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Chicago Urban League Hosts 1,000+ Students at 5th Annual Youth Summit

Students from Urban Prep Academy and Carter G. Woodson Elementary Win 1st Place in Pitch Competition


The Chicago Urban League’s Youth Services Center held its largest-ever Youth Summit on Thursday, March 30, with more than 1,000 youth from 17 schools in attendance. The 5th Annual Youth Summit for middle school and high school students, themed Affirm Yourself: Unleash Your Brand, focused on entrepreneurship and STEM activities.

The main event was a pitch competition, where students presented their business ideas to a panel of judges. Tayshawn Williams, a senior at Urban Prep Academy’s Bronzeville campus, won 1st place in the high school competition for his apparel business called Visual Aesthetic. Seventh-graders Damari Jones, Eddie Jackson, and Antoine Guston from Beasley Academic Center won 1st place in the middle school competition for their apparel business called Outspoken Youth. First prize for the high school winner was $250 to go toward an application for a business license. First prize for the middle school winners was a $100 gift card. The winner schools each received a plaque.

“Supporting entrepreneurs is one of the ways the Chicago Urban League promotes social and economic empowerment. We believe it is important to introduce the idea of business creation to young people at an early age,” said President and CEO Karen Freeman-Wilson. “It was thrilling to see the students confidently present their ideas with hundreds of their peers cheering them on.”

She added, “We are incredibly grateful to the State Farm agents who served as judges and to the many sponsors and corporate partners who supported this year’s Youth Summit.”

Students in the Chicago Urban League’s Youth Investor/Entrepreneur Project (YIEP) participated in Shark Tank-style competitions at their schools to earn a spot on the Youth Summit stage. Participating schools included Little Black Pearl Art & Design Center, Urban Prep Academy Bronzeville Campus, Beasley Academic Center and Carter G. Woodson Elementary in Chicago, and Obama Learning Academy and Jesse White Learning Academy in the south suburbs.

Other schools attending the summit included Englewood STEM High School, YCCS West High School, Epi High School, Morton High School, Urban Prep Academy West, Lindblom Math & Science Academy, Innovations High School, Thornridge High School, Lawndale School, Schoop Academy and Brooks Grammar School.

In addition to the pitch competition, students participated in various STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) activities, including a marshmallow challenge, building robots, working with DNA kits and heart simulators, and STEM tic tac toe.

This year’s Youth Summit sponsors included State Farm, BP, Otis Elevator Company, Abbott Labs, AbbVie Foundation, Cox Communications, ITW, 1921 Coworking, and Flippin Flavors. DJ BMan and Hot Rod from Power 92 radio station served as hosts and emcees throughout the day. More than 100 volunteers from area corporations were also on hand to help direct students and manage activities.

The Youth Summit has grown from just under 200 students in 2019 to more than 1,000 in just five years. In 2022, 350 students attended the summit on the campus of Chicago State University. In 2020 and 2021, the summit was virtual due to the pandemic. This year’s Youth Summit took place at the Isadore and Sadie Dorin Forum at the University of Illinois-Chicago.

Angela Hamilton, Vice President of Youth and Family Services, hopes the event will be even bigger in 2024. “The Youth Summit is an opportunity for students to convene with their peers from other schools, learn outside the classroom, and be exposed to activities and people they might not otherwise experience,” Hamilton said. “We want more students to have that experience, and we’re already looking for a venue and partners for next year.”

Watch the full pitch competition on our YouTube channel.