We at the African American Christian Foundation (AACF) are here to help our low income youth neighbors succeed in all areas of their lives. Many of our program participants have grown up in neighboring West Side Chicago as well as the South Side areas with a higher rate of gun violence than other areas in Chicagoland. Also within those demographics are struggling socioeconomic levels. The impact of growing up in areas with struggling socioeconomic levels as well as trauma from proximity to gun violence can affect young peoples’ ability to focus and learn in school. Many of our participants have struggled with staying in school and may need assistance with earning their high school diploma or passing the GED.
Low economic levels as well as violence have a lasting effect on families as a whole. Many program participants grew up in single working parent households and may have had to get jobs from a young age to contribute to the household economics rather than focus on school work. Many of our participants have children of their own. And some of our participants are returning citizens with an incarceration record severely impacting their ability to secure employment. There are many barriers to success for a young person growing up in a struggling area, with a low income background. Some of these barriers include:
Growing up in a single working parent household
Young people who grew up with a single working parent often have less opportunities than those with both parents at home who lend a hand in their upbringing. A youth with a single working parent may at times begin to work early to help out with the household expenses. They may not have someone at home who can help them with their homework or make them a meal in the evening. They will need to learn to be self-sufficient early and may not have had important social-emotional needs met as they are growing.
Growing up in a neighborhood of high crime
Youths who grow up in a neighborhood of high crime and gun violence are impacted by the trauma of seeing their neighbors lose their lives, or also of being victims of gun violence themselves. Resulting trauma can impact their ability to focus and stay in school, maintain healthy, positive relationships, and make wise decisions for their futures.
Being a young parent
Young people who become early parents may have difficulty focusing on schoolwork or staying in school while caring for an infant or toddler. If they don’t have help caring for their child while they are in school, they may end up dropping out of school to care for their child. If they have completed school they may need training for a job and will need to secure childcare, and that is challenging with no or low income. Being a young parent can be a very challenging situation when school needs to be completed and an income needs to be earned.
Being a returning citizen
Those growing up in neighborhoods of high violence have a higher incidence of engaging in criminal activity themselves and a higher rate of incarceration. Unfortunately, many workplaces are discriminatory towards individuals with incarceration records. It can be a self-defeating spiral for a returning citizen with the struggle of gaining employment. There are organizations that assist returning citizens with securing employment. AACF is one of them.
How we can help
There are many things that can be done to assist low income youth to succeed in all areas of their lives. We can lend a helping hand with completing education in the form of tutoring or free assistance with passing the GED. One of the most important things an individual can do for themselves is gain an education. We can assist with higher education, entering into a junior college, trade school, or apprenticeship. For those growing up with the impact of trauma we can offer mental health support in the form of free counseling or group support. For young parents we can offer assistance with childcare, infant needs, and parenting skills. And for returning citizens we can place you in paid internships, work to hire situations where you can gain dignified employment.
How you can help
If you are interested in helping out our youth participants to complete their education or gain employment here are some volunteer opportunities for you:
Teacher Assistant Volunteers – Teacher Assistant Volunteers or tutors serve as teacher’s aides for the AACF CTC formal and fee-based classroom programs. They help set up the classroom, check in participants, and assist AACF clients with crafts and other fun activities.
Mentors – Mentors mentor youth program participants and assist case managers in guiding mentees to accomplish their individual development plans. Mentors may chaperone field trips with the youth program coordinator or perform worksite visits or school visits as needed, to maintain the relationship with a mentee.
If you are interested in learning about our other volunteer opportunities click here.
How the community can help
If you are a business owner or a manager of a business, please consider partnering with us to become a worksite. We will place youths in your worksite and we will cover their wages for a specified length of time. Our workforce development program participants receive case management and Support for Success as they travel along their journey towards building a stable income for themselves. We appreciate all of your help!
Click here If you are interested in becoming a worksite.
We believe that as a youth workforce development not for profit and as a community as a whole we can assist our low income youth neighbors to overcome any barrier to securing dignified work and attain financial stability. Reach out to us if you or someone you know is in need of a job, assistance with education or job training, or has other needs relating to being low income. We are here for you! Go to waitlist to join our programs.