By: Tim Moran, Evanston Patch
Published: October 8, 2015
Youth & Opportunity United (Y.O.U.) publicly launched its Campaign for Youth Opportunity Saturday morning at a gathering of its families and community leaders. The Campaign is a community engagement and fundraising effort aimed at expanding youth and family programs, constructing a new headquarters, and ensuring the organization’s long-term sustainability. Y.O.U. announced the campaign as part of its “World of Opportunity” family day, which included virtual tours of the programmatic spaces in its forthcoming headquarters and sample art, science, and other enrichment activities found in Y.O.U. programming. Over 300 youth, family members, and community leaders participated in the launch festivities.
The Campaign reflects Y.O.U.’s desire to address the opportunity gap among youth in the community and to ensure all children have the chance to realize their potential. Since its creation in 1971, Y.O.U. has partnered with families, schools and the community to provide academic, social and emotional support where it is most needed, closing the gap between youth and opportunity.
Successfully completing the Campaign will mean involving more than 2,500 individuals in the community in learning and volunteering to address the opportunity gap, as well as meeting a $15 million fundraising goal. Reaching this goal will support Y.O.U.’s programmatic expansion from 450 youth in 2010 to 1,500 youth today; a new Y.O.U. headquarters with a maker lab, demonstration kitchen, performance space, outdoor garden, and private clinical counseling rooms; and financial strength that will allow Y.O.U. to thrive for generations to come, even amidst government funding uncertainty.
Through the Campaign for Youth Opportunity, every person in the community has the chance to be part of this exciting moment of expanding opportunity for youth by:
· Learning how the “opportunity gap” affects us through upcoming public events and lectures
· Volunteering to provide opportunities to youth and
· Investing in Y.O.U. to grow the organization’s reach and impact in providing opportunities for youth and families to succeed
“We’re inviting everyone in the community to participate,” said Seth Green, Executive Director of Y.O.U. “For some that may be a financial investment; for others, that may be volunteering or lending expertise. Every act of learning, volunteering, and investing moves us closer to our goal.”
With more than 85% of the fundraising goal raised, one reason for launching the Campaign now is to invite the community to help Y.O.U. fulfill the remaining $2.2 million by the Campaign deadline of June 30, 2016. Leading the Campaign’s early success are contributions of $1 million or more from the Finnegan Family Foundation, the Lewis-Sebring Family Foundation, Col. Jennifer N. Pritzker, and an anonymous donor. Meanwhile, Y.O.U.’s Board of Directors has collectively contributed more than $2.65 million toward the Campaign.
“This is another example of the incredible generosity of our community to support expanding opportunity for youth and families,” said Evanston Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl. “I am personally inspired by the vision of this Campaign and grateful to our community for rallying around it.”
Y.O.U.’s new facility will be at 1911 Church Street, across the street from Evanston Township High School in Evanston’s 5th Ward. “We are pleased and excited to welcome Y.O.U. to the 5th Ward,” said Delores Holmes, Alderman for Evanston’s 5th Ward. “We know that this new facility at 1911 Church Street will help them expand their services for youth and families and that this will benefit the whole Evanston community.”
The Campaign for Youth Opportunity is led by co-chairs Chip Brady and Nicki Pearson. As an Evanston Township High School history teacher from 1990 to 2007, Brady saw first-hand the impact Y.O.U. made on youth that would pass through his classroom. This prompted Brady to join the Y.O.U. Board of Directors, serving as its president from 2008-2011. As a long-time community activist and youth advocate, Pearson has served on the Y.O.U. Board of Directors since 2006, continuously providing guidance for how to reach more youth and create a larger positive impact in the community.
“We’re not just providing afterschool activities,” Brady said. “There is a ‘surround sound’ aspect to what Y.O.U. does – where we work with youth in every way they need to grow confident and gain control of their lives and futures.”
In order to spark early excitement for the campaign, local community leaders Lisa Altenbernd and Steve Hagerty and Romano Wealth Management joined forces and have committed to matching 3 to 1 donations made before December 31, 2015 (up to $25,000). Individuals can learn more about how to get involved in the Campaign by visiting www.youthopportunity.org.
Early campaign success allowed Y.O.U. to expand its program to three more schools over the last six months and to engage new youth such as 6th grader Michelle Herrarte.
“I love Y.O.U. because the staff can always tell when something is wrong and they always try to cheer me up,” Herrarte said. “And it’s at Y.O.U. that I get to try new groups like ‘The Chew’ cooking group. Now I get to cook for my mom instead of her always cooking for me and I teach her healthy new recipes.”
Herrarte’s mother, Sandra, is also active in Y.O.U. and has participated in parental leadership workshops sponsored by Y.O.U. “Y.O.U. has exposed me to a community base that has supported my growth and my pursuit of new opportunities,” Sandra said. “I’ve seen how Y.O.U. has changed my family’s life and it’s exciting that this campaign will help more families get access to these amazing programs.”