Q&A with new Y.O.U. director

Jia You

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Seth Green will succeed Don Baker as the executive director of the Evanston-based youth service organization Youth Organizations Umbrella, Inc. on May 24. Green previously led the Job Opportunity Investment Network, a public-private partnership in Philadelphia that builds pathways out of poverty for vulnerable adults and their families. His wife, Caitlin Fitz, will be teaching American history at Northwestern starting next fall.


Daily: How do you feel about your new job?

Green: I think Y.O.U. is an incredibly exciting organization, and … I’m both thrilled being in such a valuable organization and similarly thrilled to be following the footsteps of someone who has made such a tremendous contribution to the community.

Daily: You were working for the Job Investment Opportunity Network in Philadelphia previously. Why did you join Y.O.U?

Green: Well, my wife accepted a job as an assistant professor in history at Northwestern. She’s going to be starting at the faculty there in fall, so I was following her. And then I started looking at opportunities. By far, the one I was most excited about was Y.O.U. because I just think that what the organization is doing is so transformative and important.

Daily: So how does your new job compare to your work at JOIN?

Green: The biggest similarity is that both are focused on making sure that all people have the opportunity to realize their potential. The biggest difference is at JOIN, I focus primarily on helping

adults go back for education, build their social and emotional skills and then get jobs so that they can support their families. At Y.O.U., the primary focus is on youth, up to 18, although we’re also very interested in supporting families that the youths are part of because we realized that you need holistic solutions to support young people.

Daily: What do you identify as the biggest challenges facing youths in Evanston?

Green: Obviously, the economy is a challenge for everyone. What a number of studies show is that the impact of living in poverty is very difficult on adolescent mental health because there’s a tremendous amount of stress that goes along with that. Like the country, Evanston has seen increases in poverty with this recession, and that makes it very difficult for students to fully access all the resources they need to fully realize their potential. If you’re a young person and you’re worried about foreclosure, it’s very hard to be fully present at school and to be able to fully realize your potential, so I say that’s one challenge. Obviously, you probably have heard in the news some of the recent violence. I think all youths, and I’m sure all families in Evanston, are very concerned about the violence … The key is that we make places like the Evanston Township High School as safe as possible.

Daily: So how do you plan to address the impact of the economy and the violence on youth?

Green: On the impact of the recession, one of the things that are absolutely critical is that we have clinical counseling available to support students and their families on traumatic mental health issues. It is incredibly difficult to deal with the issues this recession has brought on families. And what a lot of research show is that programs that help people deal with those consequences are ultimately the most effective in helping ensure that those youth also end up succeeding in school and in social and emotional development. In terms of youth violence, this is something that we’re still in conversation about. We’re watching what’s happening very closely, and we’re talking with a lot of families that are involved in our programs and with a lot of experts in the field about how we can best address issues of violence in a way that is long term and supportive and holistic. And I think one of the things that speaks a lot about Evanston is that as this violence has happened, people have been asking all the right questions – how can we create a more supportive and nurturing environment for youths, how can we prevent youth being on their own (after school).

Daily: How has the transition from Philadelphia to Evanston been for you?

Green: I am formally moving in next weekend. I would say they have a lot in common. They’re both cities with great resources but also inequality. I think what makes Evanston truly unique is the level of commitment to inclusiveness and diversity.

Daily: How does your daughter feel about moving to Evanston?

Green: Well, she’s only four months old. The nice thing is that we really wanted to raise our daughter in a community like Evanston. We want her to go to schools that are diverse. We wanted her to be among a group of people who are facing the real challenges that people across the country are facing. We also want her to go to a great school where people really care about each other, where they value diversity instead of seeing it as a challenge. I’m just absolutely thrilled that my daughter can grow up in a place like Evanston.