Youth Task Force meets to discuss youth employment, violence prevention

Courtesy of Mackenzie Allen

Evanston Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl speaks at the Mayor's Youth Task Force meeting on Thursday. Ideas to combat youth violence and increase summer employment were discussed at the task force's first meeting of the year.

Sammy Caiola, Reporter

The Mayor’s Youth Task Force met for the first time this year on Thursday to discuss strategies for youth violence prevention and youth employment in Evanston.

The task force, formed in 2010, is a coalition of elected officials, police officers and nonprofit leaders who come together once a month at the Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center to discuss youth-specific city programming.

Thursday’s meeting revolved primarily around the creation of summer jobs for Evanston youth.

During two upcoming job fairs in late April, youth will be able to fill out applications and conduct interviews for summer positions with local businesses or the city itself. Through its 50/50 employment program, the city will pay half of a youth’s salary if they are hired by an Evanston business. Last year, the program hired 170 individuals, said Kevin Brown, the city’s youth and young adult program manager. This year, they hope to employ 300.

Employment is key for preventing youth violence, said Nathan Norman, a young adult outreach worker.

“Youth don’t have much to do,” he said. “They need to be engaged. If they don’t fight in school, they’ll fight outside the structure, which could be worse. They need jobs. They need more activity.”

Use of the Youth Job Center’s Career Pathways program to get Evanston internships was also discussed Thursday.

Of the 15 enrolled last year in the center’s job readiness training, 10 were successfully placed in internships, center career adviser LaTesha Rogers said.

Youth violence will be addressed more directly next Wednesday at an Evanston Township High School assembly with Chicago nonprofit Cure Violence. Formerly known as CeaseFire, the organization aims to reduce gang violence through highly-trained outreach workers called “interrupters,” some of whom are former gang members.

The discussion will be led by director Tio Hardiman, who has also agreed to train ETHS staff in violence reduction strategies.

“Mr. Hardiman has extended himself as well as added resources through his organization for the training of our staff,” Brown said. “He’s very commited to Evanston. He really believes Evanston should be violence-free and has committed to coming here as often as necessary to support that.”

Evanston Police Chief Richard Eddington, a member of the Task Force, said he has seen a tangible decrease in youth violence and an increase in community involvement since the Force started. He attributes the success to the many perspectives that Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl brought together to address the issue.

“As we collect these folks concerned about young people, there’s a synergetic energy about moving forward,” Eddington said. “There’s a lot of heavy lifting that goes on every day that prevents violence in the headlines. The police are the free safety. Only when these guys miss does it come to us, and it’s not much.”

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