April 22, 2015
Kelly Hall YMCA Teen REACH participant, Dayshawn Hunt, shares how the Teen REACH program has positively impacted his life and others.
At the age of 10, Dayshawn witnessed the shooting death of his father. He went through periods of depression and rage, and his grades began to sink. His mother worried that her young son was starting on a treacherous path that could lead to gangs, prison or worse.
What was a parent to do?
Three years ago, Dayshawn’s mother signed him up for the Teen REACH after school program at Kelly Hall YMCA. There he found positive role models, college prep assistance, educational field trips, and arts and athletic opportunities tailored for at-risk youth.
Teen REACH provided Dayshawn with a supportive environment where he was encouraged to open up, express emotions and deal with his trauma and anger in safer ways, such as playing on Kelly Hall Y’s basketball team. The Saturday tutoring program helped him improve his grades. His mentor has become a strong father figure. Dayshawn, now 13, says “Teen REACH saved my life.”
On April 3, the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) pulled the safety net from thousands of families, slashing $26 million in social service and public health grants state-wide, including $3.1 million for Teen REACH. As a result, the YMCA had to shut down its Teen REACH program, which serves the West Humboldt Park, Little Village and Logan Square communities. The impact was hardest on Kelly Hall YMCA, which will have to drastically limit its hours of operation, programs and services.
Unless alternate funding is raised, Dayshawn and 14,000 Teen REACH youth across the state may lose hope for a better future.
For the Y, it’s not enough to provide a safe haven that keeps young people off the streets. Our programs, which are influenced by research and evidence-based practice, strive to keep at-risk youth out of prison and on the right track for high school graduation and future success.
Our communities look to the Governor and Illinois General Assembly to reinstate critical dollars in the 2016 state budget for Teen REACH and the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP). We call on all Illinoisans to appeal to their legislators to fully fund these vital programs. If they do not, the long-term cost will be much higher.
And so I pose this question to the Illinois General Assembly and Governor Rauner: Without Teen REACH and CCAP, where will the more than 114,000 vulnerable children and youth go before and after school, and during the summer while their parents work hard to support their families?
President and CEO of the YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago