Put your best pedal forward

CYC teens work on assembling a bike.

CYC teens work on assembling a bike.

What do you do when your CPS-sponsored Ventra card is deactivated for the summer and you don’t have a car? CYC-Fellowship House teens are putting their best pedal forward and hopping on bicycles!

This summer, CYC partnered with West Town Bikes to bring an immersive hands-on lesson on how bikes work and biker safety to CYC teens. CYC youth worker Chance Brown said the club came about as they were looking for healthy activities for teens that would impact their daily lives.

First, West Town Bikes donated eight bikes for the club. Then the teens learned about how the bike functions and all of the various components that make up a bicycle. Finally, the teens learned about biker safety such as how a helmet should fit and how to make sure your bike is in a safe condition to ride.



Having been in two bike accidents himself, Chance was able to share his personal story with them.

“They were shocked,” Chance said. “They thought bikers always have the right of way, and can’t be touched. It was good to show them what can happen even if you’re being safe and how you can be prepared.”

After, the teens disassembled the bikes and learned how to put them back together, spray painting them to their tastes in the process.

Biking is a cost-efficient and healthy activity, Chance said. The club also pushed the teens to work on their critical thinking skills as they were mainly left to their own devices, aside from general coaching, when reassembling the bikes.

“It’s also a good way to get emotional control,” Chance said. “It can be a release, and a new form of coping with stressors in their life.”

At the end of it all, the teens got to take the bikes home. We can’t wait to hear about the adventures they’ll go on!

The biking fun does not stop there… West Monroe Partners is donating more than 20 tricycles to our Early Childhood students! We are so excited that they can grow their biking skills so early. Thank you so much for your support.

Promoting positive stress reliefs

At each CYC site, our kids dove into learning new skills that they can carry with them throughout their lives. Among other topics, kids learned new forms of exercise, new cooking methods, and gardening skills.

cyc kids learn how to make chicken salad sandwiches.

cyc kids learn how to make chicken salad sandwiches.

Chef Gina Bates taught the kids new and innovative ways to cook meals. Devin Swift-Bailey, youth worker at CYC-Rebecca K. Crown Youth Center, said the kids, who mostly learned quick, nutritious meals they can make at home independently, truly enjoyed the club.

“The kids liked the culinary club because it was very engaging,” said Devin.

A new and special youth-driven club that emerged at CYC-Fellowship House was Spa Club, where youth learned about how to bring spa experiences into their own home.

The kids learned how to create their own face masks (using just cinnamon, honey, and baking soda!), how to paint nails, and more.

Dushunda said that giving youth voice and choice helps them stay more engaged. While activities like this might just seem fun, it gives them a better understanding of how certain jobs are carried out and opens their minds to different hobbies or career possibilities.

cyc kids model face masks they made out of cinnamon, honey, and baking soda.

cyc kids model face masks they made out of cinnamon, honey, and baking soda.

“It makes them well-rounded, and also pushes them to take a holistic approach with taking care of themselves,” Dushunda said. “It helps them with their life skills for when they leave us. We want them to have that book knowledge, but also be able to take care of themselves so they can survive.”

Clemon Clay of 3C Fitness led non-contact martial arts classes for the children. The youth learned basic martial arts exercises, did warm ups, jogging, and calisthenic exercises. They then learned proper form when doing martial arts.

Mr. Clay said that these activities teach kids not only how to properly exercise, but it teaches them focus.

“You have to stabilize and focus,” he said. “That translates into your life. The whole system is giving kids something to do and stay focused on different things.”

At CYC-Epstein, After School Matters partnered with the Center to give teens a project for the summer. The teens called themselves the Peace Makers, which is separate from CYC’s Peace Makers program that runs during the school year. The teens met to discuss issues in their community, such as police brutality, surveyed their neighbors, and decided to make Peace bags to pass out during a Playstreets event. The bags included fidget spinners to release anxiety and homemade stress balls to work out frustrations. Marcus, 15, said he wants to see more peace in his own community.

“We wanted to teach people different ways to find peace,” said Marcus. “You can’t have everything the way you want, you need to work with other people.”

Discovering a whole new world

KPMG partners with CYC to encourage summer reading

Aniya reads her favorite book this summer.

Aniya reads her favorite book this summer.

Discover: to find something unexpectedly in the course of a search.

When 9-year-old Aniya started her summer reading program, she wasn’t quite sure if she would discover anything. But she pushed through and read 780 minutes this summer, developing a love for reading.

“All the hard words I couldn’t read in second grade, I can read now,” Aniya, who attends CYC-Sidney Epstein Youth Center in North Lawndale. Her favorite word that she has learned is… “discover.”

At the beginning of the summer, KPMG distributed nearly 500 books to CYC kids through KPMG Family for Literacy (KFFL).

KFFL’s mission is “to put books in the hands of Chicago’s readers – increasing home book ownership and making a difference in literacy rates.”

a kpmg employee helps a cyc child pick a new book.

a kpmg employee helps a cyc child pick a new book.

