Announcing Youth-Led Tech, Part 2!

Last summer, Get IN Chicago teamed up with Smart Chicago for its inaugural Youth-Led Tech program.  Billed as a combination of mentoring, technology, and workforce development, Youth-Led Tech gave 141 young people in Austin, Englewood, Humboldt Park, North Lawndale, and Roseland six weeks of web design instruction and support.  By the end of the summer, all graduates had created their own WordPress websites and earned a Microsoft laptop to keep up their skills.

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Check out Smart Chicago’s photo gallery of screen shots from the 2015 Youth-Led Tech websites.

Youth unemployment is at crisis levels in parts of our city, especially for young men of color on the South and West Sides.  A recent report by University of Illinois Chicago’s Great Cities Institute (and commissioned by Get IN Chicago grantee Alternative Schools Network) showed that young black men in Chicago were almost 6 times more likely to be out of work or disconnected from school than their white peers.  For Hispanics, the results were similarly startling, with that group more than three times likely to be jobless or unenrolled. These findings illustrate the reality of life in many of Get IN Chicago’s focus communities.  With few entry-level jobs available, and few young people with enough work experience to secure those that do exist, it’s no surprise that many youth simply give up or turn to illicit activities.

But we know that certain job industries are in need of top talent, and we know that our youth are up for the challenge.  We believe that 13-18 year olds who develop their interest in technology can become 20-30 year olds with an enormous chance at employment.  After all, the Department of Labor anticipates 186,600 new software development jobs by 2024.  And while job skills are crucial, we were also proud that Youth-Led Tech was more than just a workforce development program.  Youth-Led Tech also provided a safe place for teenagers to spend their summer, linked them with valuable mentors and caring adults, and made technology fun.

Smart Chicago Executive Director Dan O’Neil discusses their partnership with Get IN Chicago and how his team recruited the most at-risk youth 

Last week, the Get IN Chicago Board of Directors approved a renewal and expansion of Smart Chicago’s Youth-Led Tech for Summer 2016.  This summer, the program will focus on Austin, North Lawndale, and Roseland – and more importantly, on our Get IN Chicago demographic: the most at-risk youth, such as those who are justice-involved or chronically truant.  Along those lines, Smart Chicago will also offer the program at the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center.

Smart Chicago plans to reach 300 youth with Youth-Led Tech this summer.  We are incredibly excited to support their work again!  Our partnership is a perfect example of how Get IN Chicago is using innovation and cross-sector collaboration to create safer communities, brighter futures, and better opportunities for youth in our city.

To get the latest updates about Youth-Led Tech as they gear up for Summer 2016, be sure to follow Smart Chicago!

20436438015_9d9e59d18f_oGraduates from 2015’s Youth-Led Tech program pose at their closing ceremony (Photo: Smart Chicago)

Celebrating Success: Family Focus

As an organization dedicated to rigorous evaluation and measurement, Get IN Chicago spends a great deal of time tracking long-term outcomes of our groups, schools, and neighborhoods.  We devise strategies to help our grantees reach greater numbers each year and look for trends showing large-scale impact.  We are committed to determining what works.

But we also know that while we crunch the numbers, our grantees are making enormous strides.  The time, conversations, and guidance that they provide to our youth and parents can change the course of a life.  This support, which our grantees give throughmentoring, teaching, tutoring, therapy, and more, might not always be easily measurable – but it is always invaluable.

Throughout the year, Get IN Chicago asks grantees to send us updates about the young men, women, and parents in our funded programs. In the spirit of the holidays, we hope to share a few of these snapshots over the next few weeks.

Please join us in celebrating the accomplishments of our program participants – and thanking the workers who make these successes possible each and every day!

latricia
A Family Focus participant poses with her son (photo via Family Focus)

Family Focus
Core Programming – Parent Engagement

This winter, Family Focus, Inc. will continue its B-PROUD parenting program, expanding their reach to 200 parents in Englewood, Humboldt Park, and North Lawndale.  B-PROUD aims to shape a set of parenting skills that will contribute to their childrens’ long-term success in school, in relationships and in achieving life goals.

A parent (Francesca*) was recently referred to Family Focus’ Lawndale Center by the Department of Family and Child Services (DFCS) due to allegations of verbal and physical abuse by her 16 year-old-son. At first, Francesca had no interest in participating in the parenting group. However, after attending a few sessions, she began to engage in dialogue.  She shared that her son was out of control, disrespectful to all authority, constantly fighting with his siblings, and had also been physical abusive to her.

During the Communication Module, Francesca closely listened to other parents and took notes about effective ways to communicate. That evening, she went home and reflected. She decided to try the suggestions of the other parents.

