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City, University Partner for Free Transport to After-School Program

From Our Neighborhood News, Fall 2022

 Northwestern’s Digital Youth Divas program has partnered with Evanston’s parks and recreation department to offer free transportation to program participants. The Unversity funds transit so the middle school “divas” can get to the Robert Crown Community Center after school.

The DYD program engages middle school girls, especially those from nondominant communities, in design-based engineering and computer science activities. When the program began, founder and Northwestern professor Nichole Pinkard identified accessibility from schools as one barrier to students’ participation.

“Transportation has been historically a barrier for youth of color to participate in programming throughout the city,” says Miranda Standberry-Wallace, former community relations and engagement manager at Northwestern. The girls attend 14 schools across the city, and in order to get to the DYD program, they need transportation after school.

The parks and recreation department uses its existing transportation system to pick up the students from District 65 schools. Northwestern funds the pro- gram completely, so there is no cost to participants or the city.

Standberry-Wallace says the initiative can serve as a model for how programs can work with cities to address long-standing barriers and make access more equitable for people of color. Since the beginning of 2022, more than half of DYD participants have taken advantage of the transportation.

“It’s important right now, especially coming out of the worst of the pandemic, that kids can participate in activities like this to reengage with the social aspect of their community,” says Jeron Dorsey, recreation manager at the Crown Center. “If we can address some of the challenges with transportation, it will provide a resource for busy working parents so they won’t have to worry about getting kids to and from these programs.”

TO LEARN MORE about the program, visit