CYC Young Entrepreneurs take on board rooms

It’s not often that a teenager gets the opportunity to present a legitimate business proposal in a board room to a non-profit organization, but that’s the exact situation two CYC teens achieved a few weeks ago.

 Janese, a CYC-Fellowship House teen, explains various design options to the executives at Chicago Cares.

Janese, a CYC-Fellowship House teen, explains various design options to the executives at Chicago Cares.

CYC recently developed a partnership with Chicago Cares, a volunteer mobilization organization. A new club, CYC Young Entrepreneurs, comprised of eight select teens across our Centers are developing a business plan to design, market, and sell 1,250-1,500 official event T-shirts during Chicago Cares’ 25th Serve-a-Thon event in mid-June.

This collaboration has pushed the involved teens to think critically about design, get quotes from vendors, sort out the logistics behind prices, sizes, and quality, while working on their public speaking skills as they pitch their “business” to the organization.

The teens are working with staff and professional mentors. The skills they are developing include understanding the power of collaborative work, the ideation procession, how to research, and how to negotiate.

"I learned that to be a successful entrepreneur, you have to have an idea and believe in it, but you also have to take feedback and persevere to improve it,” said Janese, a teen at CYC-Fellowship House. “It’s also important to have fun and believe in yourself, no matter what."

 Sean, a CYC-Elliott Donnelley Youth Center teen, walks the executives at Chicago Cares through the business plan the CYC Young Entrepreneurs had developed.

Sean, a CYC-Elliott Donnelley Youth Center teen, walks the executives at Chicago Cares through the business plan the CYC Young Entrepreneurs had developed.

CYC Chief Operating Officer Scott Merrow said CYC is extremely fortunate that Chicago Cares agreed to partner on this pilot program.

“These are hands-on real life 21st century business skills that are laying the foundation for CYC kids’ future professional endeavors,” Scott said. “These are the kids Chicago companies are going to want to hire because of programs like this.”

Jenné Myers, the CEO of Chicago Cares, said the organization is excited to be the first client for CYC’s new venture to design T-shirts for the 25th annual Serve-a-thon.

 “Our mission is to build a stronger, more unified Chicago through volunteerism, and we can live those values by investing in the great potential and promise of our city’s talented young people,” Jenné said. “The process has been a fun learning experience for all of us, and we can’t wait to see the final t-shirts.”

 The Chicago Cares executives and CYC staff and teens posed for a photo after the business meeting.

The Chicago Cares executives and CYC staff and teens posed for a photo after the business meeting.

Cultivating peace in South Shore

 CYC youth worker Devin Swift-Bailey poses with a child and his interpretation of peace: the sign language phrase for "I love you."

CYC youth worker Devin Swift-Bailey poses with a child and his interpretation of peace: the sign language phrase for "I love you."

At CYC-Crown, teens, children, and community residents have a united mission: a peaceful summer.

On April 14, nearly 70 people gathered at our Center in South Shore for the South Shore Teen Summit.

CYC youth and teens, participants from Lost Boyz, the Chicago Police Department, and the NAACP all gathered to participate in meaningful conversations and learn to de-escalate violence. Andra Medea, who developed CHILL, a program that teaches youth to recognize the biological effects of anger and confrontation and develop techniques to de-escalate conflicts, was also present. CHILL has been a part of the CYC curriculum for about a year, and Devin said he has seen positive results.

 Teens and community members participated in peace circles intended to spur community conversations.

Teens and community members participated in peace circles intended to spur community conversations.

In addition to a presentation on how to de-escalate aggressive situations before they turn violent, Devin said they wanted to focus on how teens should interact with law enforcement to achieve peaceful and mutually respectful solutions.

Devin said when organizing the event, he reached out to the Chicago Police Department to facilitate peace circles inspired by their Bridging the Divide collaboration with the YMCA of Metro Chicago. During the peace circles, the police offered answers and posed questions and pushed for open conversations.

“It was a way for the police department to connect with the community, so when summer hits, we’re not just running when we see the police,” Devin said. “We want everybody to have a better outlook. If we know who is around us, then we have better relationships.”

The NAACP also took time to discuss restorative justice practices.

CYC youth also worked on a peace mural. The mural will be a collage of different interpretations of peace.

“With the peace mural, we hope to use our individual interpretations of peace to show what is important to our community,” said Monica Wizgird, the CYC Arts & Innovation Coordinator.

The process of invention: Learning grit and creativity

 Victoria and Amara, CYC-Fellowship students, pose in front of their presentation at the Chicago Student Invention Convention.

Victoria and Amara, CYC-Fellowship students, pose in front of their presentation at the Chicago Student Invention Convention.

When Victoria, 11, grows up, she wants to be either an engineer or an inventor. So, when CYC staff members asked her to be a part of the Chicago Student Invention Convention and invent a new product, she jumped at the opportunity.

