By Scott Myers

The stories of Chicago area youth struggling with community violence, joblessness, strife at home, and a substandard education system seem endless. For many youth in under-resourced communities there is limited direction and lack of accomplished adult role models to help them learn how to handle the obstacles that hinder their path to be healthy people, successful in their careers, and good citizens. Sometimes, there is no safety net, or support in coping with life’s many issues and challenges—supports that most of us take for granted. We all know that being unsupported as a youth can often lead to dysfunction. Studies tell us that it can induce depression and self-destructive behavior for youth who are trying to find their way in a high stress environment.

However, on Sunday, February 11 at 4 p.m. you can learn about two exciting new programs that are helping transform the lives of youth in Chicago’s underserved communities. Kenilworth Union Church is teaming with Youth Guidance to provide a firsthand look at the ‘Becoming A Man’ (BAM) and ‘Working on Womanhood’ (WOW) programs.

Youth Guidance, a social service organization with more than 60 years of experience working with Chicago’s underserved youth, has developed these programs that are demonstrating success rates such as decreasing violent crime by about 50 percent, increasing high school graduation rates by about 19 percent, and reducing rates of depression and self-destructive behavior. The highly respected BAM and WOW programs are now supporting more than 7,000 youth across the city with work underway to increase this number to more than 10,000 youth by 2020.  With such a significant impact on the important issue of ending the cycle of dysfunction and disenfranchisement, my fellow Youth Guidance board members, John Raitt and Dick Patterson—and I felt compelled to bring the program to Kenilworth Union.

We hope you join us on Sunday, February 11 as counselors, alumni, and program leaders from BAM and WOW will be at Kenilworth Union to share their stories as well as to provide an example of how the programs engage and support them. We felt it would also be invaluable for students in the Youth Ministry program to be part of the counseling circles, so we plan to have our students participate with them in the program to better experience life through their lens. We will also offer a separate engaging discussion with adults.

This evening promises to be a unique opportunity to experience programs that are on the front lines of supporting Chicago’s youth and helping them to transform their life’s trajectory.  We hope you will join us in affecting change.

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