Youth Safety & Violence Prevention: Leadership

Chico Tillmon

Executive Director

IMG_7291Chico Tillmon is the executive director of the YMCA of Metro Chicago's Youth Safety and Violence Prevention (YSVP) programs. Before joining the Y in July 2017, Chico Tillmon served as a senior program manager at Ceasefire Chicago.

Growing up in the Austin community on the west side of Chicago, Chico was exposed to violence and the many issues that plague urban communities today. A believer in the power of education, Chico earned a B.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies and an M.A. in Inner City Studies from Northeastern Illinois University. He is currently earning a Ph.D. in Criminology, Law, & Justice Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Chico also mentors youth and teaches pro-social life skills to children throughout the Chicago area. He has been featured by the Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, People magazine, Crime Watch Daily, Al Jazeera, Dutch TV, and Discovery TV among others. 

Atara Young

Director, Programs and Outreach

Atara has a history of working for social change. Previously, she served as the Director of Strategic Planning, Policy, and Partnerships at CeaseFire Illinois, where her advocacy led to the restoration of state funding. She has over 10 years of experience in public health, and was awarded the Coalition Award by the AIDS foundation of Chicago for her leadership and collaborative efforts in passing HB1004 in 2016. Atara has also worked as an online adjunct for DePaul School for New Learning where she taught Black History and Women’s studies. 

Her dream is to spend a year traveling the country in a “tiny house” with her children, and ultimately retire to a teaching position at an historically black college or university where she hopes to teach social work activism.

Sarah Nemecek

Senior Manager, Operations

Before joining the Y, Sarah was the operations director of the Shared-Use Mobility Center (SUMC), a Chicago-based nonprofit focused on shared forms of transportation. “I’ve always worked in the nonprofit and public sectors on issues related to cities and urban policy,” Sarah says. “And I’ve always been most interested in the social issues around urban planning and policy. Violence prevention fits right into that category.” More than anything else, Sarah says her role at YSVP is all about helping outreach workers do their jobs. “They have really difficult work that can be really emotionally taxing, so if there’s anything I can do to take something off their plates … that’s why I’m here.”

Chaunese Torry

YSVP Program Director, South Chicago

ChauneseChaunese oversees the YSVP programs at the South Chicago YMCA location. She coordinates, mentors, and ensures programming runs as smoothly as possible and that youth are engaging within the program.

Chaunese has always wanted to work with youth and provide them with the tools needed in seeing their options and realizing they can have long-term goals. Growing up, she wanted to work as a probation officer, but felt that she would not be able to help reduce the rate of recidivism. Prevention, along with helping youth out of the system, is the impact she strives for.

Before becoming a YSVP program director, she was a camp counselor at Rebecca K. Crown Youth Center, and later an outreach worker at a Y Community Schools Initiative program. Chaunese has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, with a minor in psychology from Roosevelt University.

Art Guerrero

YSVP Program Director, Pilsen/Little Village

ArtArt Guerrero is a certified alcohol and drug abuse counselor. He joined the YSVP program in 2015 after volunteering at that year’s Urban Warriors graduation ceremony and seeing post-9/11 military veterans standing beside Chicago youth. Art was moved by the program's mission, and decided to be a bigger part of the program. Since 2007, he has been a mentor, court advocate and substance abuse counselor for youth on juvenile probation in Little Village, helping to build the community's Urban Life Skills and Enlace programs. Art's goal at the Y is to continue to serve and support youth within the community.