Among issues of most concern to youth involved in Westside Health Authority programs are youth employment and the school-to-prison pipeline. Our youth have organized on both of these issues exhaustively over the past two years. Recently, they even took the initiative to draft a new bill to specifically address the school-to-prison pipeline.

Below are photos of WHA Youth Council members with VOYCE brainstorming policy solutions.

IMG_20160202_184132 IMG_20160202_184108 IMG_20160202_184122

Participants in our Get In Chicago Youth mentor program enjoyed a night out at Wrigley Field to see the Cubs play with their mentors.

WHA / Get In Chicago Youth

Employment is the main concern among the youth WHA work with, and, thus, it is one of our main concerns as well. For several summers our Youth Development Center has worked to provide jobs to Austin’s teens and young adults. Such programs are successful because at-risk youth are grateful for gainful alternatives to criminal behavior or time they might otherwise waste being idle and bored. Where these programs could improve is in providing such opportunities year-round to the city’s out-of-school youth.

WHA Youth Council member Tevin Smith spoke on this issue at a recent public hearing.


Austin residents hold hands in prayer before 2015 Community Stage












A better Austin starts with you. Share your concerns, your ideas, your voice with your neighbors at the Every Block A Village (EBV) Community Meeting.


Westside Health Authority
Tuesday, February 23, 2016
5437 W. Division

For more information contact Virgil Crawford (773) 633-1503

The school year is well underway and our Get In Chicago mentors have a new class of students to work with at Douglas and Austin High School. Still, fond memories of the summer youth program and the retreat linger, and we’ve encapsulated those memories in a short video for others to share the experience.


There are also more pictures available for you to peruse in this extended presentation.

Let us know what you think about our campers and their trip in the comments!

WHA was proud to partner once again with One Summer Chicago, a program that works to curb violence by providing summer employment to local youth. Our participants worked on the infrastructure team, earning money while they beautified their communities. Below are pictures and testimonials from the youth and program supervisors.


I liked cleaning and knowing we made a difference in the neighborhood made me feel good about myself. I had a really good time working with my co-workers, they are great. My supervisors were the coolest peple I could meet and they took really good care of us. I want to be a teacher and help others also.

–Taliyah, OSC Participant

I enjoyed myself had fun meeting new people and learning new things. It felt good to
try something new and work together as a team. Supervisors pushed us hard to do our
best but they also showed us how it is in the real world.

— Erin, OSC Participant

Working with Westside Health Authority has been a great way to understand how it will be when you find a job and need to manage your money. I also learned how hard it can be to make it in life. The supervisors made working fun and kept us active as well as helped with any problems.

Jajuan, OSC Participant

As we walked the boulevards simply picking up paper the people in the community showed their appreciation, they thanked us over and over again. They offered the kids help, water, food and jobs — YES, JOBS! We enjoyed being appreciated so much we began working even harder.

–Jesse Duncan, OSC Program Supervisor


Read more feedback in the Second Edition Westside Youth Newsletter.

The WHA/ Get In Chicago summer mentoring program, Band of Brothers/Set of Sisters, was a success in many ways. Youth were able to gain new experiences and skills, mentors helped them express themselves better, and the youth and their families agreed they would love to return to the program if possible.

Below we compiled more indicators of the program’s efficacy, gauged by the youth.

The goals were categorized as:

  • 88% of all youth reached a minimum of reaching 1 goal of completing the entire program.
  • 47%  reported increase in self esteem as result of life skills groups and mentoring.
  •  30% reported support for interest in their education and career due to mentoring and team building activities.
  • 27% reported improved punctuality and increased ability to organize or manage multiple activities due to program structure and activities.
  • 41% reported they felt their own values became more positive as result of working with mentors one to one.
  • 36% of youth reported learning something new such as an activity or skill.
  • 33% reported improved social skills such as improved ability to speak in a group, reduced anxiety in social settings and making new friends due to groups and mentoring.
  • 41% reported having a more positive view of their community and future as result of group activities such as meeting with local business owners and mock trial experience with 15th district police.

The Summer session of our Youth Working for Success program wrapped up last week, and the program mentors hosted a ceremony for those who graduated. WHA staff and proud family members joined in congratulating the participants for their work and for their dedication to community involvement.

Our mentors also recognized Chad Harris, the young man enrolled in YWFS who was killed over the summer before he could complete the program.


Day one of our Summer youth mentor program continued with plenty of first-time experiences for our youth.  Horseback riding was a crowd favorite, with almost every camper (and the mentors) having the opportunity to take a horse around the obstacle course. Cabrina was Phantom Lake’s resident horse whisperer and expert equestrian. She was excited to share everything she knew and loved about horses with our youth.

After horseback riding, there was some downtime, so some of the campers joined our mentors in playing softball, learned new games in The Hollow, or explored the campgrounds. After dinner, our youth were excited about their first campfire. Mentors led them in making s’mores, telling ghost stories and providing a few friendly frights.