The Destination Chicago Van, put on by the Chicago Digital Youth Network and Chicago City of Learning, hit the road this summer and brought technology-centered learning to communities that might not otherwise have it.
The van went to various places around the city such as parks, libraries and community centers. One even took place at Chicago’s Greater Grand Crossing Library for a Minecraft camp, a week long camp where youths ages 10-14 learned to build and explore and interactive world. The library is located in the South Shore neighborhood, an area that’s about an hour away from Millennium Park via public transit.
The van itself was equipped with mentors, laptops, and a wireless network, to be able to bring the online interactive game of Minecraft to youths.
“Kids who may not have the availability of technology at their school, at their home, or in their community, they can come to us and we’ll have it for them,” Dom Amato, mentor at Digital Youth Network said.
The van was started after looking at data from Chicago City of Learning and seeing there were areas in the city that don’t have easy access to learning programs.
The mayor’s office, DePaul’s Digital Youth Network, and Best Buy partnered together to fulfill the need for more learning programs in communities that lacked access.
Youth at the camp noted that it was nice to have a program close to their house so they don’t have to travel up to three hours for a program that’s only one hour. One participant said it’s a “huge hassle gone.”
“Downtown might be a good place to gather a lot of people from around the city but in areas like this, it’s easier to bring it to them,” Amato said.
The Destination Chicago Van focuses on bringing resources for learning to communities so that youths have the ability to attend events that let them explore their interests on their own block or neighborhood, not across town.
“We just bring everything to the kids and just kind of let them explore for themselves,” Jalen Jackson, mentor at Digital Youth Network said.
Now more than ever, younger generations are being driven by technology based learning and it’s important that students and youths are being able to experience and be immersed in it at a young age. Minecraft camp along with other coding, making and DIY programs put on by the Destination Chicago Van allow youths to learn skills that will be vital in the future.
“Programs such as this one provide access to technological resources and expertise which are not in huge supply in the area,” Kendra Mealy Wilk, Children’s Librarian at the Greater Grand Crossing Library said.