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Elevating Evanston Youth

Monday, February 24, 2020
Northwestern

While Evanston may be known as a college town, around 200 students from Evanston Township High School graduate each year without further schooling plans, and 25 percent of those who go to college don’t make it through the first year.

In June 2018, the Mayor’s Employer Advisory Council (MEAC) was created to foster connections between ETHS and local employers and to provide career opportunities for young people who don’t want to go to college. Part of city mayor Stephen Hagerty’s Elevate Evanston initiative, the council (pictured) links students with career opportunities in the community while providing local businesses with a well-prepared talent pool.

“Evanston is fortunate to have a thriving, diverse business community, great schools, and a strong network of organizations,” Hagerty said when announcing the program. “Working together, we have a marvelous opportunity to elevate our youth, elevate our city, and create a better Evanston for everyone.”

“ETHS graduates about 850 students a year—that’s a great population,” says Neil Gambow, who chairs the MEAC. “We began working with the high school to develop a process for employers to come in and show students what local careers look like.”

The program starts when students enter high school. “We invite all students, because we want to make sure young people understand there are career opportunities that you can get into right out of high school and make a great living, but you have to be prepared,” he says.

Run by volunteers, the initiative eventually needed a full-time advocate. Hagerty designated money from Northwestern University’s Good Neighbor Fund to hire Tana Francellno, who works directly with ETHS administrators. The school now organizes career months, each focused on a different pathway, such as manufacturing, healthcare, IT, or public service.

The Northwestern funding is a gamechanger, Gambow says, providing resources “to establish this program as sustainable, with a solid bridge between employers and ETHS.”

Already the program has reached 422 students. Seventy-three have taken a full-day field trip to three manufacturing employers that offer summer internships, and local healthcare providers Erie Family Health Centers, AMITA Health, and Presbyterian Homes participated in a panel for over 50 students.

AMITA also provides scrubs to the students in ETHS’s health science class. During the last part of the school day every other Friday, they’re taken by bus to job-shadow in various hospital departments.

Gambow notes that the initiative is important to the city because young people represent its future: “When you see young people being priced out of Evanston, that leaves a hole. We really want to fill that hole and make sure they become a vibrant part of the community. A career that pays enough means they don’t have to leave.

“I’m absolutely amazed at how far we’ve come in 18 months and by how many people want to be part of this,” he says. “And now kids and teachers are saying, ‘Let’s do more.’”

TO LEARN MORE about the council, email Neil Gambow at neilnexnine@gmail.com.



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