Technology Ambassadors Give Back To Their Commuities 

“This is the i.c.stars vision: teaching IT skills and encouraging us to apply those skills in the community. We can be servant leaders in our neighborhoods and role models to the kids who live there now,” said Larry Cowans, i.c.stars Program Manager and Graduate.

i.c.stars’ mission is IT training and workforce development, addressing low-skill jobs and lack of opportunity in the inner-city. It’s also about sustaining this development by cultivating leaders who can drive change in their communities. Cohorts are encouraged to look around their neighborhoods and find ways to leverage their skills to benefit others. The i.c.stars Teachers Bureau is one example of that community impact. 

“This is the i.c.stars vision: teaching skills and how to take those skills to help the community. So when the opportunity came to work with the Illinois Fatherhood Initiative, we were on it” said Cowans.

The IFI runs an essay contest each year, inviting kids to write about what their dads mean to them.
“It was all on paper, making copies, using snail mail—slow and tedious, done through teachers and schools. (Fellow i.c.stars graduate) Ehi, myself, and others from i.c.stars came together to help. We set out to enhance the existing IFI website to give it more functionality.” 

The site is used to announce the contest, host all relative information, upload the entries, and spotlight the winners. “We applied our tech skills to the community’s needs. The teachers loved it, manual processes were automated for stakeholders and the contest grew”, said Cowans. 

This was the first project of the Teachers Bureau, an initiative to leverage i.c.stars alumni for the benefit of the community – through technology capacity building and digital literacy skills training.

“I can’t begin to tell you how amazing it’s been to have the support of ic stars,” said Scot Marcotte, President, Illinois Fatherhood Initiative. “Not just in the tech strategic guidance we’ve received, but also in the active involvement the team has provided in almost every aspect of our mission. The team is eager to help, creative in their ideas, and energetic in their desire to help us make a difference. I believe the work they have been doing will be of great value to similar CBO’s and non-profits like ours.”  

Through a partnership with Microsoft, Avanade coached the i.c.stars graduates in the Teacher’s Bureau to conduct technology needs assessments of community-based organizations. This builds on the skills they acquired during i.c.stars – and throughout their careers. The Microsoft partnership also allowed for the building of a learning portal, which is used for the Teacher’s Bureau and for the ongoing education of i.c.stars graduates. 

“I believe the challenges out there can be solved– climate justice, social justice, good schools, and good health—through the strong voices of community leaders” said Cowans. “i.c.stars showed us how to be leaders and problem solvers.”

Support for the Teacher’s Bureau has been generously provided by Comcast NBCUniversal Foundation.