Where Possibility Lives: Overcoming the Aspiration Gap

The Board and staff at Chicago Youth Centers were proud to be featured authors in Voices for Children’s 2015 Illinois Kids Count report, which compiles data to assess the well-being of children throughout the state. The goal of this report is to give lawmakers a better understanding of challenges facing children and families, and to advocate on behalf of children living in poverty. I was also honored to be a panelist with some of my peers at a luncheon hosted by Voices for Children this spring. In both the essay and my comments at the luncheon, I reflected on the difficulties surrounding our kids--difficulties that are not as apparent, but significant when considering our goal to put these kids on a path to success. I knew I had to address the aspiration gap faced by too many children today. For so many children living in poverty, they can’t even imagine what exists beyond their backyard. They don’t know about educational or professional opportunities, and they aren’t given the tools or opportunities to aspire for more.

Chicago Youth Centers gives our kids the chance to aspire. We equalize access to opportunities and resources so children have the tools to succeed and the confidence to dream. Supporters like you enable us to engage in this critical work, and we cannot thank you enough for believing in our kids.

I hope you enjoy this year’s essay, which you can read here. I also hope that, together, we continue to aspire to build a better future for our children, our families, and our city.

Thank you for your dedication and investment,

Barbara Mosacchio President and CEO

Strategy. Legacy. Purpose. Love.

by Barbara Mosacchio, President and CEO, Chicago Youth Centers A formula for successful nonprofits. The Board and the staff of Chicago Youth Centers (CYC), throughout our 57-year history, have developed a unique care-centric community services model that blends the essence of head and heart. We know there are four critical components that equate to a well-balanced formula for success: strategy, legacy, purpose and love.

Strategy Objectives are reached when there is a solid plan crafted to achieve them. Without a map, there is no direction. A good strategy serves as an organization’s North Star, guiding you to respond to needs, optimize opportunities and rise to challenges. CYC is embarking on its next strategic planning process, and as we do, I am continuously reminded that while important, strategy alone will not determine our success.

Legacy At the core of everything CYC is and does, is the vision and heart of our founders, Sid Epstein and Elliott Donnelly — what they saw, felt and responded to 57 years ago —what they aspired to for the kids of Chicago — is also our North Star. Each member who has served on our board, each donor who has contributed to our work, and each staff member who has made the choice to be part of CYC, are still today the rich legacy that we celebrate and honor, and the second critical component for our continued success.

Purpose Deeply embedded in our current work and in our legacy is our sense of purpose. It is a fine thread woven through the fabric that is and always has been CYC. We clearly understand and respond to the reason we do what we do — children, families and communities. Our purpose defines us, guides us and inspires us. It is the third critical component for our continued success.

Love The intangible but essential element of this work and in some ways perhaps the most important is love. When I joined CYC just over a year ago, what was clear to me is that this is an organization that is well loved and guided by love. We have Board members and staff who have dedicated their lives to CYC. If you ask them why, the answer is always easy—"I love this work. I love the kids, families and communities we serve. I love knowing I am changing lives." Perhaps this is the most critical component for our continued success.