Helping Youth in Care Find School & Life Success

At the tender age of five, Bria* became a Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) youth in care. The years that followed were challenging, as she struggled with depression and desperately searched for her family. Bria enrolled in STRIVE (Strategies to Rejuvenate Interest and Value in Education) during her freshman year and found a caring advocate and trusted support in her STRIVE counselor. At 16, she located her biological mother and was eager to make a connection. Her STRIVE counselor worked with DCFS to facilitate a reunion that brought healing to Bria’s life and allowed her to return to the care of her mother. Tragically, her mother passed away from cancer only six months after Bria’s case closed with DCFS. By working closely with her STRIVE counselor, Bria once again found the strength to face her tremendous sense of loss, maintain her grades, graduate on time and secure admission to a four-year university. STRIVE provided the continuous care Bria needed to overcome her depression and personal hardships. Today, she is a senior in college and will graduate in June 2017.

STRIVE meets youth in care where they are—both socially and emotionally—empowering them through encouragement, support and guidance.  STRIVE helps youth like Bria navigate difficult life circumstances, stay engaged in school and gain the tools necessary for future success.

* Name changed for confidentiality.


All children need nurturing relationships, adult guidance and access to a quality education. For more than 20,000 Chicago children involved in the foster care system, these needs are even more pressing. STRIVE works to meet these core needs by promoting the well-being of youth in care through structured counseling and well-rounded supports.

A strategic collaboration between Youth Guidance, Chicago Public Schools and the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, STRIVE serves youth who have experienced trauma or neglect by integrating support systems within the school environment.  Staff act as mentors and advocates by determining the needs of students and offering resources that help fill identified voids. Staff outreach and support helps in-care youth transition into adulthood and lead productive lives.

During the 2015-2016 academic year, STRIVE served 200 youth age 14-21 through one-on-one counseling, college tours, social and educational enrichment field trips, parent and family engagement educational workshops and educational activities.

of STRIVE youth improved on key social-emotional measures in 2015.
of STRIVE students were promoted to the next grade level.

striveSTRIVE staff work to develop and maintain positive, supportive relationships with youth in care and their caregivers.  Their work includes ongoing support activities,such as:

  • Crisis intervention and stabilization
  • Counseling supports
  • Grade, behavior and attendance monitoring
  • Collaboration/advocacy with school and DCFS agencies
  • Home visits
  • Referrals to relevant resources
  • Post-secondary planning

1200px-PhillipsacademyThe STRIVE program operates in a number of schools across Chicago:

  • John H. Bowen High School (South Chicago)
  • Frederick Douglass High School (Austin, Chicago)
  • Harper High School (West Englewood, Chicago)
  • Marshall High School (East Garfield, Chicago)
  • Orr High School (Humboldt Park, Chicago)
  • Phillips High School (Bronzeville, Chicago)
  • Roberto Clemente High School (West Town, Chicago)
  • Proviso East High School (Proviso Township District 209, Maywood IL)
  • Thornridge High School (School District 205, Dolton IL)
  • Thornwood High School (School District 205, South Holland IL)

The STRIVE Program also services 8th grade, in-care students who attend various public elementary schools.

Cristola Claybon, STRIVE Program Managercclaybon_LThumb  (20 years at Youth Guidance)

“STRIVE celebrated its 13th annual banquet last year.  The theme was STRIVE Star Qualities.  Our students are faced with numerous challenges everyday, yet these extraordinary individuals continue to demonstrate hard work and excellence, which are “ star qualities.” We use the STRIVE Banquet as a tool to encourage students’ dedication for excellence, celebrate their achievement and honor those students who have been fully engaged in their own academic success. We also involved caregivers & guardians, without whom, our young people would not have the support needed to nurture their development. Caregivers provide a foundation of stability and love that fosters our youths’ strengths and accomplishments.”

YouthGuidance_20150729_023STRIVE helps youth in care who have suffered abuse or neglect develop new life skills and coping strategies for a restored sense of enthusiasm and hope for the future.  

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