Solstice & Horizons for Youth: Impacting Children’s Lives and Leveraging Technology to Make a Difference

When I joined Solstice about two years ago, the Philanthropy Committee championed a number of incredible causes on an ad hoc basis in order to support everyone’s passions and tried to respond everywhere we saw a need. While we were able to have reach, we weren’t really able to have depth. This past year, however, our Philanthropy Committee made the decision to cultivate impactful partnerships while still leaving space for everyone’s passions. We settled on narrowing our scope to two goals: impacting children’s lives and leveraging technology to make a difference. From there, our partnerships organically emerged with Lurie Children’s Hospital, St. Catherine - St. Lucy School of Oak Park, Horizons for Youth and TutorMate (from Innovations for Learning). Occasionally, we’re lucky enough to find an intersection point of our two goals (impacting children’s lives and leveraging technology to make a difference), and that’s exactly what happened a few weeks ago!

In May, we hosted 35 high school students and their mentors from across the city for a STEM event in partnership with Horizons for Youth. Their team came to Solstice’s office around 9 AM, and we started off with some introductions. I loved hearing the high schoolers share their future career goals - so inspiring! From there, we dove right into an Agile workshop which we repurposed from the Lego4Scrum framework. This activity utilizes the premise of building a city to illustrate Agile principles and puts Scrum into practice in a tangible way. This is the same workshop that sometimes trips up executives at Fortune 500 companies, but these students excelled! They came up with team names, predicted their velocity, and then measured their success after the end of a few mock sprint cycles. We closed with a retrospective, and they helped us think of ways we can improve the workshop ongoing.

After a short break to unwind, we finished out the day with lunch and a panel discussion that highlighted the multitude of careers available in technology. We had four panelists: Pat McGuire who talked about roles in Product and Scrum, Henry Oyuela who shared more about engineering and quality assurance, Brendan O’Brien who chatted about Sales and Marketing, and Angelique Rickhoff who explained user experience design and user experience research. They showcased how people with incredibly varied backgrounds, expertise, passions, and skill sets can excel within STEM careers. Ultimately we hope the high schoolers left inspired to consider pursuing careers in tech and gained a better understanding of the potential paths to get them there.

We derive so much value from this kind of event. Students challenge us to think differently and often surface problems or ideas that other adults have missed, and we forge relationships and personal connections that we otherwise would have missed. We are exposed to the next generation of tech leaders, and we're able to solidify continued partnerships with incredible organizations that make an impact with everything they do. We’re honored to work with Horizons for Youth and look forward to supporting their organization for years to come.