The Proviso District 209 Board of Education on Aug. 8 unanimously approved a $60,000 contract with Youth Guidance, a Chicago-based nonprofit, to help the school district engage with parents and community members.

The contract is fully funded through an Illinois State Board of Education grant and is part of the district’s continued push for more integration with the greater Proviso community. As part of that focus on community engagement, the district in June also hired two new parent coordinators, who started working a few weeks ago.

Youth Guidance will bring on a “community schools coordinator” who will identify needs within the district, build relationships with local health and social service providers and provide training for Proviso parents “to take on volunteer and leadership roles” in the district, according to documents attached to the August 8 meeting packet.

To that end, Youth Guidance will conduct a survey to gauge community needs and interests, which could include GED preparation, adult ESL classes or financial planning, according to board documents. 

“Youth Guidance is pleased to enter into an impactful Community Schools partnership that allows us to extend our reach, lend our support and offer our expertise in family engagement and afterschool programming to Proviso Township High School District 209,” Will Hobart, chief program officer at Youth Guidance wrote in an email to the Review. “We look forward to working closely with area schools, parents and families to identify the needs of youth and school communities, and create meaningful opportunities for continued and future success.”

Youth Guidance was the only organization to respond to the district’s request for proposal, according to school board documents for the Aug. 8 meeting. Youth Guidance’s original proposal to the school included two part-time family engagement specialists. But, the contract approved Aug. 8 does not include those positions.

“We do not need the family specialists, because we have parent coordinators,” District 209 Superintendent Jesse Rodriguez said. “We are already saving money.” 

Youth Guidance has served Chicago students for decades, and has previously worked with Chicago Public Schools.

According to the organization’s website, Youth Guidance began in 1924 as The Church Mission of Help and in 1962 merged with another organization serving boys in family court.

Today, the website says, “Youth Guidance is a leading provider of outcome-driven programs and capacity-building initiatives, directly serving more than 8,500 youth while touching the lives of more than 14,000 youth, parents, teachers and community members.”

Youth Guidance, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, provides counseling and prevention programs, community and after-school programs and youth workforce development programs.

The Illinois State Board of Education’s Healthy Community Investment Grant is part of $12.5 million program designed to help improve academic achievement, provide activities in a “safe and healthy environment” and “strengthen public, private and philanthropic partnerships,” according to the ISBE’s website.

Proviso District 209 was one of dozens of school districts awarded grants by the ISBE in January.