In February, the Evanston-based nonprofit Mather, which includes senior living residences and a research arm, unveiled eMerge, its new workforce development program created for Evanston youth and young adults to help them increase their skills and try out a job before committing to a career.

Students from Boys Hope Girls Hope visit with residents at The Mather. Credit: Mather

The program, which includes internship, fellowship and scholarship opportunities, is being funded by an initial Mather investment of nearly $60,000 that is being matched by the city.

In addition to partnering with the city on eMerge, Mather will work with the Mayor’s Employer Advisory Council, Youth Job Center, Evanston Township High School, Oakton College, the YWCA, the Mayor’s Summer Youth Employment Program, iKit and District 65.

Yvonne Jung, Mather’s new senior vice president of human resources, said eMerge will help curious young people find the right job for them.

“What I love about the program is the ability to provide a young adult, who doesn’t necessarily have a plan for college or doesn’t necessarily have an identified path, and doesn’t really know what they’re going do, an opportunity to come into a community setting where they can really try out different careers,” Jung said.

The fellowships component of eMerge will bring together youth and young adults with volunteer residents of The Mather, the senior living residence in Evanston run by Mather.

Jung said she believes the fellowships are about “helping students find a passion. … It’s about finding that spark in a student and helping them grow.” 

The fellowships will offer youths and young adults the opportunity to experience a senior living residence as a potential workplace. Jung said the approach offers a “really unique way to bring generations together and then provide some, almost, reverse mentoring – the youth is mentoring the older adult, the older adult is mentoring the youth.”

Mather had already been operating its fellowship model prior to the announcement of eMerge. Jung said young people from the local mentoring organization Boys Hope Girls Hope currently meet with residents on a weekly basis.

“Sometimes they just chat, sometimes students talk about the sports they’re interested in, a resident might help a student with their French homework,” Jung said. “It’s really an opportunity to share.”

Students 16 and older will have the opportunity to participate in eMerge internships through which they’ll learn about working in culinary, housekeeping and building services roles. Jung said every intern will be encouraged to interview for a permanent position.

Scholarships that will be available for the nursing program at Oakton College are intended to help make health care studies more accessible and Mather will host clinical nursing training for Oakton College and other partner organizations.

Jung said the hope is that this might lead to careers in senior living facilities, such as becoming a certified nurse assistant or registered nurse. Every scholarship recipient will receive an interview to become part of The Mather’s nursing unit, either during their program or immediately after.

Yvonne Jung, who joined Mather in late 2022 as senior vice president of human resources, said she thinks there will be an increasing number of job opportunities at senior living residences. Credit: Mather

Jung has had a 20-year career in the hospitality industry, including working at Ritz-Carlton, Hilton, Mandarin Oriental and Auberge Resorts Collection before making a switch to the field of senior residence living.

While she has served in a range of roles in hospitality, much of her career has been in human resources, including in training. “I’m very passionate about any time we have the opportunity to grow a team member’s career and keep them passionate about what they do every day, because we spend a lot of time at work,” she said.

Jung said she thinks there will be an increasing number of opportunities in the field of senior living, including at The Mather, “to bring people into an industry and an organization that they may never have thought of. I never thought I would be serving older adults – but here I am at Mather.”

Ned Schaub is a feature story writer for the RoundTable. He has served as reporter, content developer and communications manager across his career in the field of nonprofit communications. Ned studied...

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