26 Women Graduate from Youth Job Center's WILL Program
By Nancy Traver, November 17, 2014, 9:57 AM
Click here to read this article on the Chicago Tribune website.
EVANSTON - Cynthia Delira was earning minimum wage and attending school 40 hours a week. She says she was in a "difficult place" when she started the Youth Job Center's W.I.L.L. program.
"And, oh yes, did I mention? I was also a mom," she said.
At the YJC, Delira was paired with a mentor - Dr. Yendis Gibson-King, a dentist in Skokie. She earned her pharmacy tech certificate and, with support from the YJC, graduated from dental hygiene school. Delira said she plans to join the U.S. Navy.
Delira spoke Saturday at the graduation ceremony for 26 young women who completed the YJC's 18-month program, Women Invested in Learning and Livelihoods (W.I.L.L.).
She said the program director, Precious Wright, was always available and supportive whenever she needed to talk. In the W.I.L.L. program, each young woman is paired with an older, professional woman mentor.
Delira said Gibson-King had a deep impact on her.
"My mentor served in the U.S. Navy, and I also plan to serve in the Navy," Delira said at the graduation ceremony. "I'm ready to give my daughter a better future."
Delira was a member of the third cohort of the YJC program. In W.I.L.L., each participant is encouraged to move beyond a minimum-wage job, enroll in post-secondary education and move into a career field that offers opportunities for advancement. Participants are 18-25 years old.
Upon completion of the program, each young woman receives a grant matching her individual savings as well as a laptop computer.
The program provides assistance with financial planning, childcare, affordable housing, transportation and other needs.
During the ceremony, other graduates told their stories.
Maria Succes, a marketing and communications major at Columbia College Chicago, said she was working as a file clerk in a dead end job before joining the W.I.L.L. program in 2013. Last summer, she started a paid internship in a marketing firm and plans to graduate with a bachelor's degree in June 2015.
"If this country had more programs like this, our generation would not feel so lost," Succes said.
Another participant in the program, Shantell Webster, said she was working in the hospitality industry "stuck in the same place for three years" before getting help and mentoring through the Youth Job Center.
She said she is also a single mother.
"I was always a person who doubted myself, afraid I couldn't do any better," Webster said. "Today I hope to be a security officer, which is what I've always wanted to be."
W.I.L.L. program coordinator Precious Wright said a new group of young women will start the next 18-month program in 2015, and mentors are needed. She said interested professional women should call 847.869.5627 to volunteer.
Listen to more inspirational stories from the WILL graduates in these short videos.
Sullivan High School's New Job Center Aims to Help Kids
'Stay off the Streets'
By Benjamin Woodard, September 22, 2014
Click here to read this great article about the YJC's newest
Outpost location on DNAinfo Chicago's website.
ROGERS PARK — Sullivan High School's new job center, which opens Tuesday, would help students find jobs and stay off the streets, officials said.
"We've made a lot of progress this year, and today is another step of that process," said Principal Chad Adams, who on Monday morning welcomed district leaders and politicians to the school of nearly 600 students at 6631 N. Bosworth Ave.
The center, a collaboration between Chicago Public Schools and Evanston's Youth Job Center, will host workshops during the week to teach job skills, such as resume writing and interviewing. The project is funded by the center.
Ald. Joe Moore (49th) said student employment could be part of the solution to the neighborhood's crime problem. "The culture's being changed here at Sullivan, and it's being changed for the better," he said. "Not only does this provide useful skills but it also provides our youth with a positive outlook — something to strive for." He said it's "not just policing" that'll stop the violence, such as the shooting of bystander Wil Lewis, which he witnessed just down the street in July. It's also about giving kids "a reason to achieve" and "stay off the streets," he said.
Adams, who joined Sullivan last year, said that even though the school has improved it is still the worst-performing high school on the North Side. Sullivan, which has been on academic probation for nine years, also has a reputation for gang activity. But Adams said the culture is improving and suspensions are down 73 percent and arrests at the school are down 85 percent.
State Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago) and U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), a Sullivan High alum, also were at the school Monday to celebrate the job center's opening. "It is so exciting," she said. "Ever since Chad Adams walked in the door, amazing things have been happening." She said her next project for her alma mater would be to convince "my buddy Rahm to spend $5 million on a new roof" for the neighborhood high school. "I believe in Sullivan High School," she said. "We're gong to see Sullivan High School as a level-1 school."
Thelma Redmond will lead the center, which is called "The Outpost," and will be open Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. "I'm so excited I can't keep my feet on the ground," she said on Monday. "If we can dream it, we can do it."
Youth Job Center Hires New Executive Director!
The Youth Job Center has announced the hiring of a new executive director, Karen Tollenaar Demorest, who recently moved to the Chicago area from Seattle, where she served as the vice president of a nonprofit that works with the public school system.
Ms. Tollenaar Demorest will take over as executive director at the YJC on Aug. 29. The change in leadership was announced Monday by Adam Goodman, chairman of the agency's board of directors.
"Karen brings to YJC the experienced and visionary leadership that we need to ensure that the agency reaches the goals in our strategic plan," said Mr. Goodman. "In particular, we are confident that Karen will prove to be a collaborative, thoughtful and energetic presence for the agency and the communities in which we work."
Since 2007, Ms. Tollenaar Demorest has worked at the Alliance for Education, an agency that advocates on behalf of Seattle Public Schools, seeking grants, implementing programs and engaging the community to improve outcomes for all students. The organization works to increase graduation rates and post-secondary success, leads the Seattle Teacher Residency, and convenes funders and a network of community members to support and advocate for students.
Ms. Tollenaar Demorest earned a master's degree in public administration from the University of Washington, with a focus on education and social policy as well as nonprofit management. She earned a bachelor's degree in communications with a focus on journalism.
"I am very excited to work with the board and staff of the Youth Job Center to build upon the successes of this organization over the past 30-plus years," she said. "I am eager to explore how YJC, working with business partners, schools and other community organizations can support more young people for success in their lives through future planning, continuous learning and finding their individual power to reach their desired goals."
Ms. Tollenaar Demorest succeeds former executive director Sacella Smith, who left the YJC in January.