On  Sept. 29, leaders from several youth-serving organizations met with nearly 100 community members to discuss the importance of “Engaging Evanston Youth in Real World Activities.”  

The event, held at the BooCoo Café and Cultural center included speakers Oscar Hawthorne, Assistant Superintendent, Principal, Evanston School District 202, Sacella Smith, Executive Director, Youth Job Center of Evanston, Shelley Gates, Program Director, Applied Sciences and Technologies Department, Evanston Township High School, Mary Collins, Community Service Department, Evanston Township High School, and Andy Thomas, Executive Director, Youth Technology Corps. 

The speakers focused their remarks on the importance of engaging all Evanston youth and ensuring that they pursue post-secondary training/education that leads to living wage employment.  Providing youth with relevant activities now, while still in high school, will help ensure successful careers in the future.  YTC talked about how their programs engage young people in rebuilding computers which are then donated to local not-for-profits; the YJC discussed the value of gaining job-readiness skills and knowing what it means to get and keep a job; the Community Service Department shared their focus of engaging youth as volunteers not only to inspire a sense of giving back but also to demonstrate how volunteering can lead to a paying job; and the Applied Sciences department described the depth and range of their course offerings from culinary arts to engineering. 

“The face of the workplace is undergoing a huge change and there is a critical need for middle-skills workers.  We must ensure that the future workforce is ready to fill these jobs,” stated YJC Executive Director, Sacella Smith. “We must be focused on helping all youth be successful; not just those who plan to go on to a traditional four-year college. We will truly achieve a strong, vibrant community here in Evanston only when all youth are engaged in productive activities that will positively impact their lives.”