Building Stronger Communities Through Schools
When Maria* entered Hancock High School she was shy and troubled. A first generation American, both she and her single mother were just beginning to settle into a new culture and a new community. Maria was often bullied and struggled with depression. She was eventually introduced to Youth Guidance’s Community & Afterschool Program (CAP). Working with a highly trained Resource Coordinator, Maria began to expand socially and became involved in group activities. Her self-confidence and leadership skills grew and she improved her ability to socialize, present in groups and make new friends. She also received academic support, and at the encouragement of Youth Guidance staff she applied for and was accepted to DePaul University for the Fall 2015 semester. Through CAP, Maria found her voice—and her way.
At Youth Guidance, we are committed to cultural competency and creating authentic partnerships with students through community school outreach. Youth are encouraged to build upon their own inner strengths and abilities to achieve their dreams. Often, they begin to see their future with new eyes. Through fun opportunities for growth, social-emotional support and adult guidance, youth like Maria learn to trust new experiences and embrace life’s possibilities.
*Name changed for confidentiality.
About Community Schools…
Community schools are the center around which the community revolves. In the community school model, public schools, non-profit organizations and local businesses come together to elevate learning and encourage family and community engagement with initiatives that often extend beyond traditional afterschool programs.
Across Chicago, Youth Guidance’s Community Schools offer services and supports to meet students’ needs in academics, health, family and the broader community. This is aided by a school’s commitment to using data to drive the planning and development of those opportunities (e.g., discipline/SEL data, family demographics, academic performance, etc.).
Youth Guidance offerings are aligned with the identified needs of the students and the school community, and address issues such as poverty, too much unstructured time, unaddressed health needs, transience, school violence, unsafe school environments and overburdened and/or under-resourced schools.
Our work is aligned with the three primary aims of the community schools model:
1. Boost academic achievement through educational and social-emotional supports, while also removing barriers and providing enhanced opportunities for growth.
2. Address the health and wellness needs of children and their families through medical support, counseling services and youth and community development programs.
3. Build parental and community engagement and enhance decision-making through shared leadership.
2015 Community School Award for Excellence
John Hancock College Preparatory High School was honored in 2015 with a National Community Schools Award for Excellence for providing exemplary service-learning opportunities and mental health support to students, Much of that support came through Youth Guidance’s Community & Afterschool and school-based counseling programs. The improvements have resulted in higher attendance rates, decreased dropout rates and increased graduation rates. This has made a dramatic difference in the school culture and everyday atmosphere.
“…these places are exemplars of the work community schools can do; they demonstrate what is possible with a thoughtful plan, strong leaders, and a focus on family engagement—embedding themselves into the community, and taking part in it.”
– Martin L. Black, President of the Institute for Educational Leadership & Director of the Coalition for Community Schools
Community Learning Centers use schools as the home-base for providing extended learning to students, families and communities. The centers provide academic and skill-based enrichment opportunities for students with the ultimate goal of improved performance in state academic achievement standards. The broad array of supplementary programs include youth development, art, music, recreation, technology education, character building and literacy.
Youth Guidance uses a comprehensive approach to building student resiliency. CAP often collaborates with agency Counseling & Prevention areas such as BAM and WOW to offer as many social-emotional and behavioral health alternatives as possible. Working across program areas results in increased opportunities for parent leadership training, restorative justice initiatives and crisis and grief counseling.
Youth Guidance staff are also trained in the proper implementation of the Response to Intervention (RTI) and Positive Behavioral Support Systems (PBSS) models encouraged by CPS.
Helping Students Look Ahead – “I work with high school students to prepare them for life after high school, whether that’s college or a professional trade. We focus on social and emotional learning to help them transition successfully to post-high school life. I help kids transition successfully into the real world, help them build a strong support system, help them visualize what they want their futures to look like and help them develop a plan for achieving that vision.”
Building Trust – “What I enjoy most about working at Youth Guidance is my direct involvement with the students. I can build effective relationships with my students by listening to them and ensuring that the programming is in line with their interests. Together, we create relationships built on trust.”
Every gift has the power to change a life.