Inspiring High-Achieving Chicago-Area Teens to Lead and Serve through STEM and to Pursue Higher Education

In today’s rapidly changing world, science, engineering, technology, and critical issues related to our global environment are evolving at a dramatic pace. Yet the worldwide demand for college graduates prepared for careers in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) is not being met. This is especially true in the United States, where many of our most promising youth do not pursue opportunities in these areas. One of the most important national resources in the 21st Century and beyond will be talent: smart, sophisticated young people who are technologically literate, globally astute, and operationally agile; who both understand the complexity of the greatest challenges facing our global society and have technical expertise in specialized areas; and who possess the abilities to collaborate, innovate, and lead.

Founded in 2011, the IIT Boeing Scholars Academy is generously supported by a grant from the Boeing Company.

Led by IIT President John L. Anderson and Provost Alan W. Cramb, the IIT Boeing Scholars Academy honors the legacy initiatives of Mr. Nate Thomas, whose Early ID (Early Identification) program two decades ago became the standard bearer for creating access and opportunity for Chicago-area high school students in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), as well as architecture, business, and psychology. Today, hundreds of alumni of IIT and other colleges and universities mark their experience in IIT’s Early ID program as a formative moment in and truly transformational influence on their lives.

We see the IIT Boeing Scholars Academy as a similar kind of catalyst for supporting such high-achieving students as they develop and hone their interests in STEM+ fields, and seek to provide these active young leaders with the necessary encouragement as they engage in civic issues and endeavor to create change in their communities.

IIT Boeing Scholars 2014-15 Cohort. Photo Credit: David Schalliol

Our Program

The Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) Boeing Scholars Academy is a FREE, TWO-YEAR academic enrichment program that inspires high-achieving Chicago-area high school students to make a difference in their communities through STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) and to pursue higher education.

We do this by offering:

  • four weeks of intensive, project-based STEM programming each summer—in 2012, themed “Local Action, Broader Impact”
  • workshops, field trips, and career exploration opportunities during the school year
  • guidance and support in developing leadership projects (junior year only)
  • college advising and application assistance (senior year only)

We admit students during their sophomore year for participation during their junior and senior years (enrolled Scholars make a two-year commitment to the program). We serve 100 total juniors and seniors at a time.

Who Are IIT Boeing Scholars?

The 2014-15 class of IIT Boeing Scholars includes 106 exceptional students — 55 seniors and 51 juniors — hailing from 56 Chicago-area high schools. These students were selected from hundreds of highly qualified applicants for their outstanding commitment to academics, promise as future leaders, and vision for positively impacting their communities and the world through STEM.

Beyond these commonalities, the IIT Boeing Scholars reflect the broad diversity of Chicago-area youth. Of our 2014-15 cohort of Scholars:

  • 85% attend a Chicago Public School or affiliated charter (39 schools represented)
  • 64% are first-generation college
  • 61% receive federal free/reduced lunch

The majority of our Scholars are from a population or group that is underrepresented in STEM fields. Of this year’s Scholars, 60% are female, and overall our Scholars identify as coming from a variety of national, cultural, and racial/ethnic backgrounds.* In summary:

  • 30% are Black or African American (including Africa and Caribbean)
  • 43% are Hispanic or Latino(a) (including Spain)
  • 17% are Asian (including Indian subcontinent and Philippines)
  • 11% are White (including Middle Eastern)
  • 1% are American Indian or Alaska Native (including all Original Peoples of the Americas)
  • 1% prefer not to respond

*Background descriptors are those used by Common App. Percentages add up to more than 100% because some Scholars identify as being members of multiple groups.

Every Scholar brings to the program a unique and rich set of experiences, skills, and interests, and through our program structure and curricular framework we maximize opportunities for Scholars to learn from each other and establish new networks. In all of our programming, we intend to expand “the four C” of 21st Century Learning beyond creativity, collaboration, communication, and critical thinking to include a most important fifth “C” — community.


The IIT Boeing Scholars Academy brings together outstanding students from communities throughout the Chicago area, with a strong focus on the City of Chicago. Each dot represents 1 Scholar in the 2013-14 cohort; for privacy reasons, Scholar locations are approximated. Graphic by Ross Ludwig.


IIT Boeing Scholars 2015-16 Brochure and Profile ThumbnailLearn about our recent Scholars and their accomplishments with our 2014-15 program profile. (Recommended for representatives of colleges, high schools, and other organizations.)