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The City's You Media Program Expands Digital Labs To 17 Libraries

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A program that offers Chicago teens access to technology and mentors at public libraries is getting a boost from private money.

BMO Harris Bank is donating $1-million dollars to help the city expand its You Media program, from 12 to 17 public libraries by next year. WBBM's Nancy Harty reports.

Bank CEO David Casper joined Mayor Rahm Emanuel at the Albany Park library for the announcement on Saturday.

Casper said the digital labs provide an innovative take on independent learning.

"There is absolutely no better investment, than investing in children," Capser said. "The You Media program does that."

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Isaiah Fernandez spoke about how You Media helped him with his studder, by using the audio recording software. (WBBM/Lisa Fielding)

Since the city launched the program in 2009, interest among teens has grown.

Public Library Commissioner Brian Bannon said teens visited the digital labs at public libraries more than 45,000 times last year alone. The labs offer access to 3-D printing, audio and video recording, graphic design and other technology.

"High school students who were involved in You Media were more likely to enroll in college, than their school-based peers. As a result of You Media, we have seen significant growth," Bannon said.

Isaiah Fernandez said he learned a lot about 3D printing - enough that he was able to test out of a course at UIC, where he's a freshman majoring in computer science.

Bannon said the labs follow the concept that teens are motivated to learn about a subject when they're in a comfortable environment where they can experiment with the technology.

The corporate donation will help underwrite the costs of mentors working in the labs to help students.

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