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Youth Jobs Provide "Smart" Results in Auburn Gresham

State Senator Jacqueline Collins (R) acknowledges several youth who participated in the Southwest Side's Smart Communities Initiatives at the Martin Luther King Skating Rink in Auburn Gresham.

Ernest Sanders

As part of its Smart Communities initiative and efforts to sustain the greater Auburn Gresham community and nearby neighborhoods, the Greater Auburn-Gresham Development Corporation (GADC) employed and contracted with youth between the ages of 14 – 19 to increase the quality of life of its businesses and residents.

Digital Youth Summer Jobs (DYSJ)

In partnership with the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC/Chicago) and the City of Chicago, GADC received federal stimulus dollars through the Broadband Technology Opportunity Program (BTOP) to support a comprehensive broadband adoption campaign in its community.

Cover page for the Southwest Smart Communities Plan.

Southwest Smart Communities Partners

As part of this campaign, GADC led a Digital Youth Summer Jobs (DYSJ) program to serve 12 youth for eight weeks. The program’s purpose was to provide an opportunity for youth to obtain digital life skills training, work readiness training, work experience and career knowledge through classroom training and internship opportunities within businesses, governmental agencies and not-for-profit organizations in technology-related fields.

GADC partnered with several businesses and organizations to accomplish this feat. For employment they included Urban Gateways, The ARK of Saint Sabina, GADC, New Pisgah Missionary Baptist Church - Day Care, W.A.T.C.H., Kidz Korna, Selvam Limited, Blue Ocean Logic, and NAVTEQ. For life skills and supplemental training partners included the 006th District Chicago Police Department, Saint Sabina Employment Resource Center, Marquette Bank, and Common Sense Media.

Smart Communities Manager, Norma Sanders (L), poses with several staff members of New Pisgah Community Service Organization and GADC's DSYJ intern, Jermaine Martin (R) in the lobby of the New Pisgah Haven Homes in Auburn Gresham.

New Pisgah Community Service Organization

Jermaine Martin, a DYSJ participant worked at GADC for the past eight weeks to enhance his technical capacity and media skills. For example he interviewed representatives from the New Pisgah Community Service Organization regarding their first comprehensive health fair. Martin was able to take photos of the health fair and discover New Pisgah’s wellness center for seniors. Martin also learned of New Pisgah’s interest in partnering with GADC’s Health Fair on the Block. At the end of the DYSJ, eligible youth received a free Mac Pro Notebook.

Southside Resource Mapping Project

The Greater Auburn-Gresham Development Corporation (GADC) in partnership with faculty and staff of the University of Chicago’s Urban Health Initiative: South Side Health and Vitality Studies conducted a mapping of assets in Auburn Gresham and surrounding communities. The purpose of this study was to better understand how these resources and services affect the health of South Side communities.

The Auburn Gresham Resource Mapping team join with Eric Whitaker, MD (L), Daniel Johnson, MD (LR) and Stacy Lindau, MD (R) for a landmarking photo to commemorate the completion of asset mapping in Auburn Gresham.

Thuy Tran

In a separate collaboration with After School Matters (ASM), ten GADC student interns and one instructor/supervisor received stipends from ASM to mapped Auburn Gresham and a portion of Englewood.

As part of their daily engagement of these communities, students 1) walked or drove up and down city blocks collecting information about neighborhood resources, 2) checked addresses with Sprint smart phones for places that provide all kinds of services in the community, and 3) looked for all the different kinds of places that provided services (from food, transportation, and housing, to social services, medical and other things).

Today this project is continuing with partnerships with the State of Illinois to complete the remainder of the Englewood and Chicago Lawn communities, while also attempting to identify state-funded agencies.

The Auburn Gresham Resource Mapping team walked up and down 79th Street, a major business corridor and thoroughfare in Auburn Gresham to collect data and map assets using Sprint smart phones.

Ernest Sanders

Once the assets in the communities are mapped, the data is uploaded to an on-line information center at When it is completed, community residents and community-based organizations can use the website to:

  • View a comprehensive list of the resources and services available in their neighborhoods that impact the overall health of a community.
  • List services of South Side community organizations.
  • Provide information about many types of places: private businesses, non-profit health and social service organizations, and public agencies.
  • Create information maps of their area.
  • Be listed on the Southwest Smart Communities Portal (under development by GADC)

Art Options

Urban Gateways Art Options' students show off their style at the Museum of Comtemporary Arts.

Norma Sanders

GADC’s arts education partner, Urban Gateways, provided their Art Options (AO) program in Auburn Gresham for a third consecutive year. AO provides a summer apprenticeship program for middle and high school youth and enables them to focus on in-depth art-making (theatre, visual art, digital media - film/video/graphic design, and poetry, etc). The programs in Auburn Gresham have involved young people in the construction of community-based arts projects that ask questions, educate around issues, provoke and inspire deep critical thinking, and elicit some kind of change in their community.

The program’s curriculum uses skill-building in the arts to motivate students and experience the arts beyond the classroom, offering an authentic studio experience, extended learning time, and compensation for their commitment to achieving program goals.

Art Options students pose in front of the Museum of Contemporary Arts.

MCA Visitor

This year’s AO program focused on the one of the Southwest Side’s digital excellence projects regarding community website portals. Hondo Lawrence, a professional digital media artist, guided ten youth from Auburn Gresham to connect art-making skills to community and issue-driven projects and themes that were important to their lives and identities. The essence of their work (primarily contemporary art and graphic design) provided a basis for Auburn Gresham kiosks, donated by Hewlett Packard, as interactive vehicles for community messaging through media arts. 

Students in this residency accelerated their digital fluency using graphic design as their ultimate platform using software programs such as Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator. They created logos, tee-shirt designs, flyers, banners, and posters to represent and promote the Auburn Gresham community. Because of their creative expression, their work will evoke increased awareness and thoughtfulness of young people and give them voice to advocate and resolve social issues in their own communities.


To foster and promote revitalization of the community by designing and implementing programs that improve the community’s economic viability; increase availability of quality housing to people of different income levels, while maintaining and improving existing affordable housing; and enhance delivery of social services, particularly to senior citizens.

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