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Youth Organizations Umbrella, a long-time resident of 1027 Sherman Ave., across the street from Nichols Middle School, is growing. Started 43 years ago as a center for youth, the organization now has programs in eight schools, seven in Evanston and one in Skokie, where students can get help with homework and then enjoy sports, creative activities, etc., for three hours after school.
“We meet youth where they are,” said Seth Green, executive director of Y.O.U. The Evanston schools are Evanston Township High School, Washington, Oakton and Dawes elementary schools, Nichols and Chute middle schools and King Arts K-8.
As far back as 2009, Y.O.U. began planning to move, Mr. Green told residents at the Nov. 20 Fifth Ward meeting, but the recent recession stalled the project. A recent gift of property and resources from Colonel Jennifer Pritzker’s Tawani Enterprises will allow Y.O.U. to build a new headquarters at 1911 Church St. Other donations have augmented Ms. Pritzker’s gift, so the organization is about half way to its $4 million goal.
“More than a year ago, Tawani came [to a Fifth Ward meeting] and said they had bought the property,” said Alderman Delores Holmes, who convenes a monthly Fifth Ward meeting. Since that time, “we’ve not heard from them. We do know they bought the property and donated it to Y.O.U,” she said, adding she had invited Mr. Green “to describe what Y.O.U. intends to do.”
“We want to be good neighbors,” Mr. Green said to the residents. “We know that part of being in a community means listening,” he added. For that reason, Y.O.U. held a “listening session” at Family Focus the week before, he said, and came to the Fifth Ward meeting to hear neighbors’ concerns and their visions for the building.
Most Y.O.U. activities take place in the schools, so the new building will have space on the first floor for special activities; at present a maker lab for workshops and demonstrations and a culinary therapy kitchen are planned. The second floor will have office space.
The move is necessary, said Mr. Green, because “we’re at our limit.” On a yearly basis, he said, Y.O.U. serves 1,200 students and touches 3,000 family members. About 60% of the students are black, 25-30% are Latino, and 10-15% are white or Asian, he said. Of those 85% are eligible for a free or reduced-price lunch. The student-to-staff ratio is 7 to 1. With the new building, Y.O.U. will be able to reach out to more youth and offer more opportunities to all the youth, he said.
“We will be in the building between 3 and 7 p.m. and would love it to be vital all day,” Mr. Green said, adding, “We are eager to have your views on what you would like to see in the building.”
Many residents at the meeting seemed more eager to hear about Y.O.U.’s plans than to make suggestions.
Y.O.U. will apply for tax-exempt status for the 1911 Church St. property once the purchase is completed, Mr. Green said. Referring to the parking lot on the southeast corner of Church Street and Dodge Avenue, he said Y.O.U. will do some landscaping and make sure “it is maintained and available to residents and ETHS.” There will be a handicap parking space in front of the building, he said.
Y.O.U. Youth Paint Mural at C&W Market
When middle-schoolers Ana Ariza and Dionne Wilson participated in Y.O.U.’s Urban Elements poetry and art group this summer, they learned that graffiti art could transcend negative stereotypes to serve as a powerful form of self-expression. So Ariza and Wilson applied their knowledge to brighten up a local business.
On Nov.16, Ana and Dionne worked alongside Y.O.U. King Arts Site Coordinator Hussein Ally and his design partner to create a mural for C&W Market and Ice Cream Parlor, 1901 Church St. The mural depicts different items found throughout the store and the colorful, community-oriented identity of the new business.
C&W owners Clarence D. Weaver Sr. and Wendy Weaver solicited mural ideas from the community.
“”We wanted to partner with Y.O.U. because we saw this as an opportunity for participation from youth that was also a good way to support the organization,”” said Mr. Weaver.
“”This was a great opportunity for our youth. … This showed them that being an artist can be a real career possibility,”” said Mr. Ally.
“”It feels awesome just knowing that so many people are going to see our mural and are going to acknowledge that we did something great,”” Ana said.
“”We wanted something that felt fresh and showcased that we have products for youth as well as adults,”” said Mr. Weaver.
“”The mural became a complement of our mission and our motto. People walk by and give us a thumbs up and come in and compliment the art. … This is already proving to be a conversation piece.
“”I think the mural represents that we want to have a long-term relationship with Y.O.U. We like their mission, we like their mentorship and we like the impact it’s having on the youth of our community,”” Mr. Weaver said.