Youth Guidance is based in Chicago and has deep roots in the community. Started in 1924 as a more traditional social service agency, it has been expanding for almost a century to serve youth from primary school to young adulthood and to meet students’ needs at home, in the community and in one of the most important environments in their lives — at school. Youth Guidance networks with a wide variety of school-based, community-based and national organizations and programs to reach out to students and families, teachers and social service agencies. It’s a critical hub in a large network of care that produces positive, measurable improvements in the lives of students in Chicago, our nation’s third most populous city.
At Youth Guidance, at school, in the community and in the working world, access to technology is as necessary as access to pencils and paper. Students need the internet to search for jobs, network, communicate, track current events and read news, and to do research. GED programs, tutoring and other online educational opportunities require robust internet access. Students who don’t have internet access at home often depend on schools for access. This is where Youth Guidance’s partnership with Mobile Citizen comes in. Supported by a national collaboration of EBS (Educational Broadband Services) licensees, Mobile Citizen provides affordable wireless internet and hotspots with no data caps for the Youth Guidance staff, allowing them to use technology and internet access to better help those they serve.
This indispensable access affects the 10,000 Chicago-area youth directly served by Youth Guidance and helps it and its partners offer important programs in critical areas: counseling and prevention, afterschool/community programs, parent/family engagement and workforce/training support. Youth Guidance lays down stepping stones that lead from elementary school to college and employment. Many kids participate in multiple programs, advancing to the next step as they become ready: from afterschool programs to counseling and mentorship to college preparation and job training.
And technology is vitally important to Youth Guidance in an even more fundamental way: social service providers need the power of information technology to do their jobs. Youth Guidance and its partners and employees prepare reports, track clients, manage data and measure outcomes that they must communicate to funders, regulatory agencies, the public and governmental bodies. It’s impossible to imagine applying for a grant or crunching numbers without the power of technology, and clients like Youth Guidance produce a lot of data to demonstrate that their programs are working: they get kids through school. They save lives. They reduce violence in the community.
For example, Youth Guidance runs school-based counseling services that have yielded great results: 75 percent of counseling students′ service plan goals were met in 2015, and 87 percent of counseling students passed 75 percent or more of their core classes in 2015. Tracking, measuring and communicating data like this is made possible by access to technology and broadband internet connections.
From its roots in community service in the 1920s, Youth Guidance has grown into a shining example of how social justice, youth engagement and access to technology are inseparable in today’s world. Support in the form of internet access from Voqal’s initiative, Mobile Citizen is part of what will allow Youth Guidance to continue to serve Chicago students now and for many years to come.