YMCA and Boys & Girls Clubs’ Letter to the Editor in Crain’s

May 25, 2015

In this letter to the editor, YMCA of Metro Chicago and Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago share how programs like Teen REACH are “must haves” for the long-term success of Illinois."

Help for at-risk teens was published in Crain's Chicago Business.

What causes the cycle of violence in our communities ("A painful economic truth behind Rauner's budget-cutting," April 28)? Research suggests it's trauma due to repeated exposure to violence and the stress of living in poverty. You can't see trauma's effects on a child's developing brain, but it makes itself known through depression, rage, failing grades, drug addiction and gang activity—despite a parent's best efforts.

If this doesn't sound like your child, consider yourself lucky. For many parents of the children we serve, it's a daily battle.

For years, nonprofit partners have helped Illinois fight this cycle. The Boys and Girls Clubs and YMCA provide youth a safe space with customized, evidence-based mentorship and tutoring. Thousands credit their diplomas and careers, as well as their very survival, to the support they received through our programs.

The proposed FY2016 budget cuts Teen REACH, a grant program that benefits 14,000 at-risk youth, and a host of other direct services. Without state funding, our organizations will have to cut programming, turn away youth and even close centers.

On paper, it's easy to say that cuts must be made. But on our streets, the effects of trauma won't just go away. Without the programs we provide, many youth cost the state far more in prison, the mental health system, emergency rooms or rehab.

We either pay for programs to help at-risk youth today, or we pay much more in the years to come. Every dollar invested in Teen REACH keeps parents in the workforce, paying taxes and providing for their families. Every dollar helps a kid stay on (or get back on) the path to a good paying job, contributing to society and Illinois' tax base.

Programs like Teen REACH are “must haves” for the long-term success of our state. We look to the governor and General Assembly to protect our kids today and protect the state's long-term budget by reinstating Teen REACH in FY2016.

Richard Malone
President and CEO
YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago

James G. Keane
President and CEO
Boys and Girls Clubs of Chicago