December 14, 2020

Before There Was Connected Learning, There Was Brother Mike

Category: Connected Learning
brother Mike holding black power fist in the air

Do you know the origin story of Connected Learning?

Even before it was called Connected Learning, there was Brother Mike, a Chicago based-mentor. He was passionate about connecting youth to interests and learning alongside their peers. Brother Mike was a firm believer in making “learning a lifestyle,” so he always connected youth to additional opportunities. Sound familiar?

If you’re a regular Connected Learning Lab reader or a newbie, Connected Learning is a termed coined by Dr. Mizuko “Mimi” Ito that draws on and codifies progressive pedagogies for 21st century learning. Connected learning combines personal interests, supportive relationships, and opportunities.

Although Brother Mike wasn’t an education theorist, he was an incredible mentor that influenced and shaped the field of what we know today as Connected Learning. While also impacting the countless lives of youth and mentors in Chicago and beyond.

Brother Mike left a “Revolutionary Legacy” that we seek to honor.  – Connected Learning Alliance

After his passing, the Chicago Learning Exchange (CLX), Northwestern Office of Community Education Partnerships (NU-OCEP) and Chicago Public Library (CPL) teamed up with SocialWorks, a non-profit organization founded by 3x Grammy Award winning artist Chance the Rapper, to create an award to honor OST mentors.

Brother Mike was Chance’s mentor at CPL’s Harold Washington YOUmedia branch. To honor his legacy, he provided seed funding to help create the annual Brother Mike Award (BMA)—a $5,000 award to recognize one outstanding mentor with no-strings-attached resources.

In 2019, Phenom received the $5,000 Brother Mike Award for his work with the Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN) and other youth-serving organizations such as his own nonprofit, EMCEESKOOL.

Even though OST leaders, often Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) individuals themselves, continue to support youth academically, socio-emotionally, culturally, and politically, they themselves lack the support they need.

Join us as we aim to change that lack of support by celebrating ALL the BMA nominees. It will be a night filled with incredible stories, performances, and more!

Tune in to find out who the 2020 Brother Mike Award winner is on December 21, 2020 from 4 – 6 p.m. CT. RSVP with the link here or via

If you can’t join the celebration, share your Brother Mike story via social media by tagging @CLXchange and including hashtag: #BrotherMikeAward #BrotherMike. Or, fuel our efforts by donating, so we can continue to invest in mentors.

About Brother Mike

The late Brother Mike was a Chicago-based poet, activist, digital media educator, revolutionary, and mentor. He was a loving partner, coordinator for DYN, member of the CLX network, and the cornerstone of two of the most innovative and popular teen spaces in Chicago—YOUmedia Center at the Harold Washington Public Library and MetaMedia in Evanston. There, he mentored hundreds of youth from middle-school to high-school and beyond

About the Chicago Learning Exchange

Chicago Learning Exchange (CLX) is a nonprofit organization that cultivates a growing network of more than 200 organizations to remake learning so that it is driven by learners’ interests, enhanced by technology, and connected to opportunities. For more information specifically on the Chicago Learning Exchange, visit or follow CLX on Twitter (@CLXchange), Facebook (@CLXchange), LinkedIn, and Instagram (@CLXchange).

Guest post by Sana Jafri, Executive Director of the Chicago Learning Exchange (CLX)