New Innovation Center preparing students for next generation of jobs

By Joyce Duriga | Editor
Wednesday, November 16, 2022

New Innovation Center preparing students for next generation of jobs

Students at Christ the King Jesuit College Preparatory study in their new Innovation Center on Nov. 2, 2022. Located in the Austin neighborhood of Chicago, Christ the King provides students with a rigorous college-prep education and a corporate work study program. (Julie Jaidinger/Chicago Catholic)
A class uses the Innovation Center.
Kamarai, a student of Christ the King Jesuit College Preparatory, studies with D’Yona Toliver. (Julie Jaidinger/Chicago Catholic)
Taurean and Kaylin experiment in the production studio. (Julie Jaidinger/Chicago Catholic)
Counseling rooms are included in the new space. (Julie Jaidinger/Chicago Catholic)
D'Mari works on an assignment. (Julie Jaidinger/Chicago Catholic)
Joyce studies in the new center. (Julie Jaidinger/Chicago Catholic)
Kaylin and Taurean, seniors, experiment with the milling machine. (Julie Jaidinger/Chicago Catholic)

Taurean, a senior at Christ the King Jesuit College Preparatory School in the city’s Austin neighborhood, is excited about the new Innovation Center his school just opened, and especially the Maker Lab, which includes a recording studio.

While he plans to study software engineering and computer science in college, he is also interested in music production.

“I talk to a lot of people about this, believe it or not. I think that it really has a lot of potential and it could really be a big game changer in just the future of CTK students. I know so many students who want to take part in audio engineering and different STEM programs, but they just don’t have a space outside of school where they have access to the equipment that they need to take on those kinds of things,” Taurean said. “Now, having it in school is just perfect. It’s an opportunity that you can’t really pass up.”

Located on the third floor of the school in its former library, the Innovation Center includes an experiential Maker Lab with 3D printers and laser cutters, a sound studio, team tables and workstations, flexible collaborative space adjoining the lab for classroom instruction, student group study and project management, along with counseling rooms to provide confidential space for group counseling.

Christ the King is part of the Cristo Rey Network, made up of schools around the country at which students receive a college-preparatory education and spend five eight-hour days a month working at local corporations such as Loyola Medicine and Wintrust Bank in the Chicago area, gaining work experience and earning about 60 percent of their tuition.

When the pandemic hit and corporations went to remote work, many of those work-study positions were suspended. Leaders at Christ the King knew they needed to raise money to support the students in the future.

They talked to families, students and community partners to see what was most needed.

“At the end of a lot of those discussions, our parents, kids and our work-study folks were really saying ‘We need to prepare for the next generation of jobs,’” said Clem Martin, president of Christ the King Jesuit College Prep.

Out of those discussions came the idea for a STEM-focused space for innovation.

“We’re really looking at how best can we prepare our kids to meet the challenges of the future. I think that space will help in that process,” Martin said.

New space for counseling sessions is a key part of the new center.

“There’s a tremendous need on the West Side. For our students and our families, we were able to expand capacity there as well,” Martin said.

The center is also used for extracurricular activities, and community groups will be invited to use it.

While the center is busy, Martin said the school is still ramping up the curriculum that will be used there. In the spring, for example, there will be a class for seniors on innovation and invention and another on robotics.

“As people learn about the spaces and the technology that goes with them, it’s getting used more and more. We anticipate that continuing to grow,” he said. “Our kids deserve access to opportunity. I think they have talent, they have drive, they have brains and the ability to do the work. They just need somebody to open the door.”

“It’s really opportunity based. We have a lot going on in there,” said Kaylin, a senior, of the Innovation Center.

Kaylin plans to study art and innovation in college while minoring in architectural design, so she is drawn to the Maker Lab.

“I do a lot of art stuff and graphic design and so the 3D printers are one of the things that I can use to get more architectural media as an art medium. There’s a lot of things it will help with the STEM area, especially since that’s what I want to do in college,” she said.

The work-study program and the other opportunities Christ the King offers give the students a leg up over their peers, Taurean said.

“This has given us a taste of what it’s like after college,” he said. “You really can’t beat that.”

Kaylin agrees.

“The way I see it, CTK isn’t giving us little odd jobs here and there,” Kaylin said. “They are actually giving us real jobs that real people have. They’re preparing us for things that we’re going to actually be doing in real life. And they are helping us find a pathway or a gateway into what we actually want to do.”


  • catholic schools
  • high schools

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