There’s no “I” in robot: CYC’s robotics program teaches teamwork, collaboration, and employable skills

There’s no “I” in robot: CYC’s robotics program teaches teamwork, collaboration, and employable skills

The Crown Commanders, CYC’s first robotics team, had never built a robot before this year.

But with some coding skills, creative brainstorming sessions, a few late nights, and a whole lot of teamwork, the Crown Commanders entered into the Illinois Regional FIRST Tech Challenge.

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Prepare for Impact: 19 CYC-Sidney Epstein Youth Center Prepare for College Graduation

They are future lawyers, engineers, entrepreneurs, and social workers. They are studying computer science, business law, psychology, and photography. They are CYC-Sidney Epstein Youth Center's college graduating class of 2016 and they are ready to make their mark on the world. These 19 scholars form CYC's biggest college graduating class. Two are Epstein Scholars and several are ITW Watson scholars. Their interests are varied, and their future ambitions span professional industries, but their stories share a common thread: CYC helped launch them into the world.

“In the College and Career Readiness Resource Room at CYC-Sidney Epstein Youth Center, there is a map of push pins along with pictures,” said Center Director Roberta Douglas."Every pin represents a CYC member of CYC-Sidney Epstein Youth Center who is away at college. Every pin represents a story. A story of overcoming, ignoring the statistics, beating the everyday odds; for one teen it might be the death of a parent, for another it might be a parent or sibling incarcerated, homelessness, drug addiction, or poverty. Every pin represents the commonality of our youth; they all came through CYC-Sidney Epstein Youth Center. They all made the conscious decision, with the support of CYC staff, family, school personnel, and every other positive person in their lives, to look beyond their past and environment and embrace the future. At CYC they discovered and realized their full potential.”

CYC’s College and Career Readiness Program, a component of CYC’s Teen Leadership Development Program, provides teens with guidance and support as they prepare for post-secondary education and a career. CYC’s staff helps teens prepare for college entrance exams, craft competitive entry applications, and apply for financial aid. They also provide career modeling and exploration, and help teens connect their passions and talents to possible career tracks.

“CYC prepared me for college intellectually and financially,” explained Cheyenne Dyer, Dominican University '16. “Through CYC workshops, I learned how to write my college essay, how to apply for financial aid, and how to understand which financial aid packages I received best fit my financial need.”

The workshops, though, were not what made the biggest impression on Cheyenne. It was the dedication of the College and Career Program Coordinator, Kimberly George, who went the extra mile, literally—driving Cheyenne to Dominican University for campus tours and their accepted students’ day. “Ms. Kim drove to my house and picked me up on numerous Saturday mornings to take me to college tours,” he said. “That is pivotal to me being where I am today.”

Cheyenne is applying to graduate schools to launch a career in social work, a path he discovered he wanted to pursue while he was at CYC. (Read our full interview with Cheyenne here)

Shaquia Johnson, Mississippi Valley State University '16, hopes to work for a Fortune 500 company after graduating with her degree in computer science. She is thriving in college and a member of many clubs. “The positive vibes [at CYC-Sidney Epstein Youth Center] shaped me into the independent person I became at Mississippi Valley State University," she said. "My college experience showed me that people can look the exact same on paper but it takes networking, social skills, and experience to have the upper hand. Being the president of both Zeta Phi Beta Sorority and the Mathematics, Computer and Information Sciences Department has given me the networking opportunities that I plan to use for a lifetime.”

The alumni roster is filled with stories like these. Sylvia Roudez wants to open her own hair salon—with the hope of ultimately franchising. Cynthia Jimenez will pursue a career in healthcare. Ariana Bell, who began taking photography classes at the Art Institute in high school through a CYC scholarship program, is continuing to hone her talent for photography.

Another theme that unites these scholars is a desire to give back. “I want to go back to my community to assist at-risk youth and encourage them to make good choices,” explained Cheyenne. “I want them to seek the opportunities that I did to expand their horizons beyond a five to ten block radius.”

Cynthia added, “The biggest thing I want to achieve post college graduation is recognition for my degree in order to encourage the Latino community, especially women in Humboldt Park, that anything is possible. That includes being a college graduate.”

With alumni like Cheyenne, Cynthia, Shaquia, Sylvia, and Ariana, we have a feeling that the pushpins on the map at CYC-Sidney Epstein Youth Center will be growing exponentially.

Interview with Cheyenne Dyer, CYC Alumnus

Epstein Scholar Cheyenne Dyer, Dominican University class of '16, explains how CYC and a college education shaped his future

Home Center: CYC-Sidney Epstein Youth Center, North Lawndale

College: Dominican University

Major: Psychology

Minor: Women and Gender Studies

Post-Grad Plans: Applying to graduate school programs to pursue a career in social work

How did CYC prepare you for college?

CYC prepared me for college intellectually and financially. Through CYC workshops, I learned how to write my college essay, how to apply for financial aid, and how to understand which financial aid packages I received best fit my financial needs. The biggest thing though was the staff that fully invested in me and my future. Ms. Kim [College and Career Program Coordinator, Kimberly George] actually drove to my house on numerous occasions and picked me up on a Saturday mornings to visit different college campuses throughout the Chicago area. She went with me to Dominican University for the college tour and the accepted students' day. That is pivotal to me being where I am today.

What made you want to pursue social work as a career?

My time at CYC helped me figure out what I wanted to do. I want to go back to my community to assist at-risk youth and encourage them to make good choices. I want them to seek the opportunities that I had to expand their horizons beyond a five to ten block radius.

Since going to Dominican, I’ve become aware of the social institutions people are governed by and how these institutions marginalize disadvantaged communities. I’ve been able to study this phenomenon from the perspective of psychology as well as the perspective of sociology. So many of my peers are victims and they become victimizers because of their situations and the communities they live in. That’s why I want to go into social work and community development and work with youth like myself and help them break these structural barriers to success.

This knowledge and this desire was something that developed in me during my time at Dominican and it’s something that is developing every day as I continue to grow and learn both in and outside the classroom.

In what ways are you learning outside the classroom?

One of my favorite things about Dominican is the opportunity to learn outside the classroom. The school hosts many speakers and panels on everything from politics to the environment. They also encourage service learning and travel. Last year, I participated in a nine-day “Civil Rights Pilgrimage” that took me and a group of students throughout the American South to immerse ourselves in the places of the Civil Rights Movement. I had never traveled further South than Missouri, so that was a real eye-opener seeing a culture so different than the city life I’ve always known. We celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Selma-Montgomery marches in Selma. We visited the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham. The most moving experience for me was more of a modern human rights experience. We visited a convent in Atlanta that runs a school for refugee girls. These girls were from Africa, Asia, the Middle East, from communities where they had been persecuted, abandoned, and unable to receive an education. Seeing that school brought me to tears. It was so profound to see the things I had read about in books and in PowerPoint decks first hand—to see these girls who had been marginalized, now empowered.

Overall, how has your experience at college shaped who you are today?

College has given me the necessary critical tools I need in order to prosper in the work world. I know how to think critically, both objectively and subjectively, about concrete and abstract ideas. College has taught me things that elementary and high school could never teach me. This experience is uplifting and should be shared by all of my native peers if only they had the same opportunities and mindset that I had. With that said, I hope to expose my peers to the richness of the world and the experiences that they are missing out on and help them achieve their full potential.