Meet the people of Chicat!

Meet the people of Chicat!

LaToya, Christian, and Lloyd Christian, Middle School Program – Maker Lab

LaToya and Lloyd have a bit of a drive to get their 14-year-old son, Christian, to Chicago Center for Arts and Technology’s (CHICAT) afterschool Middle School program. However, every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, they faithfully make the 45-minute drive. It shows a lot of dedication, teaching their son how to follow through on his commitments, and from what we have learned, Christian makes sure he gets to come every program day. We sat down with Lloyd and LaToya to learn about their decision to bring Christian to CHICAT and why they reaffirm that 3 times a week with the drive.

They found out about CHICAT from Facebook and started to do their research. They were drawn to CHICAT because they grew up in the area, were intrigued by the STEM focus, and liked the social aspect of the program as well. They have continued to come for a variety of reasons, not least of which, is that Christian enjoys it and wants to be here. He especially likes the robotics and 3D printing he has learned about. Aside from that, Lloyd and LaToya appreciate the offerings and their focus on technology and the future. Lloyd talks specifically about society as a whole not knowing “how” to do things anymore like fixing and building as opposed to just consuming. He likes that Christian is learning that “how” at CHICAT as well. They appreciate the diverse nature of the group and the social interaction in a structured environment that Christian is exposed to. Why folks come to CHICAT is easy to see. Why they continue to come is always interesting to learn.

Christian is a mature young man and has a habit of setting goals and consistently reaching them. He is moving himself forward. CHICAT allows him a vehicle to reach his goals and input himself in fields where his parents know it is important that he learns. Anyone who has met Christian, knows that big things are in store for this intelligent determined young man. This is in no small part due to his parents and, of course, Christian’s hard work. Christian will be back to CHICAT this summer if he doesn’t move first and we are sure he will be a credit to whichever high school he attends next. CHICAT is honored to be a part of his journey and work to enrich his life in arts and technology with programs and technology hard to find in any city even Chicago.

Vickie Lenoir Adult Education Program Manager

Meet our new Adult Education Program Manager, Vickie Lenoir. Vickie was hired in May of 2023.

What is your “why” or your inspiration for this type of work?

My why is to help inspire and encourage our youth and adults, particularly those from underprivileged communities to discover their talents and build their skills to not only enhance their self-worth but build better communities.

How have your experiences and roles led you to this role at CHICAT?

I have over 20 years of experience in the education field—nine years in elementary education and 17 plus years in adult education.  I’ve been a cohort manager and program manager for over 10 years.  I’ve have assisted with implementing curriculum and program changes that were quite successful and I believe that is what led me to this role at CHICAT.

You have tremendous experience higher education how do translate that to your work at CHICAT?

My years of experience in adult education is certainly helping me to evaluate, restructure, and bring about a cohesiveness in this program for the betterment of the
students, instructors, and staff.

Aside from a lot of hard work, what do you think has been the key to all your success?

I believe the key to my success is having passion, dedication, a strong desire to see our youth and adults succeed so they can show others how they can thrive and not just survive in their communities.
In your first few weeks what has impressed or surprised you about CHICAT?

There is great work to be done!  I am also impressed with those who are willing and are committed to making some positive changes to fulfill the mission.
What opportunities for growth do you see for CHICAT’S Adult Education Programs in the next year or two?

I see CHICAT in the next year or two expanding with new programs for adult education and, of course, increasing enrollment.

Shekeita Webb Senior Director of Education Excellence

Meet our Senior Director of Education Excellence, Shekeita Webb. Shekeita was hired in November of 2022

What is your “why” or your inspiration for this type of work?

I have dedicated much of my personal, educational, and professional journeys to helping secure adequate and equitable educational experiences to marginalized communities. My biggest inspiration is my experiences growing up on the west-side of Chicago and experiencing many deficits which align directly with those from marginalized communities. I have a valid empathy that frames my “why” for continually choosing this type of work.

You have tremendous experience. What is your career journey?

My career journey started twenty years ago when I fought to become a substitute educator after dropping out of high school and later receiving a GED. My decision to be a substitute educator was based on two major realizations: 1. I was in my third year of undergrad and a dedicated member of the teacher education program – I was well engulfed the pedagogy. 2. I was living and learning in a district where the schools I subbed/performed educational clinicals at were culturally shocking – I was the only non-Caucasian student/professional in most of my experiences. This culture shock made me look to the non-white, K-12 students who were in those situations with me and build more empathy. Although my initial idea was to teach in the K-12 environment, I found the imbalance in higher education more astonishing. After being trained in dropout prevention, I furthered my education so that I could profess my skillset and empathy in the higher education arena; this allowed me to tackle the attrition rates of non-white students with more validity. My master’s thesis research helped to further confirm my journey. I knew that I was going to be a life-long learner and educator after achieving this credential. With my mission in mind, I have scaffolded many students in higher education – as both an adjunct and a fulltime professor. In the midst of my journey, I dedicated 6+ years to working with students who dropped out of school and returned to earn a GED – instilling in many returning students the reality that anyone can be successful with adequate and equitable scaffolding and motivation. As of late, I have reached a point in my career in which I carry a leadership title that I am using to train other educators on how to help the marginalized population of students; I have dedicated my recent journey to researching and implementing interventions and strategies that foster student success.

Aside from a lot of hard work, what do you think has been the key to all your success?

The biggest key to my success was my initial failure. Not graduating high school and later having to return for a GED molded my understanding of the value of education and the realization that anyone can be successful with adequate and intentional scaffolding and motivation. Also, I wanted to make my father proud and continue the legacy of possibility which he instilled in me before he passed away – he was the only college graduate I knew growing up.

In your first few months what has impressed or surprised you about CHICAT?

I am very impressed with the skillset of the instructors and staff we have here. I am also impressed with Strickland’s hard work and dedication to the students he has made it possible for us to serve.

I was surprised by the care taken in creating and preserving the high tech and modern environment for the population of students we serve.

Marilyn E Medical Billing and Coding (AHIMA)

Marilyn E. was in our 2022 Medical Billing and Coding (AHIMA) cohort and graduated in December. She enjoyed her time so much that she convinced her daughter to join. Here is a quick insight into her journey.

How did you find out about CHICAT and its classes?

I recently retired from a 27-year career. I was looking for the next career option. While doing research on tuition-based billing and coding programs, a friend mentioned a free program–CHICAT. I visited the beautiful facility. The staff were all very friendly. The program included all study materials and a transportation pass. I also loved that the pace was just right for students who haven’t been in school in years.

Why did you decide to take the course?

I wanted to do billing and coding for many years. Even as a teenager, I was specifically fascinated by medical terminology.

What did you appreciate most about CHICAT and its approach?

The program is fast paced but, it only focuses on 1 topic at a time. In typical university, trying to focus on 5 specific classes at once, can be daunting.

What was the hardest part about the class?

As an adult, life gets in the way. In fact, when I first started CHICAT, it was during COVID, and the only instructional option was to attend virtually. Though for some, this would be a great option, for me, in-person was best. I found that method most engaging. As a slightly older student, the online books weren’t a good fit. I later attended in person. This made a huge difference in my learning retention and confidence.

What was the best part about the class?

The best part of the program is that it is thorough. If you put in the work, you will learn a lot. After completion of the program, you immediately become more marketable. The pay scale for this career is great.

What advice would you have for someone thinking about taking any of the courses at CHICAT?

I would strongly encourage a person to take this program. The timeframe is short. In most instances, 6-9 months. The instruction is solid but, you must put in the work. The certificate is not given to you. You must earn it. It is imperative that you study, study and review. Also, I would encourage you to find YOUR PEOPLE. Find likeminded classmates who are just as passionate and serious about completing this program.

Finally, I know your daughter has joined this cohort for HIT. Can you share how that came to be? What were the conversations that you had with her about it?

I strongly encouraged my daughter to consider the HIT program. My daughter was a college student. She wasn’t confident in her future academic objective. While she tried to decide on next steps academically, I suggested that she acquire a sustainable skill. She could always go back to the university after completing HIT. She will not acquire any debt. She will find a great paying job.

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