Philosophy

OUR 4-STEP APPROACH

Step 1: Ensuring a healthy transition from Elementary to High School
YMEN offers in-school programs at three local schools serving more than 150 6th — 8th grade young men and women. Utilizing a curriculum developed by the Urban Leadership Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, the Dare to Be King and Dare to be Queen programs are being offered at Mason Elementary, the Chicago West Side Christian School, and most recently Webster Elementary. This program helps youth overcome obstacles while building skills in conflict management, academic motivation, violence prevention, healthy decision-making, and positive peer relations. Students are able to explore issues of identity while building strong relationships with positive adult mentors who will provide a bridge of support as they transition into high school.

Step 2: Equipping high school youth to graduate on time
YMEN offers consistent learning opportunities through after-school programs every Monday through Thursday from 3:30–8pm. Our “Learn to Earn” programs incorporate individual academic support, a $40,000 on-site computer lab and Smart Board with robust college and career classes, youth employment and entrepreneurial training, and a wide range of arts programs including visual arts, music and poetry, health and fitness, as well as carpentry, and culinary studies. On Saturday, tutoring from 20 volunteer adults is available through the Saturday University Program. At YMEN, students do not need to choose between a job and learning. Our After School Matters program awards $18,000 of youth employment opportunities for students investing in their own educational growth.

Step 3: Supporting appropriate college and career placement
By creating lifelong relationships with our students, YMEN develops deep knowledge of each young person’s potential. This uniquely qualifies us to assist students in matching their college and career options with their skills and abilities. College visitations, white-collar internships with Exelon and ComEd, weekend leadership workshops with LAPC and CHIL as well as YMEN’s long-term mentoring network provide a community infrastructure for college and career matching. YMEN provides college scholarship support (up to $4,000 per year), a laptop computer, and continual access to YMEN’s staff and programs to ensure students persist and graduate with a college degree.

Step 4: Providing incentive for YMEN leaders to return and reinvest
YMEN believes that long-term community development and transformation will be accomplished from within. YMEN has established creative incentives for our emerging leaders to return and re-invest in North Lawndale after college. First, through the Hooten Scholarship graduates can return to work full-time Lawndale and receive up to $5,000K annually toward retiring college debt. Secondly, we have a residence where graduates can live in a fully furnished apartment at a below market rent of $350/month. Finally, YMEN sets aside 75% of their rental amount into a home-ownership escrow account. In the event they seek to become a homeowner in North Lawndale, YMEN will refund them up to $6,000 toward their down payment.