CHANCE teaches young men to build cars, learn STEM subjects

July 24, 2013 4:20:05 PM PDT
The Black Caucus is raising awareness on a national scale about the issues African-American males face. In Chicago, the hard work of improving those young lives is already under way.

Dozens of young African-American men are part of a program at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

"Never settle for mediocrity. Always shoot for the stars and above," said Brady Middleton, junior, Chicago H.S. for Agricultural Sciences.

"I don't want to stay in one spot... and just sit around. Do something and move forward," said Mitchell Thomas, senior, ACE Technology Charter H.S.

"Just find a goal in your mind... and just chase after that goal," said Victor Banjoko, junior, Southland College Prep Charter H.S.

The goal is to learn about STEM subjects - science, technology, engineering and math - by assembling cars, piece by piece.

"I'm an engineer myself... through this early education, through early involvement in programs like this... they can achieve their dreams and they can be successful in life," said Jason Coleman, Project SYNcERE.

These juniors and seniors - many from Chicago public housing - are taking part in a six-week program at UIC. It's called "A Chance for Change STEM Camp." Learning the engineering of building a car is one lesson, there are life lessons, too.

"It's about preparing these young men... giving them leadership skill, teaching them self-advocacy so they can venture on and do whatever they want in life," said Kendal Parker, UIC CHANCE program director.

They understand the challenges.

"To be successful as a young, black man... in our community you have to put your head in the game. You have to concentrate on what you're after," Banjoko said.

"I just come from a family where we work hard... and morals and everything. I just feel like this program is a plus for me and my future. I'm just so happy," said Middleton.

"This program has made me see... I can do better. There are people out there, if you think you're better... there is always someone better than you... and the goal is you want to be number one," said Banjoko.

This is the program's fourth year. The program gets dozens of applications. This year, 40 young people are in the program, which wraps up next week.

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