The Design Apprenticeship Program (DAP) is a design-based mentorship and skills building initiative that encourages teens and young adults to invest in the improvement of the physical and social conditions of their community. By developing skills in carpentry, landscaping, and design, DAP leaders will aid in the positive transformation of Washington Park, Woodlawn and the Garfield Boulevard corridor.

DAP encourages design excellence and participatory engagement. DAP students will consider sites within the Washington Park and Woodlawn areas and determine both a cleaning strategy and a design intervention. Working with the Alderman’s Office, UChicago’s Sustainability Council the KLEO Center, and area residents, we hope to promote local pride, civic responsibility, and local connections through the program.

DAP will focus on creative problem solving by encouraging students to think more deeply about their professional aspirations and to embrace their role as change agents. Over the course of the apprenticeship, students will be given access to many of the University of Chicago’s resources and be trained by a skilled designer/craftsman to complete presentations, research, and design, and to build prototypes for community projects. These exercises will help students cultivate leadership skills that will prepare them to make sound and well-informed academic and career choices.

DAP began with a ten week pilot program in April 2013. A group of 5-10 teens and approximately five adults from the surrounding communities were selected through an application/interview process. This paid internship opportunity served as initial workforce training development that continued to phase two, which consisted of a longer and more robust training program. The pilot program took place in the after-school/early evening hours and on Saturdays.


DAP Projects

The Design Apprenticeship Program mentors youth and helps them understand the principles of design by allowing them to be active stewards of their local community. As part of the program, apprentices will work on Action Projects and participate in opportunities to build skills and relationships.

Action Projects

  • Action Project 1: Pocket Park across the street from the Incubator. A design build project in partnership with the Alderman’s Office, the Sustainability Council, University of Chicago, the Department of Visual Arts and the Chicago Park District.
  • Action Project 2: Creation of a deck system in the back portion of the currency exchange café for summer programming
  • Action Project 3: A fence design that will allow us to create fencing for all U of C projects/properties within the Washington Park area. Possible fencing and planters collaboration with the Washington Park Consortium.

Building Skills and Relationships

DAP encourages the development of design mentors within the Chicago and national design community by:

  • Creating a platform for designers to talk with young people about their work
  • Hosting design think tanks in which young people are thinking with designers about solutions to real design issues in the neighborhood.
  • Holding an annual design competition throughout participating Chicago Public and Charter Schools encouraging design thinking while creating incentives for students to seriously consider the field of carpentry and design more seriously.
  • Issuing design stipends for professional designers to partner with youth teams to come up with a real design solution to be implemented throughout our program sites.

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