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New OHU programs propel teens toward their goals

At-risk teens on Chicago’s South Side are getting a boost in preparing for life after high school with two new programs out of the One Hope United office in the city’s Kenwood neighborhood.

This fall, One Hope United launched a Mentoring Program and Leadership Academy, which both aim to build relationships with the students, improve their self-esteem and support school attendance and achievement.

“While we may not be able to erase poverty, inadequate schools, crime, and dysfunctional life experiences, we can provide services and supports that fill these gaps for youth and propel them to their goals and dreams,” said Tim Snowden, senior vice president at One Hope United in Chicago.

Youth in the programs are 14 to 18 years old, reside in or near Kenwood, and have been in the After School Matters or Intact Family program or were referred by another youth, Snowden said. Both programs meet monthly.

The Leadership Academy met for the first time last month at the Kenwood office. The academy helps prepare youth for the workforce by talking about their interests, listening to guest speakers from various professions and taking field trips to local businesses. At a meeting this month, the youth discussed politics, voting and what they expect from their elected officials. Some of the youth also were matched for the first time with their mentors and went on a fun outing to the Chicago-area Haunted Trails entertainment center.

The Mentoring Program focuses on being a friend to youth and encouraging school success and work by promoting post-high school plans, such as college or employment, and helping to identify careers that interest them, Snowden said.

Eight mentors and youths have been paired up so far. Mentors, who complete an orientation, application and training process, include One Hope United staff members Reneva Lane, a case manager in the ECHO program; Lakeithia Butler, a case manager in the Wings program; and Snowden. Lane also is coordinating youth activities. Development Associate Jenaeth Markaj is helping spread the word to more potential mentors.

Photo: One Hope United case managers Reneva Lane and Lakeithia Butler, mentors in One Hope United’s new Leadership Academy and Mentoring Program, are pictured with youth who attended the academy meeting in October.