“I liked the idea of inventing stuff,” she said.

Victoria, a student who attends CYC-Fellowship House in Bridgeport, was one of nine CYC students who participated in the Chicago Student Invention Convention on April 7. Several students were interviewed by ABC 7 to explain what they thought of the event. 

This was an exciting endeavor for the children at our Centers as they were not only challenged to explore innovative solutions to problems they identify, they were also required to create a prototype and plan to present to a panel of judges at the event. The students competed against hundreds of other Chicago children.

“Ultimately, the project required us to work hard, push through and give our best!” said Steven Willis, the CYC STEM Manager. “The reward was seeing our youth participants glowing with pride and excitement as they presented their inventions at the convention. Because just like us, they gave their best.”

The process was just as you might expect for any inventor: full of trial and error.

 Amara works on a prototype of the double-sided lotion invention.

Amara works on a prototype of the double-sided lotion invention.

Victoria worked with another Fellowship House student, Amara, to create their invention of a double-sided lotion bottle. But before they had their final version, the duo had a few frustrations to sort out.

Their inspiration came from seeing a CYC staff member struggle with a bottle of nearly-empty lotion.

“We found out people have a hard time getting their lotion out of the bottle,” said Amara, 9.

So first, the two tried making a “lotion scooper.” But that didn’t work out so well, and neither did their next step, a “push pop lotion” that could be twisted. 

“Before we came up with our double-sided lotion bottle, we were kind of discouraged,” Victoria said.

However, the girls found success with a prototype that opens on both ends to get the most use of the lotion product inside.

“Although you could be discouraged, you keep on trying. We ended up having that problem, but we fixed it with more ideas and thinking,” said Victoria.

Other CYC projects included:

  • Glow in the dark shoelaces to keep pedestrians safe from vehicles and each other.
  • The concept of a hover car carrier that would easily transport vehicles from one state to another.
  • “Purpose Pack:” A battery powered tech bag that charges electronic devices and has its own Internet hotspot.
  • “F.L.E.X (Futuristic Lithium Electric Xperience):” A battery powered car that compacts for portability.

Generous funding from organizations like the Polk Bros. Foundation, Rivers Casino, ArcelorMittal, Motorola Solutions Fund,Zakat Foundation, and Peoples Gas gave our staff the flexibility to purchase materials to build prototypes of the students’ concepts. Thank you to our supporters for helping us create safe spaces that allow our kids to keep tinkering, experimenting, and finding solutions to their daily problems. You are equipping tomorrow’s leaders with the grit and creativity needed to succeed in the workplace.

 CYC students and staff stand with the inventions and presentations they brought to the chicago student invention convention.

CYC students and staff stand with the inventions and presentations they brought to the chicago student invention convention.

Event recap: The third annual Shake & Stir

 The staff of CYC-fellowship House pose with the official shake & stir check.

The staff of CYC-fellowship House pose with the official shake & stir check.

The third annual Shake & Stir, presented by the CYC Auxiliary Board and Epsilon Economics, was a success!

 T-up nation, a dance group comprised of teens from cyc-elliott donnelley youth center in bronzeville, performs at shake & stir.

T-up nation, a dance group comprised of teens from cyc-elliott donnelley youth center in bronzeville, performs at shake & stir.

Through the generosity of our sponsors and attendees, we raised more than $113,000 net for CYC-Fellowship House in Bridgeport. Your support equips CYC to equalize access to resources that will help our youth develop the skills needed to succeed in the 21st century.

 Members of the CYC-Auxiliary Board pose in the photo booth at Shake & stir.

Members of the CYC-Auxiliary Board pose in the photo booth at Shake & stir.

The event, which was attended by more than 500 people, featured live entertainment from top Chicago band Maggie Speaks and dance group Lady Jack Entertainment. Shake & Stir also featured some homegrown entertainment: T-Up Nation, a group of teen dancers who attend CYC-Elliott Donnelley Youth Center in Bronzeville.

Guests also enjoyed exciting bites like mini crab cakes from Polo Inn Café, sliders and macaroni cheese from New Line Tavern, lobster ravioli from My Private Chef and more.  Generous beverage donations from Tito’s Vodka, Mendocino Wine Co., Koval Distillery, and Stoller Imports were also appreciated by attendees.

Thank you so much to all of our generous sponsors! You’re truly #StirringUpChange in Bridgeport.

To view more photos from the event, click here. To view photo booth pictures, click here.


THANK YOU TO OUR SHAKE & STIR SPONSORS AS OF 2/22/2018

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Spectre Sponsors

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Food & Beverage Sponsors

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Music to our ears: CYC nurtures beats and harmonies

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It’s been a bright era for music at CYC the past few months as our partnership with the Merit School of Music has expanded and our Maker Studio at CYC-Elliott Donnelley Youth Center has nurtured blossoming interests in music production.

