CYC kids go ‘off to great places’


CYC children and families went “off to great places” earlier this month!

Forty families gathered at CYC-Elliott Donnelley Youth Center for a Dr. Seuss Family Literacy Day to celebrate both Dr. Seuss’s birthday and a love for reading.

Different stations, themed around various Dr. Seuss books, were set up around the Center. Children were able to play bingo for books, create craft projects like truffula trees, and even make oobleck as a science project. The best part? The Cat in the Hat himself made a special appearance.


CYC staff member Anjel Williams, who organized the event, said the day was one of the best family engagement events of the year. By holding a literacy event, Anjel said parents learn about the importance of reading comprehension and literacy.

“You need the whole family in order for the child to succeed,” Anjel said. “A child needs to see that there is a village invested in their success, and they need to see that they have their parents in their corner.”

Throughout the year, CYC holds various family engagement events to ensure that children develop healthy habits at home and build strong bonds with their families. The event was also an excellent opportunity for parents and kids to take a little break and spend quality time together.

“Parent involvement is important for kids to see that their parents care about what they are doing,” Anjel said.

Generational waves of change

Maurice poses on the Michigan State University campus.

Maurice poses on the Michigan State University campus.

Growing up on Chicago’s West Side, Maurice Walls decided early in his life that he will not be a negative statistic.

“I will be an individual who stands alone and can conquer the world,” he wrote in his winning essay for the Sidney Epstein Believe in Kids Award: a $5,000 college scholarship.

Maurice attended CYC-Epstein in North Lawndale from when he was 3 until he graduated from high school. He is now a freshman at Michigan State University, where he is studying pre-veterinary medicine.

As a first-generation college student, his academic journey began with CYC’s College and Career Readiness program. He started thinking and learning about college when he was still in middle school. Later on, he went on college trips with the Center and remained involved in the various clubs and mentoring programs available. Maurice graduated from high school with a 4.3 GPA.

“CYC’s CCR program played a role in me making the right decision because I had so long to think about college,” Maurice said. “I focused on doing well in high school so I could pick any school and have as many options as possible.”

For Maurice, coming to CYC felt like being with his second family.

“It kept me out of trouble,” he said. “It gave me something to do. It was a safe place for me to go after school. It was a safe place for my parents to know where I was, instead of getting sucked into the streets of Chicago doing the wrong things.”

Marissa gives her presentation about “Speak Your Peace.”

Marissa gives her presentation about “Speak Your Peace.”

Maurice’s little sister Marissa is still at CYC-Epstein, following her brother’s footsteps. Through the summer and fall, the 9-year-old worked on her project: "Speak Your Peace." She organized a Peace March and a Peace T-shirt design contest through CYC.

"It was about our community and making sure that people don't shoot people," Marissa said. "I learned that you can make a difference when you do one small thing."

Maurice and Marissa epitomize what can happen within a community with consistent support and mentors. We are so proud of their achievements!

Chicago Ideas: Community unity and repairing police relations

Community activist and mayoral candidate Ja’Mal Green discusses youth impact with CYC teens.

Community activist and mayoral candidate Ja’Mal Green discusses youth impact with CYC teens.

Repairing community and police relationships aren’t easy topics. But that’s exactly what a group of teens from CYC-Sidney Epstein Youth Center ignited a conversation about last month.

In August, the Center hosted a Chicago Ideas Day, a youth-led event that was an opportunity for the teens to engage in social awareness, use their voice for the overall welfare of their community, and interview local changemakers.

The teens worked for eight weeks to develop a social awareness program that focused on police relationships and community unity.

They tackled this through a community event coupled with an action event. The day was inspired by Chicago Ideas, a movement built on sharing ideas to transform the world.

Center Director Clarence Hogan said the teens picked the topic of community unity and police relations because they are concerned about what is happening in their community.

Chicago Police Officer Reginald Murray talks with CYC about repairing

Chicago Police Officer Reginald Murray talks with CYC about repairing

“They can notice some serious injustices and some things that don’t seem to be going on in other communities,” he said. “I think that they can be culture shocked by traveling to different neighborhoods.”

For the community conversation, the youth invited Chicago Police Officer Reginald Murray to talk about repairing relationships between the police and the community. Community activist and mayoral candidate Ja’Mal Green was also present. He discussed community engagement and youth impact.

“I learned about the Black Lives Matter movement and how young people are involved in government and politics,” said Nateena, 16.

After the stimulating conversation, the youth participated in an action event by collaborating with Play Streets, which is an initiative that encourages healthier and stronger communities by creating safe and accessible residential play areas for kids to be active and to learn.

Next month, Chicago Ideas Week will be held Oct. 15-21. Hundreds of events across the city will push attendees to reconsider the limits of possibility. CYC teens will be attending several events to listen to speakers discuss the justice system and to also attend hands-on labs.

Developing 'Friendship Girl'

“friendship girl,” the character created by the students on the video game platform bloxels.

“friendship girl,” the character created by the students on the video game platform bloxels.

What does representation mean to you? For a group of girls at CYC-Rebecca K. Crown Youth Center, it meant finding a creative solution to ensure that the video game they were working on had a character that looked like them.

This summer at CYC-Rebecca K. Crown Youth Center, a group of 9-12 year old girls designed a video game that prevents cyberbullying.

The game focused on how to identify what a cyber-bully is, how to speak up, and how to make appropriate choices. To play the game, the youth designed a character on the Bloxels platform: “Friendship Girl.”

While they originally used the provided kit to create the character, they were dismayed because they couldn’t get their character to look like them: African-American.

After creating the initial character for their game, the group investigated how they could give their character brown skin, something that Devin Swift-Bailey, the Maker Lab specialist at the Center, did not believe was possible.

a character created by the students that was modeled after one of the girl’s mothers.

a character created by the students that was modeled after one of the girl’s mothers.

 To his surprise, the group tinkered with the program and figured out how to create their dream character in the app itself.

“The big takeaway was that they were able to create a character that represents them,” Devin said. “They took away an interest in coding, a newfound way to be creative.”

In addition to gaining technology skills through this program, the girls displayed determination, creativity, and empathy as they worked together to find a solution to the issue at hand. India, one of the girls in the group, said she enjoyed the collaboration that went into the project.

“What I enjoyed the most about the program is that I liked that we have to work together,” said the 10-year-old.

Devin said this program was a great opportunity for the children to explore other STEM fields.

“I think the importance of this program is that a lot of kids think that the only STEM-related careers are being engineers, etc.,” he said. “Animation, gaming, and graphic design are STEM careers. It exposes them to other types of careers, and develops passions and interests.”

While this program just got the girls’ feet in the door of coding, we’re excited to see what they will do in the continuation of this program this year!