“It was inspiring to spend my Monday morning with young students who shared their favorite books with me and received recognition for the amount of hours they read during the summer,” said Agnes, a KPMG intern. “I am thrilled to have witnessed how KPMG’s investment in KFFL is an investment in the students’ futures.”

Clarence Hogan, Center director at CYC-Epstein, said he believes reading is the foundation of education.

“It opens up the imagination of our young people to see a world they might not see literally,” Clarence said. “It gives them a love for reading. Reading is an escape, it’s therapeutic.”

This time of year is notorious for the “summer slide,” where children lose literacy skills during their two-month vacation from school. However, at the Center, Clarence said he saw an uptick in kids reading for fun. By taking care of their own books, they felt ownership and enjoyed reading. We’re so thankful to KPMG for successfully supporting our summer reading initiatives… and helping our kids discover a new love for words!

A year of local and global community service

Youth from CYC-Fellowship House on their Walk for Water.

Youth from CYC-Fellowship House on their Walk for Water.

This Spring, CYC kids attended WE Day, a star-studded concert at Allstate Arena. They had an amazing time seeing their favorite singers and celebrities like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Loud Luxury, but this wasn’t just any concert – it was their hard work that got them to the event.

WE Day is the culminating event of the WE Movement, which believes that when we come together we can create an even better world. Youth have the opportunity to create a community service project that impacts people either locally or globally.

Youth from CYC-Epstein at We Day.

Youth from CYC-Epstein at We Day.

Here are just a few of the amazing projects CYC youth organized:

  • At CYC-Fellowship House in Bridgeport, CYC youth put on an anti-bullying march, collected resources to support families in local women’s shelters, and put on the Walk for Water to provide clean water for families in Tanzania.

  • At CYC-Elliott Donnelley Youth Center in Bronzeville, youth made no-sew pillowcases and sold them to raise money for a local homeless shelter and saved money from doing chores at home in piggy banks.

  • At CYC-Sidney Epstein Youth Center in North Lawndale, youth sold reusable grocery bags for a youth center in Kenya, helped serve Thanksgiving dinner at a local church, and made holiday cards for veterans.

We are so proud of the work our youth put in to help communities both locally and globally!

Peace Makers elevate their voices

At the beginning of June, CYC youth participated in Bright Promises Foundation’s Elevating Youth Voices Fair, a free community event designed to amplify the voices of youth leaders across Chicago.

The children, from CYC-Sidney Epstein Youth Center in North Lawndale, presented on their club, “The Peace Makers.”

Marissa, a CYC student, explains the Peace makers’ mission to an attendee at the Fair.

Marissa, a CYC student, explains the Peace makers’ mission to an attendee at the Fair.

The Peace Makers use technology from the CYC Maker Lab and STEAM principles to spread messages of peace. For them, this might mean recording podcasts and creating stickers or even using a community garden to share healthy foods.

The Peace makers pose for a photo.

The Peace makers pose for a photo.

The youth are particularly inspired by superheroes who use technology to create change. At the Fair, the children were able to share their mission and objectives with more than 20 other Chicago organizations and community members. The event gave the children, who were among the younger presenters there, an opportunity to practice their public speaking skills and gain interviewing experience.

“The event gave them a chance to see how other kids just like them, or a little older, are making differences in their community,” said Chelsea Smith, a CYC staff member at the event.

We are so grateful to the Bright Promises Foundation for supporting Chicago Youth Centers as a grantee, and for providing these special chances for CYC kids to personally share their messages of non-violence and peace.

The power of parenting

CYC parents got the red carpet treatment at CYC’s first parent recognition ceremony, the Power of Parenting, held at CYC-Elliott Donnelley Youth Center at the end of May.

Constance, a CYC parent, received recognition at the event.

Constance, a CYC parent, received recognition at the event.

Anjel Williams, the Administrative Assistant at the Center, said the event was for parents at all CYC Centers who have attended CYC’s scheduled parent outings and have completed eight Changing Children’s Worlds workshops.

From each blended site, parents were chosen to represent the following categories: “Care for Real,” “Push Forward,” “Attitude Matters,” “Own It,” and “Rookie of the Year.”

Curtis Peace, the Executive Director of the Illinois Afterschool Network, gave a talk to parents about the power parenting has on children’s development. After he spoke, parents took turns talking about what makes them good parents and lifting each other up.

“I’m the best parent because I didn’t give up,” said one parent.

Another said, “I’m the best parent because I speak up for my child.”

Anjel said the parents were very excited, and nearly all parents showed up for the event.

“Events like these make parents want to volunteer more, and gives parents reasons to be more involved,” she said.

Constance, a CYC parent, agreed.

“I felt that the parent recognition ceremony was a great way to recognize parents,” Constance said. “I was happy to be appreciated for what I was doing. This type of recognition pushes me to continue to support and show up.”