social learning platform; and Joe Harvey, co-founder of City Incite, a 501c3 non-profit organization, just launched expanded programming with YouthBuild, serving disconnected teens and young adults.

“i.c.stars has long planted the seeds of entrepreneurship through its focus on innovation and building,” said Sandee Kastrul, president and co-founder, i.c.stars. “Our core job skills training helps participants shift from consumer to creator. Building on this foundation, and on our social enterprise, we launched Enext, our lean start-up training and incubator for alumni in 2016. Cylk, Tiffany and Joe are wonderful examples of what i.c.stars can do for individuals and the Chicago tech community.”
Immediately after graduating from i.c.stars, Cylk Jackson worked as a scrum master and technical project manager in the financial and healthcare sectors. After a few years, his passion for music prompted him to participate in i.c.stars’ Enext alumni program, where he received lean startup training and incubated his music technology startup, StudiOasis.

“Enext is an invaluable learning experience for entrepreneurs,” said Jackson. “The lean startup guidance helps you find out quickly what works and what doesn’t. Moreover, the program has given me a great deal of confidence in my ability to run a business efficiently.”

Selected for 1871’s Wi-STEM program – which has raised more than $7 million in funding for Chicago women entrepreneurs – Tiffany Mikell also started her career in the corporate tech world as a software engineer for Accenture. In 2015, Mikell cofounded AerialSpaces, an app for creating live immersive online learning environments. One of AerialSpaces’ first customers was Github, in collaboration with The White House’s ConnectHome digital literacy initiative — reaching over 27,000 low-income learners nationally. Mikell’s work has been featured in local and national media and she recently pitched AerialSpaces at the Technori startup showcase.

i.c.stars alumni are not only in the for-profit space. Social entrepreneur Joseph Harvey recently expanded the programming of the youth-serving nonprofit he cofounded, City Incite. In March, in partnership with Metropolitan Family Services, City Incite launched the Department of Labor-funded Metro YouthBuild Program to train 17 to 24 year olds in construction skills and leadership development. Harvey hired fellow i.c.stars alumnus Marcus Lee to help run the program.

“When I first applied for i.c.stars in 2008, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do as a career,” said Harvey. “When Sandee told me about the commitment to create 1000 community leaders, I knew this was the place for me. i.c.stars has been the greatest resource in my personal development as a leader.”

The i.c.stars training program responsible for developing these entrepreneurs was made possible with support from the Workday Foundation, The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation and The Chicago Community Trust, among others. Beyond individual impact, i.c.stars is part of Chicago’s rich technology workforce and entrepreneurial ecosystem. Partners include Smart Chicago, Women Tech Founders, The Resurrection Project, MHub, Goodcity, and Black Tech Mecca, among others.

Formed in 1999, Inner-City Computer Stars Foundation (i.c.stars) is a Chicago-based nonprofit organization and social enterprise that prepares young adults for technology careers and community leadership. Using project-based learning and full-immersion teaching, i.c.stars has trained more than 360 individuals in Chicago, and places 90 percent of qualified graduates in jobs. Participants see their annual earnings increase by an average of 450 percent as a result of the program. In 2016, i.c.stars launched an affiliate in Columbus, Ohio, and created Enterprise Next, a lean startup incubator to jumpstart alumni businesses. Learn more at: www.icstars.org