Residents concerned about Youth and Young Adult restructuring


Daily file photo by Noah Frick-Alofs

City manager Wally Bobkiewicz at a meeting. Bobkiewicz made plans to restructure the staff of the Youth and Young Adult division, raising concerns from residents.

Clare Proctor, Assistant City Editor

Evanston residents raised concern in response to the city manager’s plan to restructure the Youth and Young Adult division at an Oct. 22 City Council meeting.

During public comment, many worried about the division’s future..

“Splitting up the Youth and Young Adult program’s division is outrageous to me,” said Oliver Ruff — vice president of the Organization for Positive Action and Leadership. “If it ain’t broke, why do we attempt to fix it?”

At the meeting, Evanston city manager Wally Bobkiewicz began discussing plans to restructure staff in the division, intending to move Kevin Brown — current community services manager for the Youth and Young Adult Division — to a new community workforce development position. The reorganization would have the Youth and Young Adult division report to Ken Cherry, recreation manager at the Fleetwood-Jourdain Center.

The Youth and Young Adult division works with a target population of residents ages 14 to 26, providing workforce development, alternative recreation in promotion of health and fitness, education and civic engagement. The division is responsible for operating the Mayor’s Summer Youth Employment Program, which provides workforce opportunities to youth ages 14 to 18.

Rev. Dr. Michael Nabors of the Second Baptist Church told The Daily his primary concern is that the city is restructuring a “proven successful program.”

“I’ve had an opportunity to talk with families and young people in the community who have gone to the program, who have given it such glowing reports,” Nabors said. “They talk about how it has changed their lives, has been transformational. It possesses, I guess, what you would call wraparound services that reaches into families as well.”

Nabors said he is concerned that restructuring the division’s staff would decrease the attention paid to the program, and “entrenched details” causing the program’s success would not be able to be carried over.

The division, Nabors said, primarily serves marginalized communities in Evanston, which concerns him since he sees many cuts in the budget as “geared toward people who are living on the margins in Evanston.”

“To take any service away, to take any program away that enhances their lives, that creates educational opportunities for them to excel, it’s lessening their quality of life,” he said.
Residents ranked the Youth and Young Adult division as the second-most important program to them when the city sent out a priority-based budgeting survey earlier this year.

Over a dozen residents spoke out against the restructuring to the division during City Council’s public comment, many asking the council directly to stop the city manager’s plan.

Bobkiewicz previously told The Daily that he does not think the restructuring would “change much at all.” Yet many residents are concerned splitting up the division’s staff would dismantle the division all together.

Ald. Peter Braithwaite (2nd) requested more information from the city manager about the new position, which would not take effect until January. For now, Brown remains the community services manager for the division.

Like many community members, Evanston resident Paul Barker asked the council to make no changes to the Youth and Young Adult division.

“We have a rare thing here, a good, effective program run by good, effective people,” he said. “All you have to do is leave it alone.”

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