The Chicago Center for Arts and Technology (CHICAT), a nonprofit based on the Near West Side that offers after school arts classes for the young people and job certification programs for adults, is looking to recruit more students from the West Side, particularly North Lawndale.

Located at 1701 W. 13th St., the center enrolls students from across the city, but they put special emphasis on students from the neighboring Pilsen, Little Village and North Lawndale, because of the proximity and because they felt these areas were where they could make the most impact. 

Currently, around 29 percent of all youth and 4 percent of all adults enrolled in their programs live in North Lawndale, and the center wants to get those numbers even higher. 

Lisa Moultrie, CHICAT’s executive director, said that West Side neighborhoods don’t have as many after school and career development opportunities as many other parts of the city. The nonprofit’s programs help fill that gap. 

Founded in 2017, the center takes its cues from Pittsburgh-based Manchester Bidwell Corporation, whose art education is based on three principals: that a safe, respectful environment encourages positive behavior; that anyone has potential to succeed if they have the right tools; and that creativity encourages entrepreneurship. 

“CHICAT is focused on engaging individuals who don’t have the greatest access to a range of enriching educational activities centered around arts and technology due to their racial, ethnic or economic identity,” she said.

Moultrie said that they currently have 72 North Lawndale teens in their programs. 

“Increasing engagement and participation in our programs among North Lawndale residents is a priority for us and we work hard to do so,” she said. 

The programs are free and CHICAT pays for student course materials. For adult students, CHICAT covers the cost of the certification exams. 

The center currently offers classes for middle-schoolers and high-schoolers. According to CHICAT’s website, middle school classes teach them how to design characters in two-dimensional and three-dimensional media. 

High school programs include a class on how to make augmented reality filters for smartphones, a fashion photography class, and a general art class. While the middle school classes have already started, high school classes will start on Oct. 12. 

“Our youth arts curriculum integrates art and technology as key tools to teach students how to design their own futures,” Moultrie said. “The arts provide a methodology to design, create, and iterate, while technology provides tools for creation and engagement.”

For adults, the center offers workforce development programs for students trying to get certification in health information technology, mechanical maintenance and food quality control. 

“The adult education programs we offer are informed by industry trends and focus on creating pathways to careers in high-demand fields that pay livable, sustainable wages,” Moultrie said. “We focus on technology to develop marketable skills and as a means of economic advancement.”

While CHICAT classes are happening in-person this fall, with all students required to wear masks, they offered remote courses during the pandemic.

“In the past four years, we’ve trained, certified and placed over 100 individuals in careers in manufacturing and health information technology,” she said. “Sixty percent of our students enter the program with zero income and go on to make an average starting salary of $42,000, plus benefits.”

For more information about CHICAT and its programs, visit https://chicat.org/