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Evanston is working hard to provide opportunities for young people that allow them to connect with positive experiences in their community. Between the Youth Engagement Initiative started by the city, the Youth Job Center and the Youth Council, the city has a balanced and proactive approach to helping their young residents gain valuable knowledge that is directly applicable to their future as productive adult members of society.

The Youth Job Center of Evanston helps partner students with companies that are looking for help and also provides a variety of job-related support services. The center works with companies in many different fields including retail, construction, education and automotive, to name just a few. The organization was founded by Ann Jennett in the early 1980s as she began to recognize the need for youth employment assistance in the area. With one of its offices located at Evanston Township High School, the job center is an ideal place for high school students to inquire about part-time work or summer jobs. Counselors at the organization are available to assist those aged 14 to 25 with everything from resume writing to interview skills.

The Youth Job Center is also a great place for those who have not completed high school to get some help identifying career possibilities and in building skills that will help train them for a career. The center offers job-readiness training and GED preparation for those who are 18 to 21 through their Out of School Youth program main facility, located at 1114 Church Street. Although the organization works on job placement, its primary focus is on job readiness, and they strive to meet young people wherever they are at in the process of finding employment.

The City of Evanston also provides opportunities for employment to those 14 to 18 through the mayor’s Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP). A nine-week job is lined up for the season through either the city itself or local businesses. Evanston shows its commitment to this initiative through its 50/50 program, where local businesses willing to employ a teen can get reimbursed for half their salary. Students interested in summer employment through this program participate in the Summer Youth Job Fair held every April, where they can interview for a variety of positions.

Evanston has gone even farther down the road toward helping youth feel connected by investing resources in the Youth Engagement Initiative. The program was basically designed to play a “coordinating role” in the bigger picture of all the youth programs in the area—a sort of clearinghouse to give things a more central focus. “Our goal is to strengthen the existing network of youth organizations,” says Assistant City Manager Judy Aiello.

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Aiello says that the initiative began when the city was able to hire a recent graduate from Northwestern University through a fellowship program to do public service work. Time was then spent talking directly with kids in the neighborhood about what they felt was important, and a Youth Summit was held to discuss relevant issues and get their perspective and opinions. The development of a Youth Council grew out of the summit, and elected members will follow through with next steps for some of the issues that were raised. The goal of the Youth Council is to involve young people in the decision-making processes of the city that concern them.

Evanston is not taking a passive role when it comes to helping its young people connect with positive opportunities. Being proactive and providing a strong network of resources as well as involving the youth themselves in the process shows the city takes its future very seriously.

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