Project Prepare

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Preparing for What’s Next

Looking back on her introduction to Youth Guidance’s Project Prepare® program, Vanessa* recalls being shy, unfocused and unsure of her future plans.  That was two years ago.  Today, if you ask her what she’s learned she’ll confidently tell you: “I’ve learned how to communicate better and more professionally.” The new writing skills she gained through the program have helped her not only in school and when applying for jobs, but also in her college application process.  Working with a dedicated Project Prepare counselor, Vanessa has been accepted to Northeastern Illinois University to study social work next year. She hopes to use that education to help others in need.

Youth Guidance invests in the future of young men and women by supporting their transition from high school to responsible adulthood. Project Prepare exposes students like Vanessa to a wide range of future possibilities, and offers youth the tangible skills they’ll need to achieve their long-term goals.

*Name changed for confidentiality.

About Project Prepare…

Thinking about life after high school can be scary for teens.  Some may ask themselves: Will I go to college? What’s the application process like? Can I afford it?  I need a job….what should I wear to an interview?  How do I discover my interests or apply my talent?

Project Prepare offers answers.  For more than 25 years, the program has provided students with learning opportunities designed to develop current and future career interests.  The program helps youth foster hard and soft life skills that emphasize college and career readiness.  Most participants are between the ages of 15-19 and enter the program through referral.  Participants meet with highly skilled Career Specialists on a bi-weekly basis.

During the 2014-2015 school year, Project Prepare successfully placed students into 96 job opportunities.  More than 108 students in four Chicago area high schools were “core’ Project Prepare students who received individual career preparation supports; and an additional 102 students recent post-graduates received classroom-based instruction in career readiness and/or coaching.  Based on available data from Chicago Public Schools for core Project Prepare students, all maintained their enrollment in school, while the average dropout rate for students in the same CPS schools was 6.5%.  Analysis further revealed that 93% of core participants graduated from high school on time.

Project Prepare works to ensure that youth are empowered with the skills and resources necessary to make a successful transition to the post‐secondary education or employment opportunity of their choice.  The program expanded in 2015 to include “Project Prepare Blue” aimed at supporting out-of-school and unemployed youth.

Project Prepare and Project Prepare Blue are supported through a grant provided by the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership.
Our agency is an equal opportunity employer/program, Auxiliary aids and services are available upon request to individuals with disabilities.

of core Project Prepare students maintained year-round academic enrollment.
of core Project Prepare seniors graduated on time in 2015.


Project Prepare is supported by a number of organizations and strategic partners who share Youth Guidance’s commitment to youth. Our partners include the Chicago Department of Family and Support Services (DFSS), Sprint, Ford, the Chicago Park District, Chicago Public Schools, Illinois Department of Human Services, Hyatt Hotels and Resorts, WGN Radio Neediest Kids Fund, Maximus Foundation, Rieff Schramm Kanter & Guttman Attorneys at Law, the TJX Foundation, and the Youth Guidance Junior Board.

We are very committed to connecting our workforce partners with highly qualified, diverse candidates who are ready to contribute from the first day of work.  Employers may also participate in our summer internship initiative.  Interested in joining our network?  Please email Youth Workforce Development Account Manager Jacob Grobe for more information.

IMG_2692IMG_2684     Loop Discovery Search KP team discussing route to next clue

Since 1989, Youth Guidance has also included the Loop Discovery Search project as a part of the Project Prepare curriculum. The activity has educated more than 1,200 inner‐city youth about the Chicago “Loop” business district. During the Discovery Search, student teams are sent on a clue‐by‐clue search through the downtown Loop area.  Participants collect information from landmarks, maps, building directories, street signs and library shelves. The Discovery Search helps these young adults develop important skills including teamwork, navigation, critical thinking, time management, decision making and conflict management.

IMG_1486IMG_1435    IMG_2978

Since 2012, the Youth Guidance Junior Board has hosted an annual Prepared For What’s Next career development event to support Project Prepare youth. The event features an exciting half-day of workforce development activities and interactive workshops led by board members, agency staff and volunteers.  Workshops include Networking 101, Dressing for the Workplace and Mapping Out Your Future. The day is the culminating event for program participants who are each given an opportunity to practice the skills they’ve gained throughout the year.  Every student also receives the gift of a brand new professional outfit thanks to the generous support of Banana Republic.

IMG_3637photo of plaque from Victor MJames Zeckhauser, Program Manager, Workforce Development

Committed to Supporting Youth: “I came to Youth Guidance 26½ years ago. Currently, I work at Kelvyn Park School, running Project Prepare there, helping students and graduates learn how to land and keep jobs. I also assist local firms with finding solid candidates for their job openings.”

A Powerful Moment:  “In 2012 a student presented me with a beautiful homemade plaque with a photo of the two of us together, and words saying that he wanted me to be with him on the day he graduated college. We remain close, and he is on his way to earning a bachelor’s degree from Valparaiso University.”

His Inspiration:  “What inspires me is when a youth whom I have been training masters a critical self-marketing—presenting him or herself on the phone to a hiring manager in such a way that the youth successfully lands an interview invitation. There comes a moment when the youth suddenly “gets it”…fully understanding that he/she has assets that will interest the firm, and that he /she can powerfully and effectively communicate those assets. The youth is then swept over by feelings of joy, accomplishment and control over his/her destiny. To see this, to be a part of this, is great.”

IMG_2940By supporting Project Prepare, you support a more vibrant economy and a new vision for Chicago’s future.  Every gift helps youth gain valuable workforce skills for today’s competitive job market.  

Every gift has the power to change a life.

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