City to expand youth summer programs

Mayor Richard M. Daley today announced several new summer programs, and the expansion of existing ones, in hopes of keeping kids off the streets after a record-setting wave of violence.

The city will start six new programs this summer, including Freshman Connection, which helps teens transition to high school, and youth advisory councils, which will bring them together to discuss safety and public policy.

"We want our young people to stay safe from violence, stay away from a life of violence and achieve their full potential in life," says Daley.

More than 20 Chicago Public Schools students have been killed by gunfire this year. The district has started escorting students to and from school in some neighborhoods, and is lobbying legislators for stricter gun control.

Daniel Dighton, a spokesperson for Operation CeaseFire, an organization aimed at reducing violence in Chicago communities, says the changes Daley announced could help.

"Any program that's giving jobs to young people would be welcome and beneficial to the city and all those involved," Dighton says. "That's one of the most needed things out there, and one of the problems we have with the people we work with."

Daley, noting that many jobs today are in the private sector, challenged Chicago business leaders to provide jobs for teens.

A variety of programs for young Chicagoans will expand this summer. The Park District will be spending an additional $500,000, to expand their NeighborSports program, increasing participation by 1,500 teens. After School Matters is adding 3,000 positions to its paid apprenticeship program.

The changes are expected to increase participation in summer programs to 280,000, up 15,000 from last year, the city says. An additional 1,000 jobs will be available to young people, pushing the number of total opportunities above 18,000 this summer, the city says.

The city will spend $1.5 million more than last summer to make those jobs available.

Jobs offered for the first time this summer include working with the Chicago Transit Authority's rail car appearance program, job readiness training for CHA teens, and opportunities within CleanSlate Chicago. More jobs are available within private and public sectors through the Summer Jobs Program, says Daley.

The city will also continue current programs, including Hooked on Fishing, which introduces kids to angling, and the Chicago Public Library's Great Kids Museum Passport Project, which offers families free entrance to 11 of Chicago's cultural institutions.

New programs include:

* Freshman Connection, a program designed by Chicago Public Schools to help 8th graders transition to high school.

* Bilingual Bridge Program for English Language Learners, offered by CPS for grades 3, 6 and 8.

* School and Career Readiness Program, offered by the Department of Children and Youth Services and CHA.

* Manufacturing Readiness Program, providing jobs in the manufacturing industry.

* Two youth councils focused on public policy, offered by CYS and the Mikva Challenge.

* Chicago Voices Against Violence, a contest and expo offered by CYS, CAPS, and Clear Channel Radio.