Envision Chicago — A new Civic Program from The OpenGov Foundation

| Shelley Stern Grach

The student winners of #EnvisionChicago. Photo by @ComcastILLINOIS.

You know that saying about big oaks growing from little acorns? We are growing some beautiful, big oaks in Chicago which will continue to flourish and spread their branches for years to come.

This past year, Microsoft and other organizations partnered with The OpenGov Foundation on a new program, Envision Chicago. The goal of the program is to provide scholarships and hands-on teaching of civics to the next generation of local, young leaders through positive, personal and tech-powered civic engagement.   Microsoft was honored to be one of the supporters of Envision and we partnered with our Early College STEM School, Lake View High School. In partnership with City Clerk Susana Mendoza and Lake View Alderman Ameya Pawar, the students participated in a program that focused on municipal code and the ChicagoCode.org website, and learned how their ideas could become law on the Chicago City Council.

Each student focused on an issue that they personally cared about, and four winning student ideas were recognized on July 20th at the City Council meeting. In addition, each student selected received a $1000 scholarship.

This year’s pilot was only the beginning. We learned how to bring elected officials into a local, neighborhood school and get real time student feedback. We learned how to use technology to review, adjust and recommend improvements in the City code. We learned what a “wow” impact it is to bring our youth into the inner sanctum of City Council Chambers and observe a Council meeting at work.

Our thanks to City Clerk Mendoza, Aldermen Roberto Maldonado, Carrie Austin, Anthony Napolitano and Ameya Pawar and their staffs for their support and participation. Special thanks to The OpenGov Foundation team Julia Ellis, Meag Doherty, Nicko Margolies and Seamus Kraft. Special shoutout to our teachers and faculty at Lake View High School for their willingness to pilot a new program. We’re really looking forward to seeing this “acorn” grow and watch our high school youth experience civics on the live stage and become true leaders in the democratic process.

We’ve included some of the top tweets from #EnvisionChicago here:


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Shelley Stern Grach

They say that great work stems from a combination of passion and commitment, something that Shelley certainly possesses when it comes to her life and career. She currently serves on the boards of the Women’s Business Development Center, the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, Thrive Chicago, Year Up and LISC Chicago. At Microsoft Chicago, she’s the Director of Civic Engagement, working at the intersection of computing and community, promoting STEM programs and using Microsoft technology to spur growth in the community. So no matter if it's work, play, or giving back, Shelley always makes sure her drive and professionalism help her complete her life's goals.