By: Marissa Page, The Daily Northwestern
Published: April 9, 2015
Youth Organizations Umbrella, a youth development agency that runs after-school academic enrichment programs in eight Evanston/Skokie schools, has expanded to three new sites in the region.
Y.O.U. began running focus groups at Evanston/Skokie School District 65’s Walker Elementary School and Skokie/Morton Grove School District 69’s Edison Elementary School and Skokie School District 68’s Old Orchard Junior High School in January, officially instating programs at the schools in March. The funding for the programs came from an Illinois State Board of Education grant and private donors.
“We identified these schools as having a few attributes that matter to us,” said Seth Green, Y.O.U.’s executive director. “One is great leadership, in terms of the principals and the school districts, and a real belief in community-school partnerships. Two is they have very real need, and three is we believe that our core model of service would be highly effective in addressing that need.”
After-school programming, which typically begins right after students get out of school, encompasses “academic, emotional and social-emotional learning,” Green said.
Y.O.U. students take electives focused on topics including the arts, science, technology, engineering, mathematics and recreation and fitness. They also receive life skills training and academic tutoring from site-assigned staffers, peers and college students, many who come from Northwestern. Programming usually extends until about 6 p.m.
“We try to understand each child’s unique strengths and stresses, and we will then offer programming based on those needs,” Green said.
Maria Rassiwalla, director of Evanston after-school programs for Y.O.U., said the sites would take time and experience to develop.
“These are such new sites, they’ve only really been up and running for a few weeks,” she said. “We’re still undergoing an assessment period, and throughout this semester going into the summer and next school year we should be able to devise the specific programming that best suits these schools.”
Green said he believes in the potential of each student Y.O.U. serves, and looks forward to seeing the impact the organization would have at Walker, Edison and Old Orchard.
“Our programs really change lives in a way that builds a more equitable and inclusive community,” Green said. “What’s so exciting about these new schools is it means new faces and new families who have a greater shot at both fun and upward mobility.”