Photo: L to R: Heather Williams, Leroy Moore, Deshawn Threadgill, Antonio Carter, Jaylen Lee (Photo: Chicago Public Schools).
A group of Chicago Vocational High School students developed an app that resulted in them being honored by Mayor Brandon Johnson and Chicago Public Schools CEO Pedro Martinez.
On Monday night, CVS students Deshawn Threadgill, Leroy Moore, Antonio Carter and Jaylen Lee were among two dozen who were recognized as CPS Champions for their accomplishments in health, academics, business and technology.
“To see them get to the level they’re at now and the level of skills and acknowledgments they’ve earned,” said their Web Design teacher Heather Williams, “I could not be more proud.”
Their journey started when Williams discovered a competition that required entrants to develop an app idea that could change their community.
Under her guidance, Threadgill, Moore, Carter and Lee worked tirelessly for six months to conceptualize and create an app to address a critical issue in their community—helping people discover career paths suited to them.
In addition to coding the app, they conducted vital research to contextualize why their product fulfills a need.
“We found that people who have a lack of access to opportunities, and a lack of access to jobs and resources, tend to lean towards crime a lot — a lot more than people who have opportunities and jobs,” said Threadgill.
Moreover, they wanted to create something that would benefit their peers who may not have it all figured out as high school seniors — kids just like them.
“Sometimes people might need an extra push to find out what they want to do in life,” said Lee, “That’s what we’re trying to help people with because we were in the same predicament as people who didn’t know what to do with their lives after high school.”
Added Carter, “That’s why we created the app. So, if I could help underclassmen find what they want to do, then I would be proud of that.”
The group is seeking to sell the app to CPS schools and other education centers nationwide, as this academic endeavor also stresses entrepreneurship, something Williams also intended for them to learn.
“Teaching them entrepreneurship, teaching them a skill and attaching that to entrepreneurship, it just increases their odds of being able to find a successful career that they can make money from, take care of their families and have a really successful life,” she said.
Yet, when Threadgill, Moore, Carter and Lee met with The Chicago Defender, they spoke about the process of developing this tool and reflected on what they learned through coding and why it remains a valuable skill that people should learn.
“Try it out because it wasn’t something I saw myself being super interested in. But as I did it and got more experience in it, it started to be a lot more interesting and fun to me, and now it’s more of a passion,” Moore said.
In addition to their academic honor, the guys got a valuable assist from Chicago Bulls guard Coby White, who covered the cost for them to get new suits for the event. They even got to meet him.
The honorees pictured with Coby White from the Chicago Bulls. White paid for a shopping spree to purchase suits for the honorees to wear to the CPS Champions event (Photo: Chicago Public Schools).
Beyond the honors and recognition, these young men created a tool that provides value to their peers and community. Yet, being honored by Mayor Johnson was the culmination of a moment that began way before they started working on the app.
The journey actually started four years ago when they were freshmen in Williams’s class. Seeing their growth and accomplishments affirms that she is living in her purpose as an educator and empowerer.
“I can cry,’ Williams said, “These are my guys. I love them like my own children. And because they’re doing so well, I can’t even explain the level of pride I have for them.”