CPS to hire mentors for at-risk youth

October 23, 2009 (CHICAGO) When CPS officials talk about using mentors and role models to end youth violence, they don't mean using volunteer mentoring programs like Big Brothers and Big sisters.

"If you're looking at the level of the community-wide problem, I don't think it will make a difference that is measurable," said UIC Prof. David Dubois, an expert on mentoring programs.

Dubois says the CPS plan to spend $5 million to mentor only 200 students at risk for violent behavior might not be worth the expense.

"It seems like it's a disproportionate amount of resources being placed on a relatively small number of young persons."

The school district has already identified the 200 most at-risk students to be included in the mentoring program, which still has an undetermined start date. It is the centerpiece of the district effort to curb violence, particularly in and around high schools.

Pennsylvania-based Youth Advocate Programs (YAP) will not say how many youth advocates--as they're called--will be hired to spend at least 16 hours a week with each of the teenagers.

The company also would not tell ABC7 Chicago how much each college-degreed advocate would be paid, but ABC7 is told that applications are being accepted through the YAP Web site.

Chicago antiviolence activist Tio Hardiman of Ceasefire said the mentors should be prepared to work far beyond school property.

"When the guys leave school they go back on the block, and what happens on the block is a culture of violence," Hardiman said. "In order to disrupt that train of thought, you have to have mentors on the block."

Schools CEO Ron Huberman began planning the anti-violence program centered on mentoring before the deadly brawl videotaped outside Fenger high school occurred and first aired on WFLD.

Implementation of the program became Huberman's and the mayor's response after the incident received international notoriety.

"I'm sympathetic to the political realities that call for short-term results, and that's what I took this to be a response to," Dubois said.

A school district spokeswoman tells ABC7 the district expects the advocates to be hired within weeks and that she expects the professionals to be assisted by volunteer mentors wherever they can be found.

However, she had information on where or how a person might be able to volunteer. It could be several weeks or months before the mentoring program is up and running

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