Chicago Mourns the Loss of Vanessa Rich, Champion for Children

vanessa-rich Chicago Youth Centers joins the city of Chicago, the Department of Family and Support Services, and the Head Start community in mourning the loss of Vanessa Rich, Deputy Commissioner of Children Services. Vanessa died on December 27, 2015 at the age of 64.

Vanessa was a true champion for Head Start and an advocate for Chicago’s children. She once said, “In Head Start, we don’t just stand on the porch; we come all the way into the house.”  That was how she lived: all in. After serving Head Start as a teenage intern in the summer of 1965, Vanessa embarked on a 40-year career of advocacy, leadership, and service. During her 11-year tenure with Chicago, the city’s Head Start and Early Head Start programs earned national recognition. Additionally, access to quality early learning expanded so thousands of the city’s most vulnerable children would experience this transformative programming.

To our city, she was a true champion for children and a formidable defender of early childhood education. To those of us at Chicago Youth Centers (CYC), Vanessa was a loyal partner, leader, and friend. “CYC could not have asked for a more supportive and caring partner,” says Wanda Doucet, CYC Director of Early Childhood Education . “Any time we needed support, Vanessa was there with a smile. Her passion, commitment, and kindness will be deeply missed, and the impact she had on our children and in our communities is deeply felt.”

“Vanessa impressed me in so many ways—as a leader and a person,” says CYC CEO Barbara Mosacchio. “She literally embraced me as I stepped into a new role in a new city. Perhaps most impressive was her true respect, admiration, and understanding for the agencies on the ground running the program. In one of our first meetings she said ‘you [CYC] are the real hero in this story.’  I will never forget those words, nor will I ever forget this larger-than-life woman with the most beautiful singular focus: Chicago’s children.”

It was Vanessa’s ability to welcome, encourage, and embrace that made her stand out as a leader. “I will always remember Vanessa’s warm smile and the joy she brought into every room she entered,” says Talina Carter-Bowie, Early Childhood Director of Programs & Operations at CYC.  “She truly believed in each individual and helped my team and I believe that we could truly make a difference.  Now when we go to work each day, we hope to honor Vanessa and keep fighting for early access to education and our children’s futures. We need to make sure we carry that torch.”

Indeed, Vanessa’s legacy will live on through the lives of thousands of children who experience Head Start, thanks to her tireless conviction. We know Vanessa’s life will be an inspiration to us as we work to serve our children, communities, and city.

CYC Announces Sid & Sondra Epstein Believe In Kids Scholarship Recipient

Jeffery beams with pride after receiving his Sid & Sondra Epstein Award letter The Sid & Sondra Epstein Believe in Kids Scholarship Award was established in 2013 to promote student success and to help them achieve their dreams.  CYC is honored to present the 2014 Award to Jeffrey Bowen. Once a shy young man, Jeffrey joined CYC in 2009 after his friends encouraged him to attend the ABC Polk Bros. Youth Center in North Lawndale. Since then, Jeffrey has become a strong youth leader, serving as President of the ABC Polk Brothers Teen Council and representative for the center’s local Advisory Board. Through the positive influence of CYC and the loving encouragement of his grandfather, Leroy Myles, Jeffery has blossomed into a dedicated student and compassionate role model for other children and teens. Jeffery was a standout candidate for this award, and we are proud to recognize his accomplishments at this year’s Believe in Kids dinner on April 23.

In the fall, Jeffrey will head to Columbia College as the first in his family to pursue an undergraduate degree. With the support of this $5,000 scholarship, he hopes to be the next big film director. We wish him the best of luck for the future and all the success on his journey!

Polk Bros Foundation

Polk Bros Foundation grant generously supports Chicago Youth Centers (CYC) programs and growth.  CYC is grateful to have the generous support of the Polk Bros Foundation.  The foundation has been a funding partner to CYC for a number of years; and their support has had a significant impact on our ability to grow both our impact and our outcomes.  We are extremely proud to have this support which allows us to continue to increase CYC’s capacity to help put kids on a strong path to success and impact generational cycles of poverty and violence.  

The Foundation’s Mission

The Polk Bros. Foundation seeks to improve the quality of life for the people of Chicago. We partner with local nonprofit organizations that work to reduce the impact of poverty and provide area residents with better access to quality education, preventive health care and basic human services. Through our grantmaking, we strive to make Chicago a place where all people have the opportunity to reach their full potential.

Our Mission

Our MissionChicago Youth Centers (CYC) invests in youth in underserved communities in Chicago to help them discover and realize their full potential. Caring for Our Communities For 57 years, CYC has steadfastly served communities on the south and west sides of Chicago. Today CYC centers are in seven communities across metro Chicago. We consistently deliver programming to serve the needs of kids, parents and communities—focusing on academic achievement, social and emotional skill development and parent/family engagement. Our centers are characterized by passionate and committed staff and serve as learning centers for our kids, community resources, and safe spaces.

Our Programs Early Childhood Education (ages 3-5) 900+ children served annually

School-Age Child Development (ages 6-12) 1,200+ served annually

Teen Leadership Development & Intervention (ages 13-19) 570+ served annually

Camp Rosenthal (ages 7-15) 390+ served annually

Your Dollars at Work We are proud and careful stewards of the dollars you invest in our work. We are very proud that more than 85% of every dollar raised goes directly to support of our programs.