Board of Commissioners Approves Agreements with Agencies to Foster Youth Engagement

March 28, 2016 01:25 PM

CHICAGO - March 28, 2016 - The Chicago Housing Authority Board of Commissioners has approved agreements with three organizations that complement the agency’s “Year of the Youth” campaign and support CHA’s goal of keeping young public housing residents engaged in summer activities that support their development.

The agreements with Mikva Challenge Grant Foundation, Summer Advantage and Growing Power were approved by the board at its regular monthly meeting on March 25.

Mikva will assist with the development of the inaugural CHA Youth Council, with an emphasis on developing policy that is informed by the voices of young people. The councils will also help to increase the engagement of adolescents in decision-making processes, develop a commitment of civic engagement and provide positive modeling and interactions between adolescents and adults. Since 1998, Mikva has served over 60,000 students and operates seven Citywide Youth Councils. Its core mission is to help young people to become informed and active citizens and community leaders.

Mikva uses intensive leadership development, team-building and participatory action to teach kids about policy issues, and an organizational platform to develop leadership skills.

“Mikva’s hands-on, strategic philosophy goes hand-in-hand with the idea of CHA’s ‘Year of the Youth’ campaign to empower and educate young people, and we look forward to working with them,” said CHA CEO Eugene Jones, Jr. said.

“Mikva Challenge is excited to embark on this new project with the Chicago Housing Authority. Adding a Youth Council that will work on CHA policies that directly impact CHA's youth residents, during its Year of the Youth campaign, shows Mr. Jones's dedication to young residents and to their engagement and empowerment, said Michelle Morales, Executive Director for Mikva Challenge in Chicago.

Summer Advantage provides academic enrichment and career exploration for CHA youth participating in the Learn and Earn program, which serves about 700 CHA young people between the ages of 13 and 15. The primary purpose of the program is to keep kids engaged and learning through the summer. The program takes place at college campuses throughout Chicago, including the City Colleges of Chicago and Loyola University. CHA has offered Learn and Earn since 2008.

During the summer of 2015, 721 participants enrolled in the Learn and Earn program, helping students maintain their skills so they do not fall behind.
“Without the support from our program, the students stand to lose the gains they made during the school year and are at greater risk of falling behind,” Jones said. “Learn and Earn allows them to keep learning while also earning money.”
Besides CHA’s Year of the Youth, Learn and Earn also contributes to Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s “One Summer Chicago” program. CHA collaborates closely with the City and partner agencies in planning youth programs and tracking youth outcomes.

Growing Power is a national nonprofit organization that focuses on supporting people of diverse backgrounds and their environment by providing access to healthy, high-quality, safe and affordable food for people in the community.
In 2010, CHA initiated an urban farm at Altgeld Gardens with the help of Growing Power. Since then, the farm has supported several youth and adult employment and training programs, providing valuable skills training while increasing the community’s access to healthy food.

“Growing Power’s youth employment training programs educate youth on sustainable urban agriculture while providing transferrable employment and life skills,” Jones said. “Last year, 130 youth participated in the agriculture program at Altgeld Gardens. Since 2010, 400 youth have successfully completed the program. It’s one of CHA’s most fruitful initiatives and we are thrilled to continue this invaluable partnership with Growing Power.”

CHA’s Year of the Youth is a year-long youth engagement campaign that includes unique business partnerships, internship programs and youth-related programs that focus on mentoring young people and putting them on a strong career path to college and jobs.

“Our young people are society’s most important asset, and we recognize that at the Chicago Housing Authority,” Jones said.