Soon, she realized that both she and her son were talking at each other versus to each other. Her fellow parent participants had suggested that she give her son one-on-one time in a pleasant atmosphere, offering him a space where he would be more comfortable sharing. With this new space and understanding, the next time Francesca went to visit her son, she was able to express her feelings and allowed him to do the same. She listened to him. They both apologized and have since vowed to keep the lines of communicate open.

Since starting this program, Francesca has built new relationship with her son. She says she now refers our program to everyone—even in the DCFS office waiting room.

*name changed

summer program
Participants from Family Focus pose with their children in summer 2015 (photo via Family Focus)

Catching Up After Cooley High

On Thursday, December 10th, Get IN Chicago (GIC) partnered with the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events  for food, film, and conversation centered on Cooley High.  A wide range of community members and supporters, including a bus load of young men and women from BBF Family Services, turned out to watch the classic film and participate in discussions before and after.

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In her opening remarks, Toni Irving, Executive Director of Get IN Chicago, linked the film to recent protests, the majority of which have been organized, led, and attended by youth.  Screening Cooley High was timely not only because of its ties to Cabrini-Green but also for how it captured the energy and power of young Chicagoans.

“The struggles in our community predate the lives of our young people,” said Irving.  “But in these last few weeks, our young people have proven themselves not just the symbol of our future, but the vehicle that will get us there, better for the journey.”

After the film, students from BBF performed original poetry.  Their poem was a fitting follow-up to the closing scene of Cooley, when Preach recites a poem in honor of his friend Cochise.

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An audience talkback with Pemon Rami, casting director for Cooley High, Jackie Taylor, founder and Executive Director of Black Ensemble Theater (and a star of the movie), and Rufus Williams, CEO and President of BBF Family Services, followed shortly after.

“North Lawndale today is not much different than Cabrini-Green back then,” noted Williams.  “A lot of my own experiences were similar to what happened to the youth in the film, and many of those experiences continue for our youth today.”

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The panelists discussed changes in family, community, and a decline in creative opportunities over the past 40 years.  Williams also remarked that in the film, Cochise’s scholarship is celebrated for its educational potential rather than just the chance to play basketball.

When asked about who they identified or recognized in the film, the younger audience members gravitated toward Preach and Cochise.  They also compared the teacher who helped get the two boys out of trouble and with their own mentors.

In closing, Irving expressed a desire to continue congregating people for similar events in the future.

“We need this intergenerational conversation,” she said.  “Adults have the institutional knowledge – but our young people have the energy and passion to push the agenda forward.”

Taylor agreed.  “Our young people are the best gift we could possibly possess,” said Taylor.  “The most important thing to do is help them recognize that.”

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Participant Spotlight: Latrice

When we meet up, Latrice is hard at work, filling out a job application.  As a student at North Lawndale College Prep, she has a full senior schedule with Advanced Composition, English, Environmental Science, and Trigonometry.  She is also working on her senior project – a research paper on police brutality – and filling out college applications.  So far this week, she has finished applications for 13 colleges and universities.

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A few months ago, Latrice’s days were quite different.  Involvement in a fight led to an arrest.  At her hearing, she was ordered to participate in court-mandated anger management classes as part of her probation.  She attended the classes, but did so reluctantly.

“I didn’t think I needed an anger class.  I kind of felt crazy there,” she admits.  “But the teacher told me to think of it as a place to get things off my chest.  She was more like a counselor.”

We know that different kids need different types of support, and sometimes, the best approach isn’t the most obvious one.  For Latrice, the anger management classes themselves didn’t help much – but she did benefit from talking to a trusted adult.

Luckily, participating in the class led Latrice to Lawndale Christian Legal Center (LCLC) and the chance to continue talking it out.   Get IN Chicago funding supports the mentoring program at LCLC, where mentors provide wraparound services, intensive support, and case management to youth involved in the juvenile justice system. In addition to giving youth academic support and guidance, the LCLC legal team provides specific expertise to help youth navigate the world of probation, community service, and expungement.

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The team at LCLC celebrates vacating two cases and a clean record for Louis, a program participant.

Now, Latrice meets with her LCLC mentor Kim about once a week.  Kim works with Latrice to keep her on track for her goals, specifically with timelines for her senior year, college, and beyond.  She is also assisting Latrice with paperwork to expunge her record.  But ultimately, Latrice thinks the biggest benefit of their meetings is simply the chance to talk.

“Meeting with Kim helps me relieve some of my stress,” says Latrice.  “With my friends, we mostly talk about parties.  I have one friend who is kind of on the same track as me, but most of them aren’t.  But I can talk to Kim about working on my personal goals.”

