Grant to benefit agency’s after-school program

Youth Organization Umbrella officials are excited about the possibilities of expanding their after-school and summer learning programs thanks to a $270,000-a-year grant to launch those programs.

The Evanston-based organization received word last week that it was receiving the competitive grant from the Illinois Board of Education.

The grant is renewable over five years and, assuming the availability of federal funds, will total as much as $1.35 million.

“We are thrilled to be expanding our services to Dawes and King Lab (District 65 schools),’’ said Seth Green, the organization’s executive director. “We know that these services provide a real difference in the lives of youth and that they provide critical support to working parents.’’

Y.O.U. programs are hands-on, he said. Y.O.U. after school programs offer students three hours of activities and support, with the first 75 minutes of the time period devoted to homework assistance.

Some 71 percent of the youths who actively participated in Y.O.U.’s after-school and mentorship program last year increased their GPAs, Green noted, and 91 percent improved their social skills based on pre-and-post evaluations

“Youth spend over 80 percent of their waking hours outside of the academic classroom,’’ he noted. “It actually is a small part (of their total time) so what we say in the agency, and this is empirically proven, that the most important factors in academic, social, and emotional success really are what happens during out of school time.”

He said the organization draws liberally on mentors from Chicago Loyola and Northwestern University who engage as mentors under their work-study programs.

The program typically has more than 100 students who serve for about 10 hours a week.

Instead of having one to 15 ratios at sites, the student volunteers bring that ratio down to one to five. “They are just tremendous assets for us,’’ he said.

With Dawes and King added, Y.O.U. will offer afterschool programs at seven Evanston schools. Additionally, the grant money will support free after school and summer learning programs at Lincoln School in Skokie.

Green said the local United Way played a key role in identifying a gap in services in after-school and summer programs in the two communities. United Way then connected Y.O.U. with District 69 Superintendent Quintin Shepherd, who helped the organization in its request.

In a statement, Joe Vanyo, vice president of strategy and regional operations at United Way, said Y.O.U. “is a key partner in United Way’s LIVEUNITED 2020, providing kids and families in communities of greatest need with education, income and health resources they need the most.’’

Leaders from the two communities also hailed the decisions.

“This is great news for the youth in our district,” said Dr. Hardy Murphy, superintendent of District 65. “Y.O.U. already supports more than 500 youth in the District annually and this new grant will allow Y.O.U. to provide a safe, enriching, and nurturing after school and summer experience to 150 more district youth each year.”

Shepherd said through such programs, “students will gain critical supports, such as social-emotional enrichment and homework assistance, and will have the opportunity to participate in fun, enriching activities and field trips. Meanwhile, working parents will now have a safe, structured supportive program for their children to go to after school and over the summer.”

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Original article from the Evanston Review.

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