Student-run cooperative opens in Chicago's Austin neighborhood

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By Community Editor

Courtesy Dennis Kelleher

Four African-American high school students at the Austin Polytechnical Academy (APA) in Chicago are applying their computer-aided manufacturing skills to a new worker-run business. The cooperative, called MECH Creations, will manufacture trumpet mouthpieces at APA, 231 N. Pine Avenue, Chicago, IL. With assistance from the Center for Workplace Democracy (CDW) and Manufacturing Renaissance (formerly Center for Community and Labor Research), the students, now business owners, have secured a patented design, created a business plan, acquired materials, and are ready to begin production this May.

"We're starting MECH Creations to bring new business to our community," says Jennifer Curtis, a 18-year-old student at APA. "We are four young women who will work for ourselves and our neighborhood to show that anything is possible for young people."

MECH Creations will be debuted to the Austin community, and the city at large, on May 16th. Students will host a neighborhood event at 5pm, at APA, where they will present their plans and goals, and screen the documentary film, "Shift Change," which tells the story of worker cooperative businesses that compete successfully in today's economy.

"In school, we learned about the Mondragon Cooperative, the world's largest worker-owned cooperative in Spain," says Desiree Wordlaw. "It was started by five young people who attended a technical school that Austin Polytech was modeled after. We hope we can be as successful as them, and help bring money and jobs back to Austin."

The Center for Workplace Democracy's mission is to develop strong local economies and grow small businesses by promoting worker owned cooperatives, and other models of employee ownership.

"Chicago's schools are full of graduating seniors without job prospects," says Dennis Kelleher, Executive Director, Center for Workplace Democracy. "We're partnering with students at Austin Polytech to support the idea that young people can start and run their own businesses, and take a leading role in revitalizing their communities."

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