East Village Youth Program celebrates 20 years

May 7, 2009 3:30:43 PM PDT
A nonprofit organization inspires students to fulfill dreams and stay in school.The East Village Youth Program serves the Belmont-Cragin, Avondale and West Town communities on the city's Northwest Side. The group- which is celebrating its 20th year- encourages, supports and prepares promising students for college.

Founder Jess Levine wanted to help at-risk youth who did not think college was within their reach. Levine said the after school program helps students and parents navigate the educational system.

The after school program is proud that 100-percent of their participants have graduated high school and 94-percent of them go on to college.

"We provide all the resources we possibly can to help the kids," said Jess Levine, East Village Youth Program.

EVYP programs foster academic achievement by providing tutoring, mentoring and after school programs. Counseling for parents is also provided.

"You can be an affective advocate for the child even if you don't speak the language," said Levine.

"We are also serving 23 students during their four years of college by offering scholarships, one-on-one phone calls with students about how school's going," said Jane Napoli, East Village Youth Program.

Fabian Perez is one of the past participants. He says without the help of EVYP he would have dropped out of high school when his girlfriend became pregnant. Levine helped Perez get a job and he went on to college. He now owns a software consulting firm.

"Going to college is not just a dream- but an actual option," said Fabian Perez, East Village Youth Program graduate.

Monica Diaz is another grad who just finished college at an out-of-state school. She plans to go for her masters.

"My questions were answered," said Monica Diaz, East Village Youth Program Graduate.

More than 150 students participate in the program at the center. Almost 500 others are involved with EVYP at public schools.


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