Our History

The Digital Youth Network grew out of the MacArthur Foundation’s five-year, $50 million Digital Media and Learning Initiative, which awarded DYN founder Nichole Pinkard a generous grant to study how digital media affects literacy.

DYN began at the Urban Education Institute at the University of Chicago, which served as the incubator for many of the program’s ideas. Now with DePaul University, DYN is expanding its reach in order to become more accessible to a wider audience. But the mission to address one of the nation’s most significant and enduring questions remains the same:

How do we produce reliably excellent learning opportunities for children growing up in urban America?

DYN has always worked in close collaboration with University charter schools, which were designed to prepare young people across the South Side of Chicago for college and to demonstrate effective, scaleable models of elementary and secondary education.

And while the program has grown and changed over time, DYN’s philosophy has stayed rooted in the commitment to creating learning opportunities for youth that span their day, both in school and out. We believe DYN is helping young people to build the core competencies of new media literacy that ensure they are better prepared for productive citizenship in the 21st century.

In 2010, DYN partnered with LISC/Chicago and the Smart Communities Program to develop a Broadband Technology Opportunity Program (B-TOP) that will focus on five new communities: Auburn-Gresham, Chicago Lawn, Englewood, Pilsen, and Humboldt Park. DYN launched programs in five neighborhood schools, hiring and training new mentors to open the doors for afterschool learning pods in digital filmmaking, graphic design, and more.

DYN plans to expand its reach into Chicago Public Library branches with the opening of two new YOUmedia centers. These teen spaces, inspired by the YOUmedia at the downtown Harold Washington Library Center, will allow more middle-school and high school students to engage with digital media tools and extend their “anytime, anywhere” learning opportunities.



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