What’s Up with Manhood Graduates Celebrate Success!

Faced with increased violence in Little Village, our approach emphasizes “there’s more to being a man”

Despite the challenges caused by COVID-19 and remote learning over the last seventeen months, a unique violence prevention program for teen boys saw 98% of its seniors graduate from high school in 2020 and 2021. Options for Youth’s “What’s Up with Manhood?” program works with teen boys in Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood to prevent high school dropout and to reduce the impact of violence in their young lives.

A total of 45 senior participants in the What’s Up program at World Language High School in Little Village graduated in 2020 and 2021 during the ongoing pandemic, with 100% accepted into college or trade school. A majority of the graduates had been with the program since their freshman year of high school. Read the full press release here.

Summer Youth Employment Program: Sponsorship Opportunities!


Options for Youth works with at-risk adolescents on the South and West Sides of Chicago to help them maximize their potential to achieve academic and life success. By supporting and empowering the most vulnerable groups of adolescents in our city, we are helping to break the cycle of poverty and we know that community partnerships make all the difference!

We are currently looking for corporate sponsors for our Summer Youth Employment Training (SYEP) which provides valuable job-skills training to 60 young men and women (ages 16-19) each summer. In partnership with One Summer Chicago, our program offers hands-on experiences to at-risk teens with the goal of increasing engagement in the workforce and in their own communities during summer break. Click here for more information on this invaluable opportunity!

34 Teens Graduate in What’s Up with Manhood Program Despite COVID-19

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.

Read the full press release here.

Logan to the Rescue

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.

OFY in the News

OFY has been in the news a lot recently. Read the Chicago Tribune article by Kate Thayer about the new Illinois law that impacts schools and teen mothers who want to breastfeed, Student moms who breast-feed will get space at schools under new Illinois law.

Then follow the breastfeeding discussion as it continues with Pat Mosena on the 21stshow.org with Alan Montecillo.

And Kate Thayer at the Trib returns with another article, this one on Teen program combats violence by challenging macho stereotypes, highlighting the new OFY “What’s Up with Manhood?” initiative.


All SPP Seniors Graduate at Simpson, Valedictorian

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.

OFY Holds Advisory Meeting for “What’s Up with Manhood?”

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.”

OFY at DePaul Male Initiative Project

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.

For more info about the DePaul Male Initiative Project, visit http://bit.ly/2r2nWV3

Summer Youth Employment Program

OFY to Train Adolescents as Peer Health Educators in Partnership with the City of Chicago’s Summer Youth Employment Program

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS (June 15, 2015) – The City of Chicago’s Department of Family and Support Services has selected Options for Youth as a partner agency to participate in One Summer Chicago’s Youth Employment Program (SYEP). The program will take place over a six week period starting in late June. Training and employment experience will be provided to 75 young people, both male and female, ages 16-24 at two worksite locations: Options for Youth in Hyde Park and Little Village High School in South Lawndale.

The overarching goal of Options for Youth’s Summer Youth Employment Program will be to provide a meaningful and substantive work experience in the field of health education to adolescents in the Chicago community. Under the tutelage of experienced peer health educators a few years their senior, participants will learn both content and presentation skills that will allow them to return to their communities and provide healthy lifestyle information to their peers.

During the six week program period, each SYEP participant will become an employee of Options for Youth, a nonprofit organization focusing on creating opportunities for vulnerable adolescents. The program will focus exclusively on health careers and will be designed to: 1) provide job skills, communication improved job readiness and increased financial literacy; 2) provide life skills training and increase knowledge of healthy lifestyle choices; and 3) provide a personal introduction to a wide variety of health professions.


Options for Youth’s mission is to expand opportunities for underserved youth in the Greater Chicago Area by developing programs that build upon the strengths and maximize the potential of each young person. Options for Youth achieves this mission through two main programs- The Peer Advocates for Health Program and the Illinois Subsequent Pregnancy Program.

The Peer Advocates for Health program provides direct services to young men each year through summer training and weekly group meetings throughout the school year. After six months of intense training, participants are paid to work in their own schools and communities as Peer Advocates for Health, providing information and serving as role models. Since 2000, 240 Peer Advocates from 42 high schools have received training. Significant increases in reproductive health knowledge, improvements in lifestyle choices, and use of clinic services for male health have been reported among young men participating in PAH.

The Illinois Subsequent Pregnancy Program (ISPP) serves one of the most vulnerable populations of young girls, those who already have a baby before the age of 18. ISPP is one of the few programs that focuses upon delaying a second pregnancy among teen mothers. Through intense training coupled with home visiting services, ISPP impacts the lives of these young mothers, their babies, and their broader communities by providing information, knowledge, and ongoing individual support. Among the 5,000 first-time adolescent mothers from 50 communities who have participated in ISPP, 97% delayed a second pregnancy while in the program and 90% graduate from high school each year.

Learn more at www.options4youth.org.


One Summer Chicago brings together government institutions, community-based organizations and companies to offer over 24,000 employment and internship opportunities to youth and young adults ages 14 to 24.

Through One Summer Chicago, youth complete six or more weeks of work or career programming, contributing their skills and talents to Chicago’s vibrant communities. Each year, City and County public agencies leverage their resources to provide the maximum number of high-quality work experiences for youth.

The Department of Family and Support Services leads One Summer Chicago in partnership with participating agencies including: Office of the City Treasurer, Chicago Department of Transportation, Chicago Park District, Chicago Public Schools, Chicago Housing Authority, After School Matters, Forest Preserves of Cook County, Brookfield Zoo, Chicago Public Libraries, City Colleges of Chicago, Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership, and Mayor’s Office of People with Disabilities.

Learn more at www.onesummerchicago.org. ###