At STC, our mission is driven by a core idea: We believe schools can expand quality urban education, close the opportunity and skills gaps, and provide the innovation young people need to thrive in college, career, and life, because students can. Students are our future, and few people represent that spirit like Deandre Allen, a recent graduate of Chicago Tech Academy and the winner of the 2017 Student RFK Urban Education Award.
Deandre declares that “real world learning is important because it drags out potential in students that they may have never seen before,” and he is the perfect example of that. Deandre believes that being a student at Chicago Tech Academy (Chi Tech), Chicago’s only tech-centric, project-based learning public school, gave him “a passion toward education equity and that motivated [him] to do great work.” Rather than trying to force DeAndre to fit a specific mold, his school embraced his personality and interests, and empowered him to thrive: “The fact that my school identified that I needed a type of learning that fit my “bossy” lifestyle is amazing!” he tells us.
DeAndre channeled the power of real-world learning in his education and work. Despite having just graduated high school this month, he has already founded his own education-focused business, Profs Academy, which aims to provide schools with quality learning materials and experiences for students. In his role as CEO, Deandre has had meetings with the Chief Education Office of Chicago Public Schools, created business models with Ed Tech partners such as Blackboard. Moreover, in his free time, he volunteers at local elementary schools to organize speaking engagements that bring minority business leaders into classrooms. When telling us how he came to be a young entrepreneur, DeAndre shared that, “without my school I would have never involved myself in business and would have never been such a big education equity advocate.”
To DeAndre, Chi Tech is special because it is “more of a family setting,” where teachers and directors have an “open-door policy,” offering him the right combination of support and freedom to explore and engage in the classroom or beyond it. Thinking back over his high school years, DeAndre fondly recalls a few people, including his Entrepreneurship teacher Jonathan Bull, his mother, and his mentors, that have stood up for him, and he is grateful for the school-wide support system at Chicago Tech Academy, which set him up for success.
“Real-world learning gives students a chance to mirror the real world and actually put their learning into practice, which is something that is extremely important as we venture further into the 21st century as a country that is trying to lead in business, education and technology,” DeAndre says. In the fall, his devotion to his cause will lead him to Harrison Pathways Program at National Louis University in Chicago, and he eventually hopes to manage marketing and operations for companies, before becoming a C-suite executive, launching a foundation, and writing books.
“I’m extremely humbled and honored to receive the [RFK Urban Education] award, [and proud to know] that the work that I started at the mere age of 16 is making educational professionals proud,” With students like this at the helm, the future is bright.