Helping CHA Students “Take Flight”

 |   Shelley Stern Grach

cha-event
Photo via CHA, Twitter.

We spend a lot of time in Chicago focusing on helping CPS students get into college. But how do we help ensure they are successful and connecting to the business world while they are in college?

The terrific team at the Chicago Housing Authority has an answer: The “Take Flight: Staying the Course” Program. Managed by Crystal C. Coats,  Senior Manager, Corporate and External Partnerships, the “Take Flight” program focuses on CHA students who are in college (mostly freshmen-juniors) who grew up in the CHA community, and who are getting velvet glove treatment to make sure they are doing well, in college, have a resource network locally, and are introduced to prospective employers for jobs after they graduate.

Microsoft Chicago was honored to support this program. The students were coached on how to interact with the “Professionals” while over 20 organizations hosted tables for a round-robin speed dating discussion with the students. The Professionals ranged from theatre and arts to health care and technology. All provided a career path or internships for the students to learn about. Many thanks to the following organizations for providing time, talent and guidance to the students:

cha-to-doAt the Microsoft table, we had a steady flow of inquiries and questions. It was clear to me that CHA have selected a wonderful group of students, who were doing well in college (many were outside of Chicago so we also discussed their first “away” experience), interested in internships and planning for their career, or just looking for advice as they decided on their area of concentration or major. I was especially impressed with:

  • A young lady who was majoring in Computer Science. When I asked her how she became interested in CS, she said it was from a summer camp she attended at IIT/Illinois Tech while in high school. Hats off to IIT!
  • A great conversation with a young lady who had recently switched her major to Criminal Justice. We are both fans of the “Chicago PD” TV show and we discussed the previous night’s episode. An unspeakable crime was solved using Big Data to analyze DNA sample matches to narrow down and identify the suspect. She didn’t realize the connection to software in helping solve crimes. It was a fun, enlightening conversation on both sides.

Congratulations to the entire CHA team for developing and flawlessly executing such an important milestone for their students. We were honored to participate and look forward to future events.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Shelley Stern Grach
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.