As the Chicago Sun-Times and ABC 7 Chicago recently reported, the violin classes provided through the Merit School of Music at CYC-Rebecca K. Crown Youth Center have served students who would likely not have another opportunity to play violin.

 Instructor Elisabeth Johnson watches as India Mabon, 9, goes thru a violin exercise Tuesday at the Crown Center in South Shore. The students are working on different rhythms. | Leslie Adkins/For the Sun-Times

Instructor Elisabeth Johnson watches as India Mabon, 9, goes thru a violin exercise Tuesday at the Crown Center in South Shore. The students are working on different rhythms. | Leslie Adkins/For the Sun-Times

Breanna, an 8-year-old at CYC-Crown, began learning to play the violin after her parents found out about the partnership between CYC and Merit. Breanna told the Sun-Times that the violin has encouraged her to be organized and set higher academic goals.

“The sense of accomplishment from playing gives her so much confidence and really increases who she is as a person,” her father, Randall, told the Sun-Times.

In many of the communities CYC serves, music instruction is not a readily available resource. Preliminary results from an ongoing study conducted by Northwestern University Auditory Neuroscience Laboratories shows that “music instruction not only improves children’s communication skills, attention, and memory, but that it may even close the academic gap between rich and poor students,” according to a 2013 article by The Atlantic.

Last October, our partnership with Merit School of Music expanded to CYC-Sidney Epstein Youth Center to include choir lessons. The participating youth, which also includes children from CYC-Fellowship House, have been attending weekly rehearsals. In December, they performed songs that focus on strength and self-esteem.

At CYC-Elliott Donnelley Youth Center, the new Maker Studio has become a hub for teens looking for a creative outlet.

Since the studio, funded by the NBCUniversal Foundation, opened, teen participation at the Center has quadrupled.

This fall, the Maker Studio became home to two projects: another session of the photography program, and “Teen YOU in the Stu,” a time for CYC teens to create unique compositions with the music equipment. While working in the space, CYC teens create beats using programs like Garage Band and then develop raps and spoken word lyrics to accompany the beat. The enthusiasm for this has been contagious and has truly allowed for students’ natural creativity to flourish.

For Kandia, one of the teens who has begun frequenting the Maker Studio, it a special space because “it was given to us by people who are interested about our future and want us to succeed.”

Kandia, who is now interested in pursuing a career in media, said she does not have access to the Maker Studio equipment outside of CYC and that just being exposed to the equipment has given her a feel for how to use the studio properly.

The nature of the programming and activities in the Maker Studio pushes youth to develop the ‘Four C’s’: communication, critical thinking, collaboration, and creativity. These social-emotional skills are necessary for success in the modern workplace.

 

Lock-in to lock out violence: CYC teens keep negativity out of social media

In November, CYC-Sidney Epstein Youth Center hosted its third annual Teen Lock-In as a part of the $2,500 Acting Up Award from the Chicago Community Trust.

The event, which ran from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., focused on how to properly use social media and prevent violence on various social media platforms.

 Teens at CYC-Sidney Epstein Youth Center engage in a discussion about keeping violence out of social media during a lock-in event.

Teens at CYC-Sidney Epstein Youth Center engage in a discussion about keeping violence out of social media during a lock-in event.

The 40 teens who joined the event participated in workshops that provided insight on relatable topics. For example, youth were able to analyze raps they created to identify the points of distress in the music. They also received CHILL training, an innovative program that teaches youth to recognize the biological effects of anger and confrontation and develop techniques to de-escalate conflicts.

Following the workshops, the teens were able to play games and enjoy snacks throughout the night.

Teen youth worker Melody Mills said the event theme was important because many youth are not taught how to properly use platforms like Facebook.

“We’ve had some of our young people in fights that started on Facebook,” Melody said. “‘He said, she said’ kind of things. We have to be the people who provide them with information about how to positively use social media.”

Center Director Roberta Douglas said the teens loved the event. The topics covered throughout the night introduced teens to new ideas about online interactions they have on a daily basis.

“They learned how to ignore when people want to fight and how to use Facebook in a more positive way,” Roberta said. “Teens who live in urban settings might be held more accountable for using Facebook in a responsible way. The legal challenges they might face [as a result of violence stemming from social media] might not be equal [to more affluent communities] because of their communities.”

Diante, a teen at the Center, said he appreciated it.

"The lock-in was fun,” Diante said. “I was able to meet new people. We worked as a team and showed sportsmanship when we played ball. It was all love. I can't wait until the next one."

As a follow-up to the lock-in and part of the Acting Up Award, CYC-Epstein is planning to host a town hall meeting in March for the North Lawndale community about violence in social media. Check back for updates about the event.