IIT Boeing Scholars Present Leadership Project at TEDxWindyCity

Photograph by Kyle LaMere

More than 650 people came together at the Northwestern University School of Law on February 23 for this year’s sold out TEDxWindyCity event, which featured an all-star line-up of a couple dozen dynamic and paradigm-shifting innovators, researchers, artists and others, representing the brightest minds in Chicago. It’s not inconsequential that there were only two high school students as presenters—our very own IIT Boeing Scholars Katie Gohres and Andrew Kelo, both seniors at Walter Payton College Prep!

Gohres and Kelo were given 18 minutes to speak about their work co-founding ROOTS (Rising Over Obstacles Through STEM), an after-school club run completely by high school students that exposes middle schoolers to engineering fields through fun, hands-on projects.

In summer 2011, while at the IIT Boeing Scholars Academy, Gohres and Kelo led a team of fellow Boeing Scholars in creating ROOTS as a Leadership Grant Project (LGP). A capstone of sorts, LGPs require Scholars to collaborate in teams to identify and address a problem in their community, over the course of the academic year. As a group, ROOTS focused on the fact that most young adults don’t want to go into STEM fields—not because they don’t enjoy math and science, but because of a lack of experience and knowledge of opportunities. From that spark of inspiration, ROOTS took action. Now in its second year of programming, the ROOTS after-school program is established in four middle schools.

Throughout their presentation at TEDx, Gohres and Kelo emphasized the power of the individual, and what individuals—regardless of their backgrounds or levels of education—can do to help combat the dynamic and pressing problems facing our contemporary world. They also stressed the importance of collaboration in addressing these projects, and spoke movingly about a prototyping lesson they teach to help youth develop confidence in their ideas as well as communication and team skills. Not only are such skills essential to solving today’s most challenging problems, they are also skills that Gohres, Kelo and other ROOTS members developed themselves by implementing the ROOTS program. After all, from its founding in 2011 to the present, ROOTS has engaged 18 teens from 14 different Chicago-area high schools in providing a 14-week ROOTS curriculum to more than 80 kids at four different elementary schools!—

  • Katie Gohres, Walter Payton (CPS)
  • Andrew Kelo, Walter Payton (CPS)
  • Sebastian Allen, Carmel Catholic
  • Jovana Andrejevic, Libertyville
  • Nina Andrejevic, Libertyville
  • Emily Bish, Whitney M. Young (CPS)
  • Karlia Brown, Whitney M. Young (CPS)
  • Layalee Elzahdan, AQSA
  • Matthew Kolasny, Jones (CPS)
  • Payal Kumar, Buffalo Grove
  • Tori Lewandowski, Francis W. Parker
  • Samuela Nematchoua, Chicago High School for the Arts (CPS)
  • Louis Padilla, Jones (CPS)
  • Juliana Perez, Von Steuben (CPS)
  • Nick Perez, Prosser (CPS)
  • Rocio Santana, Benito Juarez (CPS)
  • Eritomiwa Sobayo, Hales Franciscan
  • Akshara Sreedhar, Waubonsie Valley

Together, these outstanding young adults say: “Inspiring and empowering our future leaders is necessary to creating a better future for everyone, and that is why this is an idea worth spreading.”

Find more information about Katie Gohres and Andrew Kelo’s talk on the TEDxWindyCity website where a video of their presentation will soon be posted. Check out photos from the event on the TEDxWindyCity Facebook page.

And don’t miss IIT’s own TED event, TEDxIIT on April 13!