Despite the challenges caused by COVID-19 isolation and remote learning, a unique violence prevention program for teen boys saw 100% of its seniors graduate from high school this month. All 34 of the seniors in the “What’s Up with Manhood” program at World Language High School in Little Village graduated, and 80% have been accepted into college or trade school.
Options for Youth’s “What’s Up with Manhood?” program provides a new approach to reducing the impact of violence in the lives of adolescent boys in Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood. Chicago-based Options for Youth partnered with Promundo, a global leader in working with men and boys for gender justice and violence reduction, to develop the What’s Up with Manhood? curriculum, a gender transformative curriculum that helps young men growing up in one of Chicago’s most underserved neighborhoods think critically about “what it means to be a man” in their community.
Since 2017, 107 teenage boys participated in the What’s Up program. All are minority and growing up in in a neighborhood where one-third of the families live in poverty. Fewer than half of the high school students in Little Village graduate each year and only 6% graduate from college. This year, with COVID isolation, participants faced increased obstacles as they neared graduation and many had to keep up with schoolwork on cell phones because they had no computer or internet in their home.
Once again, the Logan Foundation flies to the rescue, just like Superman. OFY Home Visitors are thrilled by the recent delivery of boxes and boxes of supplies for our at-risk teen families as they shelter in place and try to stay safe. Groceries, household supplies (such as wipes and soaps), books for reading to their babies, and so much more, will make a huge difference in the lives of these young parents and their babies.
Options for Youth is very grateful to the Reva & David Logan Foundation for the gift of one-hundred coats for the children of participants in the Options Prevention Initiative and Subsequent Pregnancy Program.
Male students at Little Village Academy are guided by their mentor Luciano Medellín from Options for Youth, as they discuss the true meaning of being men. “What’s Up with Manhood” is a new initiative being piloted by Options for Youth in partnership with Promundo, and is supported in part by the Mayor’s Mentoring Initiative in Chicago. Click here for Univision video.
Options for Youth graduated its first class of Subsequent Pregnancy Program (SPP) participants at Simpson Academy on June 15. At the end of the first year of the new North Lawndale program, participant outcomes were exceptional.
Among the 25 very young mothers who participated in the North Lawndale Subsequent Pregnancy Program, there were no second pregnancies during the program year. All nine of the participants eligible to graduate received their high school diplomas in June. One SPP participant was Valedictorian and another was Salutatorian of the 2017 graduating class. The guest speaker for commencement was a former SPP graduate, who is currently enrolled at Notre Dame, working toward her JD degree.
In September, 2015, Options for Youth funding was abruptly cut by the State of Illinois. The OFY Board and staff made the strategic decision to not abandon these young mothers, but to rebuild the Subsequent Pregnancy Program one site at a time, beginning with North Lawndale. North Lawndale was chosen to be the first new site because teen birth rates there are among the highest in the city of Chicago. Each year, one quarter (24.3%) of the babies born in North Lawndale are born to 15- to 19-year-olds. This high proportion of teen births in North Lawndale suggests limited access to reproductive health information and services to young people growing up in this community.
With generous support from the Steans Family Foundation, the Chicago Community Trust, and the Allstate Insurance Company, the new North Lawndale Subsequent Pregnancy Program was begun in November, 2016.
Options for Youth held its first advisory meeting for a new initiative, “What’s Up with Manhood?” on June 22. Participants from numerous social service programs, nonprofit agencies, and city and county departments discussed this unique approach for helping young men deal with the violence in their everyday lives.
Participants at the meeting agreed on the need for a long-term commitment to help break the cycle of violence among vulnerable adolescents. “What’s Up with Manhood?” helps young men think critically about how manhood is defined in their own community, and how negative stereotypes of manhood are linked to violence in their daily lives.
In April, Options for Youth began a pilot program with 24 teenage male students in the Little Village neighborhood. After three months, the response has been extremely positive, with the young male participants’ apprehension being replaced by the need to talk openly. As Options president Pat W. Mosena reminded the advisory group, “It’s one kid at a time. And these young men can then become change agents in their own communities.”
Lew Medellin from Options for Youth gives keynote address at DePaul University’s Male Initiative meeting.This year’s theme was “My Life Matters.” Lew’s talk focused on breaking down the myths on how they, young minority males, are perceived by others.
Here Lew has participants do an identity wheel and then stand and tell everyone what they want people to know about them. It ended with a challenge to take that information and make a change in how they are viewed in their community.
Options for Youth’s Coordinator of Male Programs, Lew Medellin appeared on WYCC’s In the Loop for a panel discussion on teen sexting called Teens, Text and Sex. The panel also included Dr. Kortney Peagram, President, Bulldog Solution, and Attorney Matthew R. Gebhardt. You can view the piece here:
Join Options for Youth (OFY) in celebrating 25 years of providing services to some of Chicago’s most vulnerable young people through programs that help first-time adolescent mothers and adolescent male students graduate from high school and improve options for their futures.
OFY has helped 5,000 first-time teen mothers delay a second pregnancy and graduate from high school and has also trained and employed 300 teenage boys to be Peer Advocates for male health in their own south side communities. Our goal is to raise $50,000 to expand our programs and reach more young people.
We’ll be honoring two extraordinary Chicagoans who have donated their time, resources, and celebrity to our common mission:
NBA basketball star Dwyane Wade and his sister Tragil Wade, President of Wade’s World Foundation
Like so many of the young people in our programs, Dwyane and Tragil faced enormous challenges growing up on the south side of Chicago. Both are now giving back and inspiring young people to do the same for their own communities.
We look forward to seeing you in October!
Thank you to our media sponsor, Make It Better, for supporting our celebration this year!