Through their time together, Kim has noticed a change in Latrice.

One of Latrice’s most pivotal experiences was participating in the LCLC Court Advocacy Apprenticeship program last summer.  The Mock Trial program gave her a chance to learn more about the law and sparked the idea for her senior project on police brutality.

“I think we can create a system to find better ways for the police to deal with issues,” she says.  “We can change how we socialize and educate our police.”

Right now, Latrice has her sights set on college.  She hopes to be the first in her family to attend.  Her three older sisters all dropped out of high school when they became pregnant, and Latrice is determined to set a different course.

Hear Latrice’s plans for herself over the next five years:

Undoubtedly, Latrice is on track to make it all happen.  So on behalf of Get IN Chicago, we congratulate Latrice on all of her successes so far and wish her the absolute best!

Celebrating Success: Youth Guidance B.A.M.

As an organization dedicated to rigorous evaluation and measurement, Get IN Chicago spends a great deal of time tracking long-term outcomes of our groups, schools, and neighborhoods.  We devise strategies to help our grantees reach greater numbers each year and look for trends showing large-scale impact.  We are committed to determining what works.

But we also know that while we crunch the numbers, our grantees are making enormous strides.  The time, conversations, and guidance that they provide to our youth and parents can change the course of a life.  This support, which our grantees give throughmentoring, teaching, tutoring, therapy, and more, might not always be easily measurable – but it is always invaluable.

Throughout the year, Get IN Chicago asks grantees to send us updates about the young men, women, and parents in our funded programs. In the spirit of the holidays, we hope to share a few of these snapshots over the next few weeks.

Please join us in celebrating the accomplishments of our program participants – and thanking the workers who make these successes possible each and every day!

bam common
Participants in Youth Guidance’s B.A.M. program had the opportunity to meet Common at Chicago Ideas Week (photo via Youth Guidance)

Youth Guidance – B.A.M.
Core Programming – CBT

Get IN Chicago expanded its grant for Youth Guidance‘s Becoming A Man (B.A.M.) program to reach 600 young men throughout Austin, Englewood, Humboldt Park, North Lawndale, and Roseland this school year.  The B.A.M. program combines weekly group counseling sessions and check-ins with full-time counselors on each school campus , complemented by sports-based activities to support social-emotional learning skills.  Get IN Chicago currently funds B.A.M. at Douglass, Austin Campuses, Orr Academy, Harlan, Fenger, and Harper high schools.

This past spring, 32 B.A.M. seniors graduated from Little Village Lawndale High School (LVLHS.) One of these graduates, Ric*, credits B.A.M. with helping him graduate on time.

Ric had been involved in B.A.M. since 8th grade, and during his time at LVLHS, developed a strong bond with his B.A.M. counselor. But leading up to his senior year, Ric had never completed a semester without failing a course.

Through weekly B.A.M. circles and frequent individual sessions with his B.A.M. counselor, Ric began to confront the factors that contributed to his poor performance in school: truancy, a negative attitude, destructive relationships at home and in school, and behavior problems. Through his work in B.A.M., Ric began to internalize program values such as self-determination and integrity, to regulate his emotions, and to develop positive relationships with his peers and teachers.

During the fall semester of his senior year, Ric completed his first semester of school without failing a course. His increased commitment to education manifested through strong school attendance (Ric was never late for class during the spring semester) and resulted in the school’s recognition of his improved performance. In Fall 2015, Ric plans to attend Howard Washington College in Chicago.

*name changed

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A recent event at Douglass Academy brought together B.A.M. participants and family members (photo via Youth Guidance)

Holiday Support

Get IN Chicago’s partner organizations are doing amazing work to reduce youth violence across the city. If you are looking to support programs making a difference, consider supporting a Get IN Chicago grantee this holiday season!

A few of our partners contacted us about specific needs. Read on for their suggestions, and help make the season brighter for the people they serve.

Partner Organization Wish List

Bus Passes: Keeping kids safe as they move around the city can be a challenge.  We know that sometimes students skip school simply because they don’t want to ask their families for bus fare.  The Chicago School of Professional Psychology team, who provide therapy services in CPS priority schools, requested bus passes for their youth.  Donating transit cards to organizations is a simple way to make a difference.


Learn more about Lawndale Christian’s MAC House project

Gently-Used Furniture: Lawndale Christian Legal Center requested furniture for their new MAC House. The MAC House will provide safe housing and job training to young men in North Lawndale who have been involved in the criminal justice system.  Needs include bed frames, mattresses, dressers, couches, dining tables, dishes, kitchenware, etc. Contact Larry Kimbrough at lkimbrough@lclc.net to make a donation.

Gift Cards: Every year, youth in the care of the state go without holiday gifts. UCAN is one of our grantees working to make sure this doesn’t happen this year. Like most teenagers, UCAN youth are requesting gift cards from places like Walmart, Target, Game Stop, Best Buy, Amazon and Foot Locker. They request gift cards in increments of $25 and $50 dollars. Learn more here: http://eepurl.com/bF3wwL

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Technology: Along with gift cards and tickets for special field trips for 25 youth, Teamwork Englewood requests donations of headphones, small tablets (less than $100), and technology books.  These donations will complement their Get IN Chicago coding programs.

Winter Clothes: Donations of clothing are accepted by many organizations working with men, women, and children.  In particular, Healthcare Alternative Systems requested items for both their Women’s Program (which empowers survivors of domestic violence, who may also be treated for addiction) and the Residence (which provides stable housing for men in treatment for substance abuse.)

Donations and Matching Gift Opportunities: Direct monetary donations enable organizations to keep their programs staffed, their centers running, and everything in between.  A number of our partners also have matching campaigns happening now, which gives donors a chance to increase their impact.

  • City Year
    A Season of Giving. A Year of Impact. Support @CityYear Chicago and help Chicago students prepare for college and careers! http://bit.ly/1XscsJ7
  • Lawndale Christian Legal Center – *matching opportunity
    LCLC’s new “Champions for Change” campaign seeks to increase monthly giving by adding 100 new Champions for Change by December 31, 2015.  An anonymous donor will match all new monthly pledges, dollar for dollar, up to $10,000. Currently LCLC has raised $7,450 toward the goal. Pledge your monthly support now.
  • Youth Guidance*matching opportunity
    There is no better time to donate to Youth Guidance, as a generous anonymous donor will be matching all gifts from first time donors to Youth Guidance up to $30,000! Visit www.youth-guidance.org/donate to send your gift – and have it matched – today! Your donation will help to transform lives. Right here. Right now.

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Visit our website for a full list of Get IN Chicago grantees, all worthy recipients of your time and support.  You can also visit their organizational websites to learn more about their programs and how you you can contribute.

Happy Holidays!

Celebrating Success: Westside Health Authority

As an organization dedicated to rigorous evaluation and measurement, Get IN Chicago spends a great deal of time tracking long-term outcomes of our groups, schools, and neighborhoods.  We devise strategies to help our grantees reach greater numbers each year and look for trends showing large-scale impact.  We are committed to determining what works.

But we also know that while we crunch the numbers, our grantees are making enormous strides.  The time, conversations, and guidance that they provide to our youth and parents can change the course of a life.  This support, which our grantees give through mentoring, teaching, tutoring, therapy, and more, might not always be easily measurable – but it is always invaluable.

Throughout the year, Get IN Chicago asks grantees to send us updates about the young men, women, and parents in our funded programs. In the spirit of the holidays, we hope to share a few of these snapshots over the next few weeks.

Please join us in celebrating the accomplishments of our program participants – and thanking the workers who make these successes possible each and every day!

summer girls
Participants at Westside Health Authority’s summer program graduation (photo via WHA)

Westside Health Authority
Core Programming – Mentoring

Through a combination of individual and group sessions, Westside Health Authority provides mentoring support as well as a curriculum that incorporates multiple community service projects.  Westside Health Authority (WHA) was awarded a grant in June to continue their mentoring program for 100 youth at Austin Campuses and Frederick Douglass Academy in Austin.

Dominique* started out as a kid fighting to fit in with her peers, unfocused in class. She lacked self-confidence and was not really interested in being in school; many described her as “all over the place.” Over the course of a semester, her WHA mentor started meeting with her individually and in group sessions. The mentor’s goal for Dominique was to help build her confidence with positive affirmations and remind her the importance of focusing on her goals.

As a result of the mentoring, Dominique began to believe in herself and her capabilities. At the end of the semester, she wrote the following testimony about working with her mentor:

“My name is Dominique. I am 17 years old and a current student of Academy of Scholastic Achievement. This mentoring program has helped me stay on track and ever since I have been in this program I have been on the ASA Honor Roll. My mentor, Mr. Coleman, has encouraged me and empowered me to excel in school and in my life so that I can have a great life. And, so I can be the student and person that I think I can be.”

“I hope and pray this mentoring program expands so there can be more students that can receive as many blessings as I have. I want to personally thank Mr. Coleman for not giving up on me and staying on my neck because growing up without guidance left me with no choice but to just give up on all my hopes and dreams. But thanks to my mentor, I know I will be the most successful person not only in the world but in my family.”

*name changed

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Family members joined staff and participants to celebrate the end of WHA’s summer program (photo